Peace is at hand? The electorally-engineered president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is having peace talks with the insurgents. Well not exactly all of the insurgents. Just Hizb-i-Islami, the insurgent militia of the most treacherous of all Afghan warlords, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
From time to time Bush and others have referred to monsters who throw acid in girls' faces.
That monster was Hek. While studying engineering at university in Kabul, Hek made a name for himself by murdering a Maoist student and by chucking acid in the faces of female students who chose not to wear a veil. He was jailed for a couple of years in the early 70's until he was given amnesty by the then prime minister Daoud Khan. To show his appreciation for Daoud's leniency, Hek wasted no time bolting to Pakistan where, with the assistance of authorities, he promptly organized an anti-Daoud Islamist militia.
When the Russians showed up in 1979, Hek was showered with cash and weapons by the CIA to wage jihad in Afghanistan. He was one of the most prominent warlord "freedom fighters" during the 10-year battle with the Russians. Hek was an early multi-tasker, finding plenty of time to run a successful drug empire while also taking the fight to his fellow warlords.
When the Russian gig wrapped up in 1989, Hek stirred it up in the subsequent civil war. He was an equal-opportunity hater, switching sides repeatedly. For brief spells in 1993 and 1996 he was the Afghan prime minister. When the Talibs took over in 1996, Hek beat feet for Iran.
After the Taliban were routed in 2001, Hek rejected a peace overture from Karzai and instead joined up with his old rivals, the Taliban and has spent the last eight years as what some call "the most prominent anti-American guerrilla" operating with the Talibs.
Earlier this month Hek's Hezb-i-Islami fighters turned their machine guns and rocket propelled grenades against the Taliban which, for Hek, is nothing out of the ordinary. Encouraged, Karzai has received a Hezb-i-Islami delegation to Kabul for peace talks.
Hek's plan, according to CBC, would see the Afghan parliament dissolved and replaced by an interim government. The insurgents also want a new constitution merging the existing "democracy mandate" with former, presumably less democratic constitutions.
Why Hekmatyar, why now? Either Karzai is desperate to save his skin, even foolishly so, or perhaps he thinks Hek may be a lever to draw the Taliban into talks. It really doesn't make much difference. The importance of this is that our contribution - in lives and treasure - can have little lasting significance while these characters pull the strings in Afghanistan. Any "peace" Karzai brokers with Hek will probably be no more stable or lasting than Hekmatyar has been his entire adult life. We gave Karzai an opportunity. He's made the absolute worst of it. It's time to cut our losses.