Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: Embracing the Insanity of the Fictional Colonel Kurtz
Colonel Kurtz: Did they say why [Captain] Willard, why they want to terminate my command?
Captain Willard: They told me, that you had gone totally insane and uh, that your methods were unsound.
Colonel Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Captain Willard: I don’t see any method at all, Sir.
One thing that remains consistent over the last 30 years in observing
Without a care for the consequences, the
Once a person with a cause has been linked to a policy and established in
Hekmatyar’s reputation was established back in the late 1960s as a high school student when he joined the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and then attended the Mahtab Qala military school in
Hekmatyar joined with Ahmad Shah Massoud’s Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Party) in a Pakistani plan designed by their Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to destabilize
Hekmatyar would go on to become the darling of the agency and receive the bulk of the U.S. and Saudi aid coming in for the war against the Soviet Union, including a monopoly on Stinger missiles. Although an ISI and CIA favorite, Hekmatyar’s legitimacy as a fighter, his effectiveness, his loyalties and even his goals raised doubts in the Peshawar-based American press corps. According to CBS News stringer Kurt Lohbeck in his book, Holy War, Unholy Victory, Hekmatyar’s reputation was an elaborate ruse concocted by the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI to elicit Congressional support for the Mujahideen, and little else. “Gulbuddin had no effective fighting organization. He had not a single commander with any military reputation for fighting the Soviets or the Afghan regime. He had made alliances with top regime military figures. And he had killed numerous other Mujahiddin commanders. Yet the United States government and the covert agencies were doing their best to convert that lie into reality.”
The man largely responsible for peddling Hekmatyar’s dubious credentials to Washington was Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, who had been carefully shoehorned into strategic positions on both the House Appropriations Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by then Republican congressman from Wyoming, Dick Cheney. Following the war against the Soviets, Hekmatyar’s reputation didn’t save him when his failure to establish a Pakistani friendly government in Kabul lost him Saudi and American sponsorship. But while American influence flowed to the Taliban, Hekmatyar continued to lobby for sponsorship and a return to power by acquiring political asylum in Iran, trying to join ranks with Al Qaeda and cutting deals with the Taliban.
Marked for death by the CIA following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Hekmatyar survived a Predator drone attack in May 2002 but continued to rally Taliban fighters against the United States and coalition forces. On February 19, 2003 both the United States Department of State and the United States treasury declared Hekmatyar a “global terrorist.”
Reportedly now aligned with the Taliban, Hekmatyar’s power base resides in the provinces near Kabul and the scattered pockets of Pashtun communities in the north and northeast.
Yet, despite his label as a terrorist and major narcotics trafficker, his Hesb-i-Islami party supported Hamid Karzai’s reelection bid in the August 20, 2009 elections and he is now reportedly being courted by special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke in the hopes of luring him into a relationship with the Afghan government.
As twisted as the original U.S. support for Islamic extremism may seem today following the events of 9/11 and nearly 9 years of war, the idea that Hekmatyar might somehow once again be on America’s go-to list as a potential messiah for Washington goes beyond the pale of rational thinking and into the realm of Colonel Kurtz. Empowering Hekmatyar as a “method” for destabilizing Afghanistan in the early 1970’s was at least, “unsound.” Putting him back into a position of power and influence in Kabul as a method for resolving America’s growing Afghan crisis reveals that the method is insane. Or, in the words of Captain Willard, “I don’t see any method at all.”
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team, began their experience in Afghanistan when they were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter behind Soviet lines in 1981 for CBS News and produced a documentary, Afghanistan Between Three Worlds, for PBS. In 1983 they returned to Kabul with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher for ABC Nightline and contributed to the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They continued to research, write and lecture about the long-term run-up that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan. They are featured in an award winning documentary by Samira Goetschel. Titled, Our own Private Bin Laden which traces the creation of the Osama bin Laden mythology in Afghanistan and how that mythology has been used to maintain the “war on terror” approach of the Bush administration. Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story published by City Lights, chronicles their three-decade-focus on Afghanistan and the media. For info on the City Lights Web site: www.citylights.com