Apr 29, 2008
As bullets flew and MPs scampered on Sunday, many wondered how insurgents were able to penetrate such tight security. The Taliban claims that they didn’t intend to kill Karzai, but of course you wouldn’t expect them to say otherwise. However, if history is any guide, they might actually be telling the truth. During the last presidential elections the guerrillas curiously avoided attacking polling stations, a clear sign that they would rather have Karzai in power than a Northern Alliance commander or other such unknown quantity.
The prolific Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online claims that the Haqqani Network and Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami engineered Sunday’s attack. If true, it might suggest another reason why the attackers may have been content to just turn the heat up a bit and not actually try to kill the President. On Saturday a well-placed source (a former Taliban official who is now in close contact with Rabbani of the Northern Alliance and Mr. Karzai) told me that Hekmatyar sent a letter to Karzai in an attempt to open negotiations. The letter reads, in part:
I have devoted my whole life to struggle, but I am now old. I only want what is best for my country of Afghanistan.
Hekmatyar goes on to ask Karzai to remove all foreign troops from urban centers. It isn’t clear what Hekmatyar says he will do in return, but the obvious inference would be that he’d lay down his arms and accept a post in the next government. The existence of such a letter fits well with the latest rumor on the Afghan street: Hekmatyar is angling to join the government (a rumor most recently spread by Zaynab TV)
How seriously can we take all this? The letter comes at an interesting time - see my article about Hizb-i-Islami’s growing presence in the north. Antonio Giustozzi suggests that Hizb-i-Islami is flush with funds and is increasing activity in the north. Why would a letter like this come now? Surely Hekmatyar isn’t so out of touch to realize that his boys have got a long way to go before they can actually play for state power. Therefore he might be using his newfound wealth to force the Karzai government take him more seriously.
Or it might be, like everything else in Afghanistan, a dirty game of conceit, lies and misinformation.
For those that don’t know: more on Hekmatyar