April 9, 2009

IS THIS WHAT THE UR MEANT BY SHIFTING THE FOCUS TO AFGHANISTAN?:

INTERVIEW: Holbrooke reaches out to Hekmatyar (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 4/09/09, Asia Times)

The recent meeting between a deputy of Richard Holbrooke, the United States special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an emissary of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), is by all accounts a landmark move in the United States' stated aim of involving militant groups in ending the conflict in Afghanistan.

The choice of Hekmatyar also indicates just how desperate the US is in finding an escape route from the escalating crisis in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar is a declared terrorist with a reported $25 million price on his head. The 61-year-old engineer from Kunduz province and his anti-government fighters are responsible for large numbers of attacks against Afghan and international forces, mainly in the northeast of the country. [...]

Now, eight years after the US attack on Afghanistan, Washington is initiating dialogue with Hekmatyar through his longtime lieutenant Daoud Abedi, the link between the Hekmatyar and the West. Abedi is an Afghan-American based in California as well as a prominent businessman, social worker and a former representative of the HIA.

In an exclusive interview from his home in Los Angeles, Abedi explains what was discussed between himself and the US official representing Holbrooke and the White House. [...]

ATol: Would [Hekmatyar] agree to any immediate ceasefire with the NATO troops?

DA: A ceasefire is possible once talks are over and we know the exact schedule for the departure of the foreign troops. This has not been discussed yet, but we are hopeful that if there is an accepted date for the departure of the foreign troops, then all sides could talk - the HIA, Taliban and the foreigners - and see if we could agree on a ceasefire as a goodwill gesture. But that can be done only when there is a confirmed date of departure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2009 9:34 AM
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