CATF Reports Feb. 8, 2017, 9:52am

For almost fifteen years, Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been subject to frozen assets, a travel ban and an arms embargo by the United Nations. On February 4th, the U.N. Security Council lifted its sanctions, in a move that sparked a gamut of reactions ranging from hope to skepticism. The removal was brokered by the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani, who requested exculpation for Hekmatyar and his Islamist political and paramilitary group, Hezb-i-Islami, which he launched in 1973, as part of a U.S.-backed peace agreement undertaken in September 2016. Decades before being targeted by a 2003 global terrorist designation from the U.S., Hekmatyar was a key player in the Afghanistan military arena, and was the beneficiary of “millions of dollars in aid” from the U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who were working alongside Hezb-i-Islami in their efforts to dispel Soviet occupation of the country. Hekmatyar finally returned to Afghanistan in the early 2000’s following his involvement in the country’s civil war and his subsequent ousting by the Taliban, from where he has guided his insurgent faction’s hostilities until last September’s peace agreement.

Hekmatyar’s delisting has garnered support even beyond the Afghan government, including advocates like the United States, Britain and other Western nations. These parties deem it a step in the right direction for peace and stability in war-torn Afghanistan, and are optimistic that the Hezb-i-Islami-Afghan truce will be a catalyst for future peace talks between the government, Taliban and other militant groups. Demoralized Afghan citizens have echoed it is a “positive move” and are certainly hopeful that the deal will usher in unity.

On the other hand, skeptics of Hekmatyar’s pardon question how someone with past ties to Al-Qaeda leadership, a laundry list of human rights abuses, and years of sanctions from the European Union, UK, U.S., Canada, Germany, and Australia can be absolved of accountability, leading some to suspect political undertones behind the delisting. As hypothesized by Andrew Wilder at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the upcoming 2019 parliamentary elections could see a government changeover between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Abdullah – in power as part of a “U.S.-brokered power-sharing agreement” – and Hekmatyar, whose reemergence could leave Afghanistan vulnerable amidst its war with the “reinvigorated Taliban”.

From The Boston Globe:

“The United Nations has removed the name of a former Afghan warlord from its Islamic State and Al Qaeda sanctions list. The Security Council said a UN committee decided to remove Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s name. Hekmatyar, leader of an Islamist organization, will no longer have his assets frozen, or be subject to a travel ban or an arms embargo. Hekmatyar battled US forces after the 2001 invasion but agreed to lay down arms last year.”

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