Amongst the pick of the weekend reading is a feature article in the Inquirer section of The Weekend Australian by ABC Four Corners reporter and senior columnist Sally Neighbour (see article here). Her central thesis is that peace in Afghanistan is unlikely to be brought by the thugs and murderers being wooed by the Karzai Government. She begins her article:
The rogues' gallery of warlords and war criminals being courted by the Karzai government and its Western backers betrays just how desperate the dilemma of Afghanistan has become, and how treacherous the road to peace and stability that lies ahead.
President Hamid Karzai's much vaunted new strategy of reconciliation with the militants has found his government doing deals with the same cast of villains who helped tear Afghanistan to shreds during the past 30 years of war.
Most notorious of all is the veteran jihad commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an accused terrorist, war criminal and protector of Osama bin Laden who last month held out an olive branch to Karzai and the West, claiming he is not in league with the Taliban and wants only the departure of foreign forces.
She gives some background on Hekmatyar, who received a conservatively estimated $600 million in CIA funds channelled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), but who after the Soviet withdrawal sabotaged efforts to establish a power-sharing mujaheddin government, declared war on his rivals, and even after being named Prime Minister reduced the southern half of Kabul to rubble with a loss of civilian life variously estimated at 25,000-50,000 (see The destruction of Kabul).
Neighbour gives background also on the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, discusses how the warlords fit into US strategy for Afghanistan, and concludes, in the light of an unnamed commentator’s claim that Hekmatyar is “the great hope of all parties”:
God help Afghanistan if Hekmatyar is its best hope for peace.
And so say all of us.