Afghan peace impossible until foreign troops go: Hekmatyar

There will be no peace in Afghanistan until Nato forces leave, warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar warned on Tuesday in an interview with the French daily Liberation and radio station RFI.

Hekmatyar is the leader of Hizb-e-Islami.

His group has had disputes with the Taliban in the past and there have been reports that it might be more ready than other groups to negotiate a settlement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.

“Only the departure of occupation forces would lead to a halt in fighting,” Hekmatyar said, in DVD video footage sent to the French reporters in response to a series of questions sent to him by e-mail, Liberation said.

In March, Hekmatyar sent a delegation to Kabul seeking to open dialogue.

Then in May, Afghan opposition figures met in the Maldives for talks with the Kabul government, at a meeting organised by Hekmatyar’s son-in-law.

Those meetings raised hopes in some quarters that it might be possible to persuade some of the groups to come to a negotiated settlement, or at least to divide the insurgency and to weaken the Taliban’s hand.

But in Tuesday’s interview, Hekmatyar played down the chances of a deal with Karzai’s government, and reaffirmed that his party would boycott and “reject totally” this week’s Afghan legislative elections.

“A calendar for the departure of foreign forces, agreed by everyone, should be established,” he said, when asked what must happen before negotiations on a final settlement could begin.

“Then we’d have to debate the manner in which they leave, but the government in Kabul doesn’t have the necessary authority, the occupation troops won’t give them it,” he warned.

“Afghans have no confidence in him and the mujahedeen can see that he has agreed to none of their conditions. There has been no response. This government is mute and useless.”