The Afghan government pardoned a terrorist leader Thursday known as the Butcher of Kabul, as part of a wide ranging peace deal to curb violence in Afghanistan.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has a storied history in Afghanistan. He was the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid in the 1980’s for his role in fighting the Soviet Union, and a powerful Afghan warlord throughout the 1990’s. Despite his opposition to the Taliban government and longtime relationship with the U.S., Hekmatyar actively worked against the U.S. after its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
“We will never forgive the executioner of Kabul,” protest signs throughout Kabul read after the Afghan governments Thursday announcement. Human Rights Watch was especially critical of the deal saying it was “an affront to victims of grave abuses.” The watchdog group continued “many Afghans know Hekmatyar for his indiscriminate rocketing and shelling of Kabul in the early 1990s.”
The peace agreement not only pardons Hekmatyar, but also paves the way for members of his political party to run for political office. Hekmatyar’s ascent to the agreement, overcomes a long held sticking point, in which he insisted U.S. troops be withdrawn from the country before he would re-enter the Afghan political process.
As part of the deal the Afghan government will try to persuade the U.S. and UN to remove Hekmatyar from the list of globally designated terrorists.
Proponents of the peace deal say political reconciliation with unsavory Afghan characters is the only way to ensure a tenuous peace in Afghanistan. The U.S. and Pakistan backed an Afghan-Taliban reconciliation effort in 2015, but the process quickly dissolved amid Taliban disfunction. The new leader of the Taliban vowed he would not pursue peace with the Afghan government, upon his ascension to power.
The U.S. is now spending hundreds of millions of dollars supporting the U.S. backed Afghan government’s war effort against the Taliban. Despite the U.S. assistance the Taliban made unprecedented gains against the government in 2015, and remain poised to win their biggest battlefield victories yet.
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