By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
The history of turning warlords like Hekmatyar to the good has consistently proven to be nothing but bad for the Afghan people
It’s not everyday that an American citizen living in the USA gets an email from the representative of a legendary terrorist warning that they may face legal action for writing well documented criticisms of his boss. But on January 25, 2010 Mr. Daoud M. Abedi of the Hesb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) emailed us on behalf of Afghanistan’s longest running warlord, drug trafficker and terrorist, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Abedi was reacting to our blog, In Afghanistan: Embracing Gulbuddin Hekmatyar Is No Method at All posted that day. We had addressed the insane possibility that terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar might be considered as a “sane” solution for the mess the U.S. has gotten itself into in Afghanistan. Since Hekmatyar was listed on February 18, 2003 by the United States State Department and the United States Treasury as a global terrorist under Executive Order 13224 (which freezes his assets and criminalizes any U.S. support for him) and has been the object of a Predator drone strike, and recently claimed credit for a deadly attack on French NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan, we thought that a terrorist maintaining a high public profile in the U.S. would be a disadvantage. So it came as a surprise that Hekmatyar and his political party Hesb-i-Islami are not only out in the open in the United States, but are issuing threats (just the way they do in Afghanistan) to anyone who tries to get the word out about their past.
The order of Abedi’s complaints are a window into the mind of one of the world’s legendary terrorists. It is not Hekmatyar’s well documented reputation as a terrorist and major drug kingpin that disturbs him. The terrorist-strongman label actually appeals to Abedi, who asserts that he is “happy he is called a terrorist because what he does for Afghanistan is what George Washington did for the US,..” Abedi’s primary concern is for reports that “His Excellency,” might have been a member of the nominally communist, People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, (PDPA) as a student in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is willing to bend time and well-documented facts in order to protect Hekmatyar’s reputation as a pure, messianic Islamist, lay off blame for his bad deeds onto communists, Maoists, Afghanistan’s King Zahir Shah and others, while denouncing his chief rival, Ahmad Shah Massoud as “the biggest traitor of Afghan politics.” To Mr. Abedi, other people’s facts accumulated over the last forty years and compiled by experts are lies. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s critics are wrong because Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is always right, and if he and his Hesb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) come to power, “I promise you, the HIA will call on all these so called experts, and knowledgeable sources to come up and clean what they have written, prove it or apologize to the Afghan and international communities for misleading them, or we will not allow their feet in Afghan soil so they don’t do this kind [of] stupidity in the future against other Afghans.”
Abedi has been negotiating on Hekmatyar’s behalf at least since the Obama administration came to power. A May 10, 2009 report in the London Sunday Times stated that a representative of Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama’s regional envoy, had met with “Daoud Abedi, an Afghan-American businessman close to Hekmatyar,” and that “the US administration will fund an Afghan government department to conduct negotiations with the Hesb-i-Islami and the Taliban.” In the interim, with the help of Abedi, he has begun to re-brand himself as a “moderate fundamentalist with Afghanistan’s best Islamic interest at heart.”
But Hekmatyar is no moderate. According to published reports during the 1980s, Hekmatyar’s Hesb-i-Islami developed a reputation for attacking moderates, raiding caravans of other forces as well as relief organizations. According to author Steve Coll, Hekmatyar attacked Ahmad Shah Massoud so often during his climb to power as the CIA’s favorite in the 1980s that Washington “feared he might be a secret KGB plant whose mission was to sow disruption within the anti-communist resistance.” According to press reports, Hekmatyar was not viewed as the most aggressive anti-Soviet guerrilla and “not feared so much by the communists as by his allies,” who believed his commanders were saving their men and weapons to establish Hesb-i-Islami as the dominant organization once the Soviets departed.
A 1988 report by Henry Kamm for the New York Times summed up what was then common knowledge about the potential for a government run by Hekmatyar. “[H]e advocates a radical program that rejects a return to the traditional ways of Islam that dominated Afghanistan during the monarchy that was overthrown in 1973… ‘We want a pure Islamic state in Afghanistan,’ said Hekmatyar. ‘Before 1973? That was never an Islamic system. It was completely against Islam.'”
Nick Grono and Candace Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group in Belgium wrote in January of 2010, “One of the warlords who may soon star in the new US efforts to rebrand fundamentalists as potential government partners is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a brutal Afghan insurgent commander responsible for dozens of deadly attacks on coalition troops. As a mujahedeen commander during the civil war in the 1990’s Hekmatyar turned his guns on Kabul, slaughtering many thousands of Afghans, with his militias raping and maiming thousands more… Doing deals with Hekmatyar, or others like him is a mistake… Instead of entering into alliances of convenience with the most undesirable of local power-holders, the international community, and the Afghan government, would gain by holding warlords like Hekmatyar accountable for past abuses, and ending the climate of impunity that has allowed so many of them to flourish within and outside the government. ”
In the final analysis, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has never been successful at anything except creating chaos and bloodshed. Should he finally come to power and gain his dream of a “pure Islamic state” it is certain that he will demand more than just apologies from the people on whom he calls. For over forty years, through his ruthlessness, brutality, financial backing and unceasing public relations campaigns, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has clung to his messianic dream of power. If Washington finally relents and invites him to assume a role in the Afghan government with the volumes of deeds that are known about him, it will be opening Afghanistan as well as itself, to a very dark messiah.
Copyright 2010 Gould & Fitzgerald. All rights reserved