ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan would slide into a bloody civil war if the US-led coalition forces walked away without cutting a peace deal with a medley of resistance groups in the war-torn country, says an elusive Afghan warlord and former prime minister.
The warning from Engineer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – who also heads the Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) — came as foreign forces prepare to pull out after fighting a bloody and costly war for 12-plus years. So far, the United States and its allies have failed to make peace with the Taliban or any other militia.
“If the Nato forces withdraw without [striking] a [peace] accord with Mujahideen, there is a strong possibility that Afghanistan will experience a bitter and bloody repeat of what had happened following the pullout of Soviet troops [in 1989],” Hekmatyar told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview on Sunday. The questions were sent to him through his representatives.
Afghanistan had slid into a bloody civil war after the withdrawal of Soviet troops which had claimed thousands of lives and caused colossal destruction, especially in Kabul. Factional fighting paved the way for the emergence of the Taliban who took over Kabul in 1996 and ruled the country until their regime was toppled by the US-led coalition in 2001.
“Statements from US generals indicate that they want to keep some troops [in Afghanistan] post 2014 and maintain control over nine military bases. This only means a ‘permanent invasion’ which will result in a continuation of the war,” said Hekmatyar, who leads the second largest armed group after the Taliban.
Asked about the role of neighbours, especially of Pakistan, in the Afghan imbroglio, Hekmatyar regretted that the neighbouring countries had helped the US in invading Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, our neighbours supported the United States. The Pakistani and Iranian support was more harmful. The Americans could neither invade Afghanistan so easily nor stay here until today. They [Pakistan and Iran] must compensate for their historic mistake,” he added. “If they do not accept the presence of foreign troops [in their own countries], then they should also recognise our right to reject military presence of invaders [in our country].”
Taliban talks with US
When asked about the failure of the Qatar initiative, Hekmatyar said the Taliban have been holding overt and covert and direct and indirect talks with the Americans in Qatar, Germany, Dubai and Pakistan.
“We don’t see any logic in the Taliban’s stance of pursuing dialogue after the White House announced that it would keep some troops and military bases in Afghanistan post-2014,” he said. He also criticised the Taliban for opening a ‘political office’ in the Gulf state of Qatar – a country which, according to Hekmatyar, is considered a major strategic base of the United States.
Hekmatyar said his political party, HIA, refused to pursue peace talks after the US started seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan.
Asked about the possibility of a rapprochement between the HIA and the Taliban to avoid possible factional fighting in the future, Hekmatyar said that so far his party has no peace deal with the Taliban.
“We have made several attempts for reconciliation with the Taliban but to no avail. We cannot hold talks with the Taliban unless they produce their commanders who martyred Hizb-e-Islami people in Maidan-e-Wardag province. Hizb people had been invited for talks but were martyred there,” he said.
Hekmatyar said his party would play an active role in the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan and would soon announce support for a candidate who would be the best among all 11 candidates. He said his party would also support candidates in provincial council elections on April 5.
“Hizb-e-Islami has told its supporters in Afghanistan to participate in the elections,” he said. “We have told our supporters to oppose those candidates who insist on a long stay of foreign troops and their military bases in Afghanistan.”
Although Hekmatyar doesn’t expect a fair presidential election in the presence of foreign forces, he said his party wanted every Afghan to reject all corrupt politicians and foreign stooges. “Hizb-e-Islami will not leave the political field open,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2014.