Afghan government has no links with Daesh, former insurgent leader insists

Afghan government has no links with Daesh, former insurgent leader insists
Former Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, center, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, left, and former militant leader Abdul Rabb Rasool Sayyaf attend a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul on May 4, 2017. (Reuters/File)
Updated 06 January 2018

Afghan government has no links with Daesh, former insurgent leader insists

Afghan government has no links with Daesh, former insurgent leader insists

KABUL: Former Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who joined President Ashraf Ghani’s government last year, has categorically denied the allegation of links with Daesh militants made by Afghan ex-spy chief Amrullah Saleh.
Daesh has emerged as a complex and murky phenomenon in Afghan militancy as the group stepped up and expanded its attacks in Afghanistan recently.
Saleh served for years as chief of Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), in the previous administration, and was a harsh critic and rival of Hekmatyar during the bloody factional fighting over power in the 1990s. His assertions come amid growing division within the Ghani government and ethnic tension stirred up mostly by politicians and factional leaders.
The veteran Hekmatyar, who is in his late 60s, is a leader of Hizb-e-Islami; one of the main Afghan factions who fought during the Cold War against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Last week, Saleh said the government “had 20 ISIS (Daesh) suspects in custody all having current or pre-reconciliation ties with Hekmatyar. None has been referred to the court system in order to cover up affiliation with Hekmatyar to save the deal. Hekmatyar has been lobbying and bargaining for their release.”
Hekmatyar, in a news conference held in Kabul, Thursday, rejected Saleh’s allegations.
“It is just part of defamation (campaign) by liars. We don’t have any kind of political or party-based relations (with Daesh) and will not think about it. We don’t have relations with the Taliban nor with Daesh or Al-Qaeda or any other party.”
A presidential palace official told Arab News on Friday that if Saleh has concrete evidence backing his claim against Hekmatyar, then he should step forth with it. He added that Saleh’s allegations come amid heightened political and tribal tension that threatens further the stability of the Ghani government.
Daud Kalakani, an ethnic Tajik lawmaker, said that Saleh’s comments were never discussed in the Parliament. He told Arab News that Daesh rank and file comprised defected Taliban militants and former followers of Hekmatyar, but that does not mean Hekmatyar “has any link with Daesh.”
Baktash Siyawash, a political analyst and ex-MP, said legislators in the Parliament have on various occasions accused the “government of using Daesh to suppress and eliminate its political opponents under the label of Daesh.”
“Afghanistan’s political situation is such that these kind of accusations (Saleh’s claim) can very well impact the mindset of the people to quite an extent.”
Daesh, which sprang in Afghanistan in late 2014, has made significant ingress in recent months despite repeated offensives by the Afghan government and US troops based in Afghanistan.
The network has escalated and expanded its attacks across the country over the past few months.
Daesh’s latest suicide attack in Kabul killed more than 20 people, many of whom were police personnel, not far from the presidential palace and the US Embassy. The latest strike was the fourth claimed by the network in less than three weeks in Kabul alone.
Last Thursday, an attack claimed by Daesh on a cultural center in Kabul killed nearly 50 Afghans and injured a dozen others. Days ago, the group targeted the funeral of a former district chief, killing 17 civilians, all of whom were ethnic Pashtuns in eastern Nangarhar province.
In his news conference on Thursday, Hekmatyar said Iran had become a transit route for the flow of Daesh’s defeated fighters in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan.
“If I say that Daesh comes from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan through Iran, it will not be an exaggeration.”
Hekmatyar warned against dividing the government among ethnic groups, saying such a move could lead to the disintegration of Afghanistan.