- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a brutal former guerrilla leader now based in Iran, is offering to support the Taliban against U.S. forces with fighters and perhaps a cache of U.S.-made Stinger missiles.
Asked about Mr. Hekmatyar's recent public offer to join them, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, replied: "We keep in contact with him." The Taliban envoy refused to elaborate.
Mr. Hekmatyar recently told journalists in Iran, "I will join the [Taliban] resistance forces against the entry of U.S. troops into Afghanistan."
During the 1980s, Mr. Hekmatyar's 30,000 rebels reportedly received one-third of the CIA's multimillion-dollar aid package meant to assist Afghan mujahideen fighters trying to oust Soviet forces.
Mr. Hekmatyar denies those reports and other claims that he received shoulder-fired Stinger missiles from the United States.
He currently commands an unknown number of guerrillas in his Hezbe Islami, or Party of Islam, force.
Even today, Mr. Hekmatyar evokes dread among many Afghans and U.S. government officials. They recall his violent transformation from a CIA asset in the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to a vicious warlord no one could control.
During his ruthless ascent, Mr. Hekmatyar fought both Soviet troops and rival U.S.-backed guerrillas throughout the 1980s.
He said he despised the United States, Russia, Europe and the United Nations because their military interference in Afghanistan extended the war while they simultaneously plotted how to dictate a future peace.
Before establishing a rapprochement with the Taliban, however, Mr. Hekmatyar must resolve bad blood left from his past siege of the capital city, Kabul, which took a heavy toll on Afghan civilians and Taliban forces.
Currently in self-imposed exile in Iran, Mr. Hekmatyar reportedly offered the Taliban his cache of weapons, which may be hidden in a cave inside Afghanistan.
The contents of the arsenal are unknown, but any Stinger missiles that might have survived from that era may no longer be capable of firing.
U.S. diplomats, aware of Mr. Hekmatyar's harsh Islamic fundamentalist stance and human rights violations, insisted throughout the 1980s that he was one of the best guerrilla leaders and commanded a powerful force against the Soviet occupation.
After Moscow's military retreated from Afghanistan in 1989, Mr. Hekmatyar turned his mortars against Kabul, indiscriminately bombing the mile-high capital while demanding total power.
Other guerrilla leaders who seized Kabul in 1992 were so desperate to stop Mr. Hekmatyar that they appointed him prime minister. But Mr. Hekmatyar, of the majority Pashtun tribe, demanded more power and refused to join a coalition with minority ethnic Uzbeks led by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum or with Tajiks led by Ahmad Shah Masood.
"Hekmatyar cowardly tortured a number of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and other [minority] tribes," Gen. Dostum said in 1992. He said Mr. Hekmatyar grabbed "two innocent civilians, just because they were members of minority tribes, and took them to the zoo in Kabul and cut their eyes out and their noses, and threw them as bait for the animals in the zoo."
Whether the claims are true or not, Gen. Dostum's remarks indicated a deep personal hatred of Mr. Hekmatyar, which presumably continues today.
Mr. Masood, a fabled guerrilla leader assassinated several days before the Sept. 11 terror attack, tried to protect Kabul from Mr. Hekmatyar during the Northern Alliance's 1992-1996 rule. Mr. Masood's death is widely believed to have been a hit ordered by Osama bin Laden, though it also eliminated one of Mr. Hekmatyar's main foes.
Gen. Dostum now leads a powerful Uzbeki militia in the Russian-backed Northern Alliance and is trying to capture Mazar-e-Sharif, a key town in the north under Taliban control.
Iran eventually became Mr. Hekmatyar's sanctuary. But after the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, Iran reportedly aided anti-Taliban forces through convoys to the Northern Alliance at Mazar-e-Sharif's airport.
Mr. Hekmatyar may now be anxious to leave Iran, which has opened talks with the Northern Alliance about Afghanistan's future. He may be calculating that he can return to power in Kabul if he helps the Taliban to defeat the United States in a long war of attrition.

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