The UN Security Council has lifted sanctions on notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, potentially paving his way to return to Afghanistan.
The move, announced on February 3, was requested by the Afghan government as part of a peace deal with Hekmatyar and his militant group, Hezb-e Islami, in September.
In removing Hekmatyar from the list of people sanctioned for their ties to militant groups, the UN unfroze his assets and dropped a travel ban and arms embargo against him.
Amin Karim, Hekmatyar’s chief negotiator, was quoted by the Associated Press in January as saying that he would return to Kabul in "a matter of weeks, not months."
The Afghan government’s peace deal with Hekmatyar was criticized by some Afghans and human rights defenders.
Rights activists have expressed concerns about long-standing accusations of human rights abuses against Hekmatyar, saying he was responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed during the civil war in the 1990s.
Hezb-e Islami has also carried out deadly attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Kabul hopes a deal with Hezb-e Islami can convince the Taliban to end its insurgency and join the political process.