ISLAMABAD (AP) – Anxious to accelerate peace moves, top-level U.S. officials have held talks with a representative of an insurgent movement led by a former Afghan prime minister who has been branded a terrorist by Washington, a relative of the rebel leader says.
Dr. Ghairat Baheer, a representative and son-in-law of longtime Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (Gul-bu-DEEN HEK-mah-tyar), told The Associated Press this week that he had met separately with David Petraeus, former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan who is now CIA director, and had face-to-face discussions earlier this month with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, currently the top commander in the country.
Baheer, who was released in 2008 after six years in U.S. detention at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, described his talks with U.S. officials as nascent and exploratory. Yet, Baheer says the discussions show that the U.S. knows that in addition to getting the blessing of Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar - a bitter rival of Hekmatyar even though both are fighting international troops - any peace deal would have to be supported by Hekmatyar, who has thousands of fighters and followers primarily in the north and east.
Hizb-i-Islami, which means Islamic party, has had ties to al-Qaida but in 2010 floated a 15-point peace plan during informal meetings with the Afghan government in Kabul. At the time, however, U.S. officials refused to see the party’s delegation.