Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG)

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Overview

 

Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is an insurgent group active in Afghanistan. It is a splinter group of one of the prominent , and the most radical of the seven mujahedeen factions fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. Hekmatyar , a favorite of the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, received the greatest portion of foreign assistance to the mujahedeen.1  Hekmatyar trained Afghan and foreign guerilla fighters in the refugee camps of Shamshatoo and Jalozai in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and also ran numerous schools and hospitals in NWFP.2 His organization  also received funds from Saudi charity organizations, Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, and other wealthy Arabs.3

 

History

 

Born in 1947 or1948 in northern Kunduz province, Hekmatyar is a Kharotai by qawmi (tribal) affiliation. (Kharotai is a sub-branch of Ghilzai pashtuns.)4 Hekmatyar is believed to have been active with the socialist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in the later years of high school in Kunduz and during his time in a military academy in Kabul.  In Kabul University in the early 1970s, he became a member of the religious youth movements that were influenced by the Egyptian  Muslim Brotherhood.5  Hekmatyar was imprisoned after allegedly killing a Maoist rival in Kabul University in 1972. After the 1973 military coup by Sardar Daud, Hekmatyar went to exile in Pakistan. In Pakistan, he was one of the early Islamist dissidents courted by the Pakistani government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in efforts to organize and influence the opposition against President Daud in Kabul. He was one of the founding members of Hizb-i-Islami in 1977. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb-i-Islami (as it was known at the outset before splitting into several faction) focused on “establishment of a pure Islamic state and utilizes a highly disciplined organizational structure built around a small cadre of educated elites.”7  Hizb-i-Islami fractured in 1979 and the different factions came to be known by the name of their leaders—Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (referred to HIG these days)  and Hizb-i-Islami Maulawi Khalis .( The Mujahideen-e-Tora Bora group in the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan are related to the Khalis wing of the former Hizb-i-Islami.)

In 1992, as the Communist government of Dr. Najibullah in Kabul was toppled, Hekmatyar refused to join the Borhanuddin Rabbani-led  government as the prime minister and waged a bloody war to capture the capital city.8  Efforts to persuade Hekmatyar to reconcile with the Kabul government brought no results. Even Osama Bin Laden urged Hekmatyar to compromise with his rival late Ahmad Shah Masoud in a radio conversation from Peshawar in 1991. “Go back with your brothers,” Bin Laden stated.9  By the end of 1992, Hekmatyar reached a deal with Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Hazara Jihadi faction Hizb-i Wahdat to form a common front against the Kabul government.10  In early 1993, he accepted another offer by Rabbani to become the prime minister. But he never personally joined the government, and instead sent Ustad Farid from Kapisa to Kabul as his Prime Minister. This alliance lasted only several months, and in January 1994 he restarted rocket attacks on the capital from his base in Chahar-Asyab district of Kabul. The ISI is alleged to have backed Hekmatyar to topple Tajik-dominated government in Kabul. Hekmatyar also cooperated with the ISI in training foreign volunteers to fight in the Indian-held Kashmir in the early 1990s.11  Hekmatyar’s failure to succeed against Ahmad Shah Massoud’s forces controlling Kabul led to a decline of support for him from Pakistan.  The Pakistani government is reported to have abandoned Hekmatyar in 1994 and shifted support to the Taliban. After the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, many of the Hizb-i-Islami commanders fighting under Hekmatyar either joined the Taliban or fled to Pakistan. HIG’s training camps in Pakistan were “taken over by the Taliban and handed over" to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a radical Islamic party in Pakistan.12  Hekmatyar escaped to Iran in 1997.13

 

Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) after 9/11
 

 

After the 2001, U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Iran expelled Hekmatyar and he is reported to have either returned to Afghanistan or Peshawar, Pakistan in February 2002.14  He declared jihad against foreign forces in December 2002 and later voiced support for the Taliban.15  On February 19, 2003, the United States designated Hekmatyar a Specially Designated Global Terrorist,16 and the United States Department of State designated HIG as a Group of Concern, not a Foreign Terrorist Organization.17  

HIG is believed to have local alliances with the Taliban, al-Qaida and to have reconnected with the ISI. Its main area of operation is northeastern Afghanistan, such as the provinces of Kunar, Laghman and Paktia and HIG is believed to be active in Kapisa province and outskirts of Kabul. HIG has also re-established presence in areas along the crucial highway of Kabul-Torkham. Hekmatyar claimed responsibility for an ambush on Coalition forces in Sorobi District of Kabul, which killed ten French troops last year.18  Reports indicate that HIG has also reactivated its previous recruiting and training bases in NWFP, in places such as the Shamshatoo camp.19 

Karzai’s attempts to urge Hekmatyar to join the government have seen little success. Setting conditions for talks with Kabul, Hekmatyar’s spokesman told Pajhwok News Agency in October, 2008: “Hizb-i-Islami is ready to take part in any talks aimed at withdrawal of foreign forces, stopping foreign interferences, release of all political prisoners, and creating a permanent truce and forming a transitional government.”20  He said forces from Islamic countries instead should be deployed to Afghanistan if necessary. In late November, a statement from Hekmatyar called on then-President-elect Barack Obama to avoid sending more troops to Afghanistan.21  Hekmatyar promised to expel al-Qaida and curb drugs trades if foreign troops left Afghanistan. Karzai’s government continues to try to persuade Hekmatyar for talks through HIG’s former commanders now in Kabul.  But in a recent interview on June 4, 2009 with the Kandahar-based Benawa.com website, Hekmatyar rejected reports that his group is engaged in talks with the Afghan government. (Benawa.com website notes that the interview was conducted through correspondence by one of their contributors in Peshawar, Pakistan.)

