Clickbait title? You bet. The statement may seem outlandish, but it’s probably not. I read an article from LA Times that I felt was worth sharing. Afghanistan is feverishly working on a deal to amnesty Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and any insurgents related to him including those already incarcerated for war crimes or terrorism.
Unfortunately, to judge whether or not Gulbuddin or HIG (Hezb-i-Islami) is a contemporary threat purely based on their direct actions I think is a little fool hardy. To make matters worse, due to this group being in the spotlight with peace talks, there hasn’t been much talk in regard to their terror campaign in recent years.
HIG has claimed responsibility for a massacre in Badakhshan. The Taliban also launched a claim on the slaying of ten aid workers, but that really shouldn’t come as a surprise since for better or worse there’s been an inter-pollination of HIG members with the Taliban ever since Gulbuddin fell out of favor in Pakistan.
HIG also conducted a successful IED strike in Kabul killing 6 Americans in 2013.
You may ask, dear reader, why this is even a big deal. Parlaying with insurgent forces and paying off terrorists has been a time honoured tradition. This, is in fact true. To give further anecdotal evidence, I worked in an area where a unit of unnamed national origin was paying tens of thousands of dollars per week to ward off mortar attacks that were pounding their installation like clockwork. Fortunately that deal, at least, didn’t come with amnesty.
2016 has been an unprecedented year in Afghanistan with massive setbacks in Kunduz, Helmand and Tarin Kot. With current events in mind, this peace deal comes across as a bid to surrender more than anything.
As a whole, this deal completely undermines customary and international laws of land warfare. We have a moral imperative to ensure war criminals do not live a consequence free life. These actions exclaim one thing loud and clear: the campaign waged in Afghanistan is working, and if you murder enough people you can walk free.
“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.”
To assert this man is a former warlord is a little ridiculous considering that HIG is an active terrorist organization and present in the political discourse involving the future of Afghanistan. We should not overlook the fact that only a small number of attacks are claimed by any group, and that we can definitively associate three substantial attacks to HIG in both 2010, 2013 and 2014. Furthermore, there have been allegations that HIG has supported ISIL in Afghanistan, which resulted in subsequent public denouncement of the claims.
In the deal, the Afghan government requires that HIG “cut ties to extremist groups and respect the Afghan Constitution”. If we assess this statement at face value, you can easily come out with the following: not only has HIG been directly responsible for decades of violence but, continues to play a role in Afghan jihad and paramilitary activities in the region. All this, but keep in mind, Gulbuddin is a “former” warlord.
“It provides for the release of Hezb-i-Islami [HIG] members being held in Afghan jails, and the removal of [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar’s name and those of senior Hezb-i-Islami leaders from U.S. and United Nations terrorism blacklists.”
There’s no mention of a disarmament/demobilization program. Where is the stick to this carrot? If we are going with the narrative that Gulbuddin’s influence has waned, what’s stopping his former soldiers from simply linking up with Taliban, Haqqani, or ISIL cells a day after release?
The LA Times article asserts that “the Afghan government sought to portray it as a step toward a broader peace with more powerful militant groups, including the Taliban”.
I’m not sure I even understand this. The Afghan government tables everything under sun in a bid to pacify an insignificant terrorist group? I wonder what goodies they’ll offer the Taliban if this is the banquet they lay out for HIG.
“”The Afghan government’s rationale for reaching a peace deal with him is aimed at encouraging other insurgent groups to join the negotiation process, to show that the Afghan government can on its own facilitate a peace talk and succeed,” said Timor Sharan, Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group.”
Strike while the iron is hot, they say.
“Whatever we agreed with Hezb-i-Islami, we promise the same to you.” – Mohammad Atmar, National Security Advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
We now have the chief security advisor to Ghani promising full amnesty and power sharing to the regional Islamic jihad movement. Experts say that this is par for the course in Afghanistan.
“”[Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar is not alone in enjoying impunity. None of the Afghan warlords from the 1990s has been held accountable,” Patricia Grossman, senior Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in a commentary.”
This effort for compromised peace has been met with protest from Afghans and NGOs. Others acknowledge that continuing to stack the government with Pashtuns would fray already strained ethnic relationships in the country.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it welcomed the agreement “as a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end”.
DOS has, fortunately, thrown their support behind the idea and are enthusiastically awaiting the opportunity to delist more people from the terrorist database.
“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.””
As we try to extricate ourselves from any responsibility with the complicated and unique state of Afghanistan we also steadily close the door on any positive future for the country.
With a heavy heart, I’ve watched territory I captured as a teen-aged adult in Afghanistan fall to the Taliban. This peace deal has the capacity to change major setbacks into an extensive dissolution of most if not all progress made over the past 15 years.
(Story in question)
(HIG 2013 Kabul bombing 6 US KIA, 8 Afghan KIA, 37 Afghan WIA)
(HIG 2014 Kabul bombing 2 US KIA, 2 US WIA, 7 Afghan WIA)
(HIG 2010 massacre of aid workers)
(Fall of Kunduz)
(Fall of Tarin Kot)
(Helmand remains largely contested)