Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (about whom I wrote in December) is perhaps the biggest threat to peace and democracy in Afghanistan. Here is what the Afghan chief of police has to say:
… Hekmatyar is now the greatest threat, more dangerous than (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar or (Osama) bin Laden,” Jan said, adding Hekmatyar is more familiar with Afghanistan’s power structure and the streets of Kabul than either of his two insurgent counterparts.
He also controls more skilful fighters.
“His agents have infiltrated every level of Afghanistan society, so when something happens here, you know he has a hand in it,” he said.
In today’s Washington Post, in the second of a two part series (part one is here), we learn about conflicts between the Northern Alliance leader Massoud and folks in Washington. The CIA had recruited Massoud to help in a covert operation to get Bin Laden, but Massoud felt that the Clinton White House needed to worry more about the entire power structure that supported Bin Laden in Afghanistan: the Pakistani backed Taliban, and Bin Laden’s Saudi financial backers.
Massoud was right to be skeptical, especially considering the close relations between the CIA and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar:
The CIA first sent Massoud aid in 1984. But their relations were undermined by the CIA’s heavy dependence on Pakistan during the war against the Soviets. The Pakistani intelligence service despised Massoud because he had waged a long and brutal campaign against Pakistan’s main Islamic radical client, the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. As the war against the Soviets ended, Pakistani intelligence sought to exclude Massoud from the victory, and the CIA mainly went along. But under pressure from the State Department and members of Congress, the agency eventually reopened its private channels to Massoud.
It is funny how quickly things then changed. Once they had agents working closely with Massoud, the CIA started to be his biggest supporters in Washington, with the White House expressing skepticism. Considering how strong the Taliban position was at this time, the White House may have been correct.
But the sad thing is, we still haven’t learned. Our former “friend” Hekmatyar is still the biggest threat to peace in Afghanistan, and our attention is still focused on capturing Bin Laden in time for elections.