The Sunday Times, May 10, 2009
Karzai in move to share power with Hekmatyar, warlord wanted by US
Extremist on America's list of most-wanted terrorists is to hold talks with the Afghan government in coming weeks
Christina Lamb and Jerome Starkey, Kabul
ONE of Afghanistan’s most wanted terrorists is to be offered a power-sharing deal by the government of President Hamid Karzai as the country’s warlords extend their grip on power.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is on America’s “most wanted” terrorist list, is to hold talks with the Kabul government within the next few weeks.
Hekmatyar is the leader of Hezb-i-Islami, which has been fighting Nato troops alongside the Taliban. The hardline group is responsible for many attacks in the eastern and central regions, including the massacre of 10 French soldiers in Sarobi last year. It controls Kapisa province, just 50 miles north of Kabul.
The party is expected to be offered several ministries and provincial governorships in return for laying down its arms and agreeing not to disrupt the presidential elections due in August.
Hekmatyar will not be offered a post but will be asked to go into exile in Saudi Arabia for three years, after which his name would be removed from the US list.
The controversial move follows the announcement of Mohammed Qasim Fahim, another former warlord, as Karzai’s running mate, a choice that had plunged diplomats into despair.
Fahim, a commander for the Northern Alliance, has been cited in reports by Human Rights Watch and other agencies for his role in massacres and criminal activities. “All the people most responsible for getting Afghanistan into the mess it’s in are coming back,” said a western diplomat.
In the 1980s Hekmatyar was a leading recipient of US aid for those fighting the Soviet army, but he always preached anti-Americanism.
Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, he returned from exile in Iran to take up arms against his former paymasters. In April 2002 the CIA tried to kill him with an unmanned Predator drone and his organisation was branded a terrorist group.
A representative of Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama’s regional envoy, has met Daoud Abedi, an Afghan-American businessman close to Hekmatyar, and the US administration will fund an Afghan government department to conduct negotiations with Hezb-i-Islami and the Taliban.
It will be headed by Arif Noorzai, the former tribal affairs minister, and will receive $69m (£45m) of largely US money to offer sweeteners to win over the Taliban.
The focus on such political negotiations is the result of a growing recognition that the Taliban will not be defeated militarily, despite 21,000 additional American troops.
RAWA: Ghairat Baheer, son-in-law of Hekmatyar and an infamous terrorist and key member of the Islamic Party was freed from Pul-e Charkhi jail in Kabul on June 5, 2008 by Afghan government in a move to share power with terrorist band of Hekmatyar.
Karzai has come under pressure from the Obama administration to make his government less corrupt. Last week, on a visit to Washington, he was given a stormy reception during a private lunch with senators.
However, it looks increasingly as if the United States will be forced to live with him. Nominations closed on Friday for the presidential elections and Karzai seems to have secured the support of most of his rivals.
Karzai did not hide his fury at the civilian airstrike by American forces last Monday, one of the deadliest since 2001. Officials in the western province of Farah claimed that more than 100 civilians had been killed by American bombs. Tribal elders said the bombs were dropped long after the fight was “won” and the Taliban were retreating at the time.
The villagers’ version was backed by a US air force report that shows the fighting was already over when the planes attacked Bala Boluk.
“The jets hit several enemy fighting positions and a compound in which enemy personnel had gathered after the fight,” said the report.
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