KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 22 (UPI) — The Afghan government and the militant Islamist group Hezb-i-Islami, led by a notorious former warlord, signed a preliminary peace agreement on Thursday.
The peace deal calls on Hekmatyar and his group to renounce violence, cut ties with extremists groups and respect the Afghan constitution. Hekmatyar and leaders of Hezb-i-Islami will be granted amnesty for alleged crimes during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s, including for alleged indiscriminate rocket attacks in Kabul that killed hundreds of civilians.
Hezb-i-Islami carried out a suicide bombing in 2013 that killed at least 15 people, including six Americans. Hekmatyar was added to the U.S. Department of State’s global terrorist list in 2003 for his support of al-Qaida. The State Department has said it would consider lifting sanctions against Hekmatyar if he fulfills the terms of the peace deal.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said the agreement was “a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end.”
“The United States continues to support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process that results in armed groups ceasing violence, breaking ties with international terrorist groups, and accepting the Constitution, including protections for women and minorities,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.
Hekmatyar’s amnesty through the peace deal is being described by human rights groups as a blow to efforts to seek accountability for those accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.
“Hekmatyar is not alone in enjoying impunity. None of the Afghan warlords from the 1990s has been held accountable,” Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in a commentary, the Los Angeles Times reports. “That, and the failed disarmament of abusive militias, have crippled reforms needed to build effective government institutions crucial for a lasting peace.”