The Afghan government today signed a draft peace agreement with the Hizb-i-Islami faction run by militant leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, vowing amnesty for its members and recognition of their status as a political party.
The deal has yet to be finalized, but is already being presented by Afghan officials as a major step toward peace with the Taliban, citing repeated claims that Hekmatyar was at least affiliated with the Taliban in some way.
Hekmatyar was heavily bankrolled by the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but was immediately targeted when the US occupation of Afghanistan began. There have been several attempts at peace talks with him over the years, and his political allies have had limited success in elections.
Despite all the talking about him as being “Taliban-linked,” it’s not clear the deal will mean much of anything. The 68-year-old Hekmatyar’s faction isn’t huge, doesn’t hold any serious territory, and definitely isn’t in a position to change the nationwide situation.