Afghan government signs peace deal with hard-line militant group

KABUL (TCA) — The government of Afghanistan has signed a draft peace accord with notorious exiled warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, paving the way for his return after years of fighting the Afghan authorities, RFE/RL reports.

A government delegation and a team representing Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed the document at a press conference in Kabul on September 22. The final agreement is expected to be signed by Hekmatyar and President Ashraf Ghani in the coming days.

“Fortunately, after two years of negotiations between Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and the Hezb-e Islami, the peace negotiations have been successfully completed, and an agreement between both sides has been finalized,” the Afghan High Peace Council, the presidentially appointed body tasked with pursuing a peace settlement with militant groups, said in a statement.

Sayed Ahmad Gilani, head of the High Peace Council, said at a news conference in Kabul that “in the light of our national interests, this could benefit both sides.” He added, “I hope that this is the beginning of a permanent peace in our country.”

Hekmatyar’s forces were accused by rights groups of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, and they have carried out deadly attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Kabul on September 22, holding placards reading “Butcher of Kabul” and “We will neither forget nor forgive.”

A senior researcher on Afghanistan for the international group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called the deal with Hekmatyar “an affront to victims of grave abuses.”

“His return will compound the culture of impunity that the Afghan government and its foreign donors have fostered by not pursuing accountability for the many victims of forces commanded by Hekmatyar and other warlords that laid waste to much of the country in the 1990s,” HRW’s Patricia Gossman wrote as word spread of the pending deal.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul welcomed the accord as “a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end.” The United Nations said it “demonstrates the preparedness of Afghanistan’s government to seek peace with armed antigovernment elements.”

Under the agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The Afghan government also agreed to press for the lifting of international sanctions on Hekmatyar. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.

While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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