Monday, September 26, 2016

Afghanistan takes a step toward peace with notorious ex-warlord - latimes

Negotiators in Afghanistan on Thursday signed a draft of a long-awaited peace agreement that would bring a notorious former warlord into the government fold while forgiving allegations that he was responsible for serious war crimes.

The deal commits Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – a chameleon-like militia commander, former CIA asset, prime minister and ally of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden who has been involved in fighting in Afghanistan for four decades – to renounce violence, cut ties to extremist groups and respect the Afghan Constitution.

The accord is also believed to grant amnesty to Hekmatyar and leaders of his Hezb-i-Islami militant organization for  suspected crimes during the Afghan civil war of the 1990s. Hekmatyar’s forces are blamed for indiscriminate rocket attacks against Kabul that killed hundreds of civilians, as well as the forced disappearances of political opponents.

It provides for the release of Hezb-i-Islami members being held in Afghan jails, and the removal of Hekmatyar’s name and those of senior Hezb-i-Islami leaders from U.S. and United Nations terrorism blacklists.

The draft was signed by representatives of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, charged with negotiating truces with insurgents, and Hekmatyar’s representatives. It now must be approved by Hekmatyar, who is living in an undisclosed location away from Kabul, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The United States, which added Hekmatyar to the State Department global terrorist list in 2003 over his support for Al Qaeda, has said it would consider lifting sanctions on Hekmatyar if he fulfilled the terms of a peace deal.

Human rights groups described amnesty for Hekmatyar as the latest blow to efforts to seek accountability for war crimes in Afghanistan. 

“Hekmatyar is not alone in enjoying impunity. None of the Afghan warlords from the 1990s has been held accountable,” Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in a commentary.

“That, and the failed disarmament of abusive militias, have crippled reforms needed to build effective government institutions crucial for a lasting peace.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it welcomed the agreement “as a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end.”

Ahead of a major conference of donors in Brussels in early October, the United States, European Union and other allies are looking for signs of progress in Afghanistan and have quieted their calls for accountability, analysts said.

“Many other former jihadis that have committed similar atrocities now occupy key positions within the state and have long been indispensable,” Sharan said. “Transitional justice for Afghans has long been dead.” - Read More

Afghanistan takes a step toward peace with notorious ex-warlord 


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