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Afghanistan asks UN to lift sanctions on reconciled militant group

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government has asked the United Nations Security Council to remove the leaders of the militant group Hezb-e-Islami from its sanctions list, officials said Monday.

The request follows a peace accord signed by President Ashraf Ghani and Hezb-e-Islami founder Gulbuddin Hekmatyar last September. Supporters hope the deal will encourage other insurgent groups — especially the Taliban — to join the peace process, which they say is the only realistic solution to the country’s 15-year war.

“The key message is for the Taliban and other groups fighting against the Afghan people — they should know that the Afghan government is committed to peace, that we honor the peace deal,” said Javid Faisal, the chief executive’s deputy spokesman.

Hezb-e-Islami has been blamed for serious human rights abuses and the indiscriminate shelling of Kabul during the civil war in the 1990s, which killed thousands. The group’s last major attack was a car bombing three years ago that killed six American soldiers and nine Afghan civilians.

Because of the group’s recent inactivity, the peace accord has been seen as a model to encourage other insurgent groups to abandon violence rather than something that will reduce violence on its own.

If Hekmatyar and other Hezb-e-Islami leaders are removed from the U.N. blacklist, they will no longer be considered terrorists and will be able to return to Kabul.

“We don’t have any major concern that any country will be against this request,” said Mohammad Amin Karim, who was the chief negotiator for Hezb-e-Islami during peace talks with the government this year.

The Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest insurgent group, held talks with officials from the Afghan government, United States and China last year in a breakthrough meeting aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to end the country’s war. The talks were eventually abandoned after the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar was announced, which led to fracturing within the group.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com

Twitter: @PhillipWellman

FILE -- In this Feb. 13, 1996 file photo Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Chief of Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan addresses a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan. The former Afghan warlord has announced that a much-touted peace deal between his militant group and the Kabul government is effectively "dead."
B.K. BANAGSH/AP

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