Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The 'Butcher Of Kabul' Is Welcomed Back In Kabul - Greg Myre

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious Afghan warlord known as the "Butcher of Kabul," returned to the city he so often attacked with rockets and was welcomed Thursday by President Ashraf Ghani, who thanked him for "heeding the peace call."

Hekmatyar, 69, is among the most prominent surviving figures from the early days of war that began with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and grinds on to this day.

"Let's end the war, live together as brothers and then ask foreigners to leave our country," Hekmatyar said in his appearance with Ghani at the Presidential Palace.

On the one hand, Hekmatyar's peaceful return to the Afghan capital — made possible by his agreeing to abide by the country's constitution and renounce violence — cautiously raises hopes that Ghani's government can persuade rivals and enemies to stop fighting and bring an end to nearly four decades of conflict.

Yet Hekmatyar is despised by many Afghans. There's also the possibility that he and his followers in the hardline Hezb-i-Islami party will only increase tensions as the government struggles with political, economic and military challenges.

Hekmatyar has been involved in every stage of the Afghan war.

As seven main Afghan factions fought the Soviets in the 1980s, Hekmatyar's group was considered to have the best fighters. The U.S. and its allies funded the rebel effort, with Pakistan serving as the conduit. The Pakistanis were also partial to Hekmatyar and his fighters, and are believed to have given more weapons to Hezb-i-Islami than any other group.

President Reagan and other U.S. officials called the mujahideen rebels "freedom fighters" and there were no worries at the time about the radical Islamist positions that Hezb-i-Islami and others espoused. The larger aim was driving out Soviet forces, and Hekmatyar's group was very effective.

But after the Soviets pulled out in 1989, U.S. interest in Afghanistan declined dramatically, and the Afghan mujahideen factions waged a bitter civil war during much of the 1990s.

Once again, Hekmatyar was a central figure.

His group controlled the hills on the edge of the capital and fired rockets indiscriminately on the city, destroying entire neighborhoods that dated back centuries. An estimated 50,000 were killed and many more injured, almost all civilians, from 1992 to 1996.

This was an extremely nasty period in the war, and Hekmatyar, accused of atrocities and human rights violations, became known as the "Butcher of Kabul" — the most ruthless warlord in a country dominated by warlords. - Read More, NPR

The 'Butcher Of Kabul' Is Welcomed Back In Kabul


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