‘The Butcher Of Kabul’ Returns With A Surprising New Message

Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent

Former Islamic extremist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned Saturday to public life in Afghanistan, after reaching a peace deal with the Afghan government.

Hekmatyar has a storied history in Afghanistan. He was the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid in the 1980s for his role in fighting the Soviet Union, and a powerful Afghan warlord throughout the 1990s. 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.

Hekmatyar pleaded with the Taliban to “join the peace caravan and stop this pointless holy war,” at his first public remarks in nearly 20 years. He implored all opponents of the Afghan government to achieve peace “without bloodshed.”

Hekmatyar was, however, able to get in a dig at the U.S.

“If you are working to help ­Afghanistan we are grateful,” he said, “but if you are fighting here for your own political and economic interests, we ask you to stop using Afghanistan as your rivals’ battlefield and instead face each other directly.” His remarks are surprising for a man who is famous “for his indiscriminate rocketing and shelling of Kabul in the early 1990s,” Human Rights Watch noted in September 2016.

Hekmatyar’s reentry into Afghan politics is the result of a peace initiative by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is trying to get warlords to renounce violence and enter the political process. Ghani pardoned the warlord in September paved the way for members of his political party to run for political office.

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.

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