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Hekmatyar – now supports Islamic State?

July 10, 2015

Summary: Islamist warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, calls on his fighters to support Islamic State against the Taliban

“If the Taliban of the Emirate fight with those who have quit the Taliban and declared allegiance to the Islamic State, help these militants, because the Taliban are sworn enemies of Hizb-e-Islami,

“If the Taliban of the Emirate fight with those who have quit the Taliban and declared allegiance to the Islamic State, help these militants, because the Taliban are sworn enemies of Hizb-e-Islami”

I simultaneously laughed and groaned (not a pleasant sound) when I saw this headline.  Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, head of the largely marginalised Islamist faction Hezb-e Islami Gubuddin – HIG – makes one more opportunistic, self-serving and cynical move in an attempt to carve out power and influence:

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Afghan Islamist organization Hezb-e Islami, has called on his followers to support the militant group Islamic State (IS) in the fight against the Taliban.

Hekmatyar made the announcement in a statement released on July 5…Hekmatyar’s comments come amid reports of intensified fighting between IS and Taliban militants in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangahar Province, as IS tries to gain a foothold in the country.

IS’s media wing declared in January that Pakistan and Afghanistan were part of one region called the province of Khorasan, reportedly prompting hundreds of Taliban militants to join IS.

Nangahar officials said last month that around 100 local families had been displaced by the fighting, while on July 6, local media reported that at least 49 IS militants died in separate government drone strikes in the province.

Fearing that IS is gaining traction in Afghanistan, the Taliban published a rare open letter in June in which the group’s deputy leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, warned IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to stay out of Afghanistan.

“The Islamic Emirate (Taliban) does not consider the multiplicity of jihadi ranks beneficial either for jihad or for Muslims,” Mansoor reportedly wrote.

In his July 5 statement…Hekmatyar warned that if the Taliban “fight with those who have quit the Taliban and declared allegiance to the Islamic State, help these militants, because the Taliban are sworn enemies of Hezb-e Islami.”

Hezb-e Islami, one of the strongest anti-Soviet mujahedin factions in the 1980s, has claimed several high-profile attacks in the Afghan capital and elsewhere, including a May 2013 suicide bombing in Kabul that killed at least 15 people.

A prime minister during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, Hekmatyar in 2003 was labeled a “specially designated global terrorist” by the U.S. State Department, which accuses him of taking part in and supporting attacks by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Most of the wider Hezb-e Islami are reconciled and back in something approaching mainstream Afghan politics.  Hekmatyar’s residual insurgent faction is very much on the outside and second (more likely third) fiddle to the Taliban, with whom everyone wants to talk.  HIG are not going anywhere and the only way Hekmatyar feels able to deal with this is to continue blowing people up.  As we can see here, he occasionally likes to vary the permutation of the those he deems worthy of attacking.

This latest announcement appears to be playing the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” card quite strongly.  I note that Hekmatyar does not appear to be pledging allegiance to IS (in Hekmatyar-world everyone should be pledging to him).  But Hekmatyar might also be putting down a marker with Islamic State – once the Khorasan part of the Caliphate has been carved out, they’ll surely need an experienced Mujahideen to rule it for them?

But anything that undermines the Taliban, with whom he and his fighters have fallen out several times since 2001, will find favour with Hekmatyar.  I think Hekmatayar has now sided with everyone at some point – he even went over to the US during the 1980s.

It may superficially seem almost encouraging that insurgent factions are turning on each other, but it could just as easily point to even more complex and brutal fighting to come.

Taking self interest and cynicism to a whole new level…

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