- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Anti-American warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who ruthlessly shelled Kabul during the early 1990s, has returned to Afghanistan from Iran and threatens to destabilize the interim government, Afghan envoy Haroun Amin said yesterday.
"The bad news is Hekmatyar is back," said Mr. Amin, who is acting ambassador at the Afghan Embassy in Washington. "Apparently, he has gone to Herat."
Mr. Hekmatyar opposed the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan and said from his base in Iran late last year that he had 18,000 men ready to take up arms in support of the Taliban and against the United States and its Afghan allies.
An Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Iran had put pressure on Herat's warlord Ismail Khan to admit Mr. Hekmatyar to the area under his control.
"Both Iran and Pakistan want instability in Afghanistan," the official said.
U.S. intelligence agencies spotted scores of Iranian intelligence and military personnel inside Afghanistan working to destabilize the interim government, The Washington Times reported recently.
The Iranians include agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security the Iranian spy service and Iranian special-forces troops from the Revolutionary Guards Corps, officials familiar with intelligence reports told The Times.
Mr. Amin dismissed Mr. Hekmatyar's assertion that he had 18,000 troops, but he said that "in a country such as Afghanistan, 1,000 fighters can create instability."
"Hekmatyar has created instability in the past. He can create mischief. He has had the ability to survive," Mr. Amin said.
"He still has some funds and some support in some areas Shomali Plains, Kunduz, Baghlan and near Jalalabad. He wants to project himself as carrying the torch of the Taliban and al Qaeda. He claims he wants a 100 percent pure Islamic government."
A State Department official said he could not confirm the Afghan envoy's assertion that Mr. Hekmatyar had returned to Afghanistan.
"We don't know where he is now," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"We understand that the Iranians announced they closed his office and made a statement that his actions were incompatible with their policies."
The Iranians want to block any return to power of the exiled king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, to forestall any efforts by Iranian royalists to return the son of the late shah of Iran to power.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the Bush administration's special envoy to Afghanistan, said recently that the administration had formally protested the Iranian activities to the Foreign Ministry of Iran. He said the Iranians are arming and financing Islamic fighters in Afghanistan who oppose the government now led by Hamid Karzai, interim prime minister.
Mr. Hekmatyar's anti-Soviet mujahideen group, Hizb-i-Islami, won a large majority of U.S. and Saudi money and guns during the 1980-89 Afghan war against the Soviet Union even though it was always bitterly anti-Western.
When the post-Soviet government fell in 1992, the six major Afghan mujahideen groups formed a coalition government that quickly fell apart as Mr. Hekmatyar's forces refused to share power.
He shelled Kabul ruthlessly for months until Pakistan armed and encouraged the Taliban, a new force recruited among Afghan refugees in religious schools in Pakistan.
The Taliban overwhelmed the squabbling mujahideen groups and drove Mr. Hekmatyar into exile, first in Pakistan and later in Iran.


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