Warlord Known as ‘Butcher of Kabul’ Launches Afghan Presidential Campaign Vowing Peace

Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday. A prominent figure for decades in Afghanistan's war, Hekmatyar, 69, was known as the "Butcher of Kabul" when his forces rocketed the city in the 1990s. He made peace with the government and President Ashraf Ghani welcomed him back to …
Mohammad Anwar Danishyar/AP

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Afghan warlord nicknamed the “Butcher of Kabul” over historic war crimes allegedly committed during Afghanistan’s bloody civil war in the 1990s, officially entered the country’s presidential race over the weekend as one of at least 14 candidates expected to vie for the post during the July 20 elections.

In September 2016, Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) group also known as just Hezb-e-Islami (the Islamic party), signed a peace agreement with the Ghani administration after fighting against Kabul and the U.S.-led coalition for about 15 years. He has since repeatedly urged his so-called Taliban “brothers” to follow suit.

“Let’s end the war, live together as brothers and then ask foreigners to leave our country,” Hekmatyar proclaimed during an appearance with Ghani at Afghanistan’s presidential palace in May 2017 to commemorate his return to the country following the peace agreement.

As part of the deal, Ghani welcomed the “Butcher of Kabul” back to Afghanistan after he agreed to abide by Afghanistan’s constitution and renounce violence. He reportedly spent years in hiding.

U.S. officials have linked Hekmatyar with the Taliban, their al-Qaeda allies, and the death of American civilians and military personnel.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) deemed Hekmatyar a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” because he “participated in and supported terrorist acts committed by al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.”

Although the United Nations removed him from its list of designated terrorists after he signed the peace deal with Kabul, DOS has refused to do so.

In 2016, the U.S. welcomed the peace agreement but indicated that Hekmatyar would remain a designated terrorist.

Reuters reported on Saturday:

His decision to contest the presidential polls in July is seen by analysts as the ex-warlord’s attempt legitimize his Hizb-i-Islami party. The faction has been blamed for atrocities committed during Afghanistan’s brutal civil war, which led many Afghans to welcome the emergence of the Taliban in 1996 in the hope the hardline Islamist group would restore law and order.

Although President Ghani granted immunity to Hekmatyar as part of the peace pact, the former warlord has criticized his administration, saying it has failed to end the more than 17-year-old war with the Afghan Taliban.

In announcing his candidacy, Hekmatyar vowed to “restore peace and security,” Reuters noted.

“Our country’s situation requires a powerful central government led by an elected president supported by the majority of people,” Hekmatyar told reporters in Kabul.

Hekmatyar registered his name with Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Saturday along with his two deputies —Fazal Hadi Wazin and Qazi Hafiz Ur Rehman Naqi — who are expected to run for the first and second vice president posts, Khaama Press (KP)  reported.

Hekmatyar reportedly blamed the ongoing violence plaguing Afghanistan on the Ghani administration.

On January 3, Afghanistan’s IEC began a 17-day registration process for candidates seeking to run for the presidential elections, which were delayed from April 20 to July 20 over security and other concerns.

President Ghani officially entered the race on Sunday. He vowed to give his life for peace with the Taliban in a speech delivered after he registered.

In 2014, Ghani took the presidency after a bitterly disputed vote that prompted a U.S.-brokered power-sharing agreement with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who is also running again.

Hekmatyar reportedly served as Afghanistan’s prime minister in the 1990s.

The allegedly killing of tens of thousands of civilians in the Afghan capital during the 1990s civil war earned him the nickname “Butcher of Kabul.”

“Hekmatyar, accused of atrocities and human rights violations, became known as the ‘Butcher of Kabul’ — the most ruthless warlord in a country dominated by warlords,” National Public Radio (NPR) reported in 2017.

.