Afghan militant leader ‘ready for talks’
KABUL — The leader of Afghanistan’s second-biggest insurgent group said in an interview published Sunday that he was ready for “meaningful talks” with all parties to end the decade-long war.
The statement by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, head of Hezb-i-Islami, comes after an announcement by the main insurgent group, the Taliban, that they will open a political office in Qatar ahead of possible talks with the US.
But Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister, was dismissive of the results of contacts he said Hezb-i-Islami had already had with Washington and the government of President Hamid Karzai.
“We held talks with Kabul government as well as with the Americans on different occasions, but did not receive any clear, acceptable and realistic plan from them worth mentioning,” he told the Afghan Islamic Press news agency.
“The Kabul government is powerless and the Americans have no plan acceptable to the Afghan nation and the mujahedeen (holy warriors).”
Any negotiations should “pave (the) way for an agreed plan for the unconditional withdrawal of the foreign forces, guaranteeing Afghanistan?s independence, Afghans? right to decide their fate and their national integrity,” he said.
Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi told AFP nearly two weeks ago that a delegation representing the group had travelled to Kabul and met the president “in a good atmosphere, and the results were good”.
A palace official told AFP that Hekmatyar’s delegation included Ghairat Baheer, one of his main lieutenants, and that after meeting Karzai they met US embassy officials.
Hekmatyar, a marginalised Afghan warlord whose party was first established in the 1980s to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, leads thousands of fighters in the east and northeast of the country.
The group has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks including the 2008 assault on French troops in Surobi district of Kabul that left 10 French soldiers dead.
That attack was also claimed by the Taliban, who were ousted from government by a US-led invasion in 2001.