Iranian envoy in Bamyan to sort out differences within lackey

The Frontier Post, August 1,1998

PESHAWAR - A special envoy of the Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has dashed to the Afghan province of Bamyan to sort out differences within the Afghan Shia faction, Hezb-i-Wahdat (Khalili), sources here said Friday. Hojatul Islam Ibrahimi met with the chief of Hezb-i-Wahdat, Karim Khalili, in Bamyan Thursday, and is also expected to hold meetings with other Wahdat leaders, the sources added. The visit comes following a series of clashes between the supporters and opponents of Karim Khalili, chief of his own faction of the pro-Iran Hezb-i-Wahdat.

According to sources, Ibrahimi is also carrying a special message of Ayatollah Khamenei for the leaders of the Bamyan based Shia outfit. In the context of a rebellion against Khalili by some of his commanders, Ibrahimi's visit to Bamyan is being seen as a very significant development, especially in view of the fact that this time the Iranian leadership has sent an envoy other than its regular trouble-shooter for Afghanistan, Alaeddin Broujerdi. Earlier, Hezb-i-Wahdat sources denied the existence of any differences in its ranks, but later on the scale and the extent of dissent compelled them to acknowledge it. In his recent interview with a news agency, Mohammad Akbari, chief of Wahdat-i-Islami, a splinter group of Wahdat, admitted that intra-Wahdat armed clashes had recently taken place.

Afghan sources in Peshawar have confirmed the visit of Iranian envoy to Bamyan. During Thursday's meeting, sources added, Ibrahimi and Khalili "discussed matters of mutual interest as well as the recent armed clashes between the two Wahdat groups". It is to be mentioned here that a well known Hezb-i-Wahdat commander, Said Sarwar, along with his sixteen colleagues, was killed in an encounter with Khalili's supporters some ten days back. Sources said that although the Khalili faction had succeeded for the moment by crushing the rebels in its ranks, serious intra-faction differences still exist. Keeping in view the Taliban's recent advances in the north of Afghanistan and their presence at the doorstep of Wahdat's stronghold of Bamyan, if these differences are not bridged soon, it may prove disastrous for the anti-Taliban forces in central Afghanistan, observers say.

It may be mentioned that Hezb-i-Wahdat had fiercely resisted the approach of Taliban to the north of Hindukush mountains via Ghorband. Hezb was also the main force that evicted Taliban from Mazar-i-Sharif within days of their takeover of this northern city last year. Observers believe that intra-Wahdat hostilities may weaken its ability to hold back the Taliban for much longer on the Ghorband front and elsewhere in the northern and central Afghanistan.

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