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Afghanistan Expected To Announce Peace Deal With Hezb-e Islami Militant Group

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in a 2001 photo

The Afghan High Peace Council (AHPC) says it has agreed on the main points of a peace deal with the Hezb-e Islami militant group.

A spokesman for the AHPC, the presidentially appointed body tasked with pursuing peace settlements with militant groups, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the deal was expected to be announced on May 15.

Shahzada Shahid said Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the military wing of the group, would come to Kabul to formally sign the peace accord.

Hekmatyar's current whereabouts are unknown, although he is believed to be in neighboring Pakistan.

The peace deal would mark a breakthrough for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts in ending the country’s 15-year war.

While the military wing of Hezb-e Islami has been a largely dormant force in recent years, and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the Afghan government could be a template for any future deal with the Taliban.

Hezb-e Islami split up after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, with the political wing reconciling with Kabul while Hekmatyar joined hands with the Taliban to lead the insurgency against the government.

The Afghan government opened discussions with a delegation sent by Hekmatyar on March 17.

Hekmatyar is among the most radical of the hard-line militants in Afghanistan.

He founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s, and the group went on to become one of the main mujahedin factions that fought against the Soviet army after the Soviet invasion in 1979, and subsequently fought in the civil war for control of Kabul after Moscow pulled out.

The group was accused by rights groups of gross human rights violations during the civil war and has carried out deadly attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.

Hekmatyar was seen as trying to rally Taliban troops against coalition forces, and his alleged attempts to ally with both that group and Al-Qaeda led the U.S. State Department to designate him a "global terrorist” in 2003.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan and AP
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