Talibanapalooza

Hekmatyar Goes All Taylor Swift, Sets “Goals”

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s back, baby, and he’s not happy. He’s got a list of demands(ish).

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, noted former mujahideen and resident of Pakistan since 1996, has long held that the only way he’d stop trying to blow shit up is if all foreign troops left Afghanistan. Now there’s word out of the Hezb-i-Islami camp he’s downgraded that from a demand to a “goal.”  Which means either he’s more pragmatic or he’s been listening to way too much Taylor Swift. Hashtag – #InsurgencyGoals

“We are convinced that if Hezb-i-Islami achieves and signs a peace agreement with the government, it will open the door for the other groups, including the Taliban,” Karim said. “If we achieve agreement, then there will be no more reason for the Taliban to fight.” Amin Karim, an official of the Hezb-i-Islami Party

Why is this happening?

Because Hekmatyar’s working his way from Saul Williams…

…down to OMD.

He doesn’t want to be left behind in the post-whatever-Afghan-war-this-is world. So he needs to establish some credibility with Kabul and the Americans to maybe get himself a piece of that sweet sweet power sharing pie. Even though his spokesman denies that that’s what this is about.

And it’s been years since he’s been a relevant figure in the insurgency. Once upon a time Hezb-i-Islami (HIG) attacks were some of the worst in the country. But their last pop up event was all the way back in 2013, which might as well be 1913 in terms of the fluid state of the insurgency.

And it can’t be good for business to be blacklisted by the United Nations and listed as a “global terrorist” by the United States. That would be the same United States that’s offering a few million bucks in exchange for info leading to the arrest and conviction of a couple of your employees.

Will it work?

If he’s hoping to make it possible for the Americans to get on board with him being part of something post-war? Possibly. The question is whether he still holds enough clout to bring anyone else in from the cold. Back in 2014, the folks at the Afghan Analysts Network put together a deep dive into the background of HIG and its political arm, HIA. Things weren’t great for him then, either.

What’s easy to forget in Afghan politics is that there are people with memories of the place that go back sometime before 2001. And some of them are the folks who could rally behind Hekmatyar’s olive branch. Which means bringing some unity to a fragmented and often convoluted insurgency.

What does this mean for the peace process?

Good press, Ghani’s pleased, at least on paper, and maybe everyone can move forward a little bit in putting an end to the violence. Because Hekmatyar, until now, has been one of the more consistent voices opposing all things foreign in the country. It wouldn’t hurt any to have that strident a voice come over to the other side and try to get everyone to just knock off the shooting for once.


Also published on Medium.