 

Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) in Kabul
 
 

Since 2004, a number of former Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin commanders have formed and registered a new political party under the name Hizb-i-Islami. In the 2004 Presidential elections, these former commanders numbered around 150, declared support for Hamid Karzai .22 The group is registered with the Afghan Ministry of Justice and has opened offices in Kabul and other major cities. 23  Under Afghanistan’s new law on political parties, no party can have any affiliation with armed groups. HIA claims to have surrendered all their weapons to the government and have no ties with the Gulbuddin led insurgents.24

Relations between HIA and Hekmatyar remain unclear. HIA claims control of 30 to 40 percent of government offices.25  Hekmatyar’s son-in-law Ghairat Baheer, who was released from prison in 2008, is a member of the party.26  According to Hekmatyar’s former Deputy Qazi Muhammad Amin Waqad: “The party has two to three [Cabinet] ministers, five governors, a deputy minister and many other high ranking officials.”27  The party claims tens of thousands of supporters across Afghanistan.28  Party member Humayun Jarir in December 2008 said an inter-Afghan conference would soon be held in an Islamic country for reconciliation between all Afghan factions. He said representatives from Hekmatyar’s party and the Taliban were invited and would attend the conference.29 

In the June 4, 2009 interview Hekmatyar disassociated his group from his former commanders who are currently politically active in Kabul under the HIA banner. Asked if the presence of Hizb-i-Islami members in the government is a sign of his party’s indirect participation, the HIG leader replied that: “Former HI members who are in Karzai government are not members of our party any more, and their participation in the American-backed government is not an indication of HI’s indirect participation in the government.  In fact, they joined the government with an intention to weaken the HI and to create division within the party, but they failed to do so.  In the past, some people had joined our party because they thought it was the right decision at the time.  Later however, some of them joined other parties and others formed their own parties.”30

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Endnotes

1 Peter Dale Scott, “Emerging Patterns,” in Drugs, oil, and war: the United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina. Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. P49.
2  Muhammad Tahir, “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Return to the Afghan Insurgency,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 6, Issue 11, The Jamestown Foundation, May 29, 2008.
3  Thomas H. Johnson, “Hekmatyar’s Financial support,” in Terrorism Financing and State Responses, ed. by Jeanne K Giraldo, Harold Trinkunas. Published by Stanford University Press; 1 edition, March 2007, 106-109.
4  Omid Marzban, “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: From Holy Warrior to Wanted Terrorist,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 4, Issue 18, The Jamestown Foundation, September 21, 2006.
5  Thomas H. Johnson, “Hekmatyar’s Financial support,” in Terrorism Financing and State Responses, ed. by Jeanne K Giraldo, Harold Trinkunas. Published by Stanford University Press; 1 edition, March 2007., 106-109.
6  Muhammad Tahir, “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Return to the Afghan Insurgency,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 6, Issue 11, The Jamestown Foundation, May 29, 2008.
Thomas H. Johnson, “Hekmatyar’s Financial support,” in Terrorism Financing and State Responses, ed. by Jeanne K Giraldo, Harold Trinkunas. Published by Stanford University Press; 1 edition, March 2007. P106-109.
8  Along with Ahmad Shah Masoud, Rabbani was a leader of the Northern Alliance.
9  Steve Coll, “Are We in Danger,” in Ghost Wars, Published by Penguin Press HC, February 2004, 235-237.
10  M. J. Gohari, “The Mujahideen,” in The Taliban Ascent to Power, Published by Oxford University Press US, 2000, 19.
11  James, J. F. Forest, “Combating the Sources and Facilitators,” in Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century, 468.
12  Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, Published by I B Tauris & Co Ltd, May 2002. P92.
13  “Iran Expels Afghan Warlord,” BBC News, February 26, 2002.
14  “Iran Expels Afghan Warlord,” BBC News, February 26, 2002. 
15  “Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, Global Security.org.
16  “U.S. Designates Hekmatyar As A Terrorist,” Dawn, February 20, 2003.
17  “U.S. Designates Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” America.gov, April 30, 2007.
18  Janullah Hashimzada, “HI releases fighters' names killed in Sarobi ambush,” Pajhwok News Agency, September 28, 2008.
19  “Afghan authorities report presence of Hezb-e Eslami terror camps in Pakistan,” Afghan Tolo TV, October 28, 2006.
20  Janullah Hashimzada, “Hekmatyar's brother released in Peshawar,” Pajhwok News Agency, January 13, 2009.
21  Janullah Hashimzada, “Hekmatyar offers conditions for talks,” Pajhwok News Agency, October 14, 2008.
22  Janullah Hashimzada, “No more troops to Afghanistan: Hekmatyar to Obama,” Pajhwok News Agency, November 27, 2008.
23  “Commanders Line Up Behind Karzai,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, September 14, 2004.
24  See list of licensed political parties at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice website.
25 “Hizb-i-Islami members are busy with politics,” Wakht News Agency, Kabul. July 12, 2008
26  Omid Marzban, “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: From Holy Warrior to Wanted Terrorist,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 4, Issue 18, The Jamestown Foundation, September 21, 2006.
27  “Hikmatyar’s son-in-law calls for national unity,” Quqnoos, June 5, 2008. 
28  Omid Marzban, “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: From Holy Warrior to Wanted Terrorist,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 4, Issue 18, The Jamestown Foundation, September 21, 2006.
29  “Hizb-e Islami defectors call for talks with opposition,” BBC Persian News, June 12, 2008.
30  “Hizb-e Islami defectors call for talks with opposition,” BBC Persian News, June 12, 2008.

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