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Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
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The Evil Sod

In a Hollywood movie Hekmatyar would be the evil foil to the heroic Masud. He would be an angry Islamic fundamentalist dressed in black, throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women and assassinating local tribal leaders that might rival his power. He would be the pawn of foreign secret service paymasters like the ISI, CIA, and Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia. He would unfeelingly sacrifice peasants for his cause, rocket the helpless civilians mixed in with his enemies, and his ruthless ambition would prevent the creation of a new peace. Unfortunately, in real life Hekmatyar was all these things.

Hekmatyar was one of the early Islamic rebels that came out of the University of Kabul. In the beginning Hekmatyar and Masud worked together. During the Soviet occupation Hekmatyar ran one of the two largest mujahideen organizations out of Peshawar in Pakistan. There he became the favorite of the Pakistani secret service, the ISI. Billions of dollars in US aid flowed through the ISI to Hekmatyar. Nervous CIA agents wondered whether Hekmatyar hated the United States as much as the Soviets, but the ISI assured them he was ok. United States money and weapons flowed to our enemy for over a decade.

When Masud finally defeated Najibullah in 1992, all the mujahideen factions converged on Kabul. Masud outwitted Hekmatyar and slipped into the city before him. A round robin of side-swapping, backstabbing, and massacre among Hekmatyar, Masud, Dostum, and Mazari followed. The citizens and buildings of Kabul were the big losers. The problem was that Masud could not be president as he was a Tajik, not a Pashtun. Afghan kings had been Pashtun for hundreds of years. Hekmatyar was the most powerful Pashtun, and had he not been such an evil sod, Masud might have accepted some kind of deal. In the end neither prevailed. The ISI switched support from the stalemated Hekmatyar and backed Mullah Omar, the new leader of the Taliban. Without ISI support, Hekmatyar’s men deserted wholesale to Mullah Omar, and he was a contender no longer.

Today Hekmatyar is finally the enemy of the United States that he should have been all along. He either took refuge in Iran, or sneaks around the tribal zone, periodically calling for holy war against the Americans. Sometimes his name is used by others, mostly as someone to blame for car bombs and other such mischief.