In their first reaction to a draft peace accord between the Afghan government and a notorious Islamist warlord, the Taliban have accused Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of committing “a major crime”.
In an article intended for the hard-line movement’s members and supporters, the Taliban have questioned Hekmatyar’s motives in concluding a peace agreement with the Afghan government after fighting it for 15 years.
“Not only will he face the wrath of Allah for leaving jihad, but he has committed a major crime,” said the article, published on the Taliban’s Voice of Jihad website on September 26.
Repeating the Taliban’s claims that Afghanistan’s current government is a puppet of the United States, the Pashto-language article, titled The Concept of Peace In Islam, offered scathing criticism of Hekmatyar without naming him.
“[He is] backing this government by concluding a peace agreement with it," the article said. "Doesn’t it tantamount to supporting the occupying forces and joining them?”
Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a draft peace agreement with the Afghan government on September 22.
The final deal, expected to be signed by Hekmatyar and President Ashraf Ghani soon, will grant amnesty to the Hezb-e Islami leader for past offenses. The government will also release some of the group’s prisoners and will work toward lifting international sanctions on Hekmatyar. In 2003, Washington declared him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
Kabul will also pay for Hekmatyar's security.
The Taliban have questioned Hekmatyar’s nearly 40-year militant career, which saw him transform from a student rebel in the 1970s into the leader of the most powerful anti-Soviet guerilla faction of the 1980s.
“If making peace with the occupiers was of such importance, then why didn’t these peace-loving people make peace with the Russians, who killed 2 million people and their occupation was followed by a brutal civil war?” the article asked.
In another pointed question, the article asked, “Why has making peace with the United States become a legitimate option now, when it was not acceptable for 15 years?”
The Taliban’s reaction is a setback for Kabul’s hopes that the deal with Hezb-e Islami will serve as a template for a future agreement with the Taliban.
The Taliban have engaged in informal discussions with Kabul since 2008 and opened a contact office in Qatar in 2013.
The insurgents, however, have only participated in one round of direct talks with the Afghan government, in Pakistan in July 2015.