What does Afghan warlord Hekmatyar’s return mean?

Saturday, May 6th, 2017, 11:03 am

Afghanistan’s conflict-weary citizens have cautiously welcomed the return of warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul.

The leader of Afghanistan’s second-largest militant group, Mr Hekmatyar is an Islamist warlord accused of numerous atrocities during the civil war of the 1990s.

But he has signed a peace deal with the Western-backed Afghan government and says he is abandoning violence.

Afghan leaders say the deal is a step forward for the nation, but how significant is it really and what are Mr Hekmatyar’s plans now?

Will this help the security situation?

So far, no. Mr Hekmatyar’s move to renounce violence seems not to be having any noticeable impact on the battlefield.

The main insurgent groups fighting the Afghan and Nato-led forces are the Taliban and its semi-autonomous Haqqani network, al-Qaeda and recently the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.

Mr Hekmatyar’s forces were involved in sporadic small-scale attacks that were insignificant compared to the Taliban insurgency and they have largely tapered off in recent years.

Half of his Hizb-e-Islami party supported the post-2001 Western-backed Afghan government and the rest remained with him. Some believe this is more a peace accord with a person than with a major political or militant party that is actively involved in the current conflict.

But is there a bigger picture?

Yes. His return is of greater symbolic importance. Mr Hekmatyar is still regarded as a religious figure who led a significant resistance movement against the former Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan under the banner of jihad.