Monsif Khan, a top Afghan special forces commander in the Kunar Province, has defected to the Hezb-e Islami militant faction, marking the first time a special forces commander of such high rank has switched sides in the ongoing war.
According to Kunar governor Shuja Jalala, Khan sent his team members off on leave and escaped with a Humvee and all the gear for the special forces unit he was in charge of, including guns, night-vision goggles and other gear.
Hezb-e Islami has its origins in the Islamist resistance to the Soviet puppet state in the 1970s, when it was founded by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The faction has at times fought alongside the Taliban, but is seen as a distinct insurgency inside Afghanistan, with a separate agenda. NATO has estimated the group at about 1,000 fighters.
In addition to the fighters, Hezb-e Islami has a political party which has members in the Afghan parliament, and one of Hekmatyar’s closest allies in the group, Qutbuddin Hikmat, is running for president in 2014.
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