NEW YORK – The United Nations Security Council on Friday dropped sanctions against Afghan strongman Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, making it easier for him to return to Afghanistan.
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The decision came after Ghani led Afghan government requested the move as part of a peace deal with Hekmatyar and his group, Hezb-i-Islami, in September.
Scores of Afghans and human rights groups took aim at the Ghani administration for the deal for alleged brutalities committed by Hekmatyar and his fighters.
Although Hekmatyar has no major role regarding the prevalent conflict, he was a major figure during the hardcore civil war of the 1990s, when he was accused of indiscriminately firing rockets into Kabul, as well as other human rights abuses.
Following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan and ouster of the Taliban, the US State Department declared him a terrorist, accusing him of taking part in and supporting attacks by al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In removing Hekmatyar from the list of people sanctioned for their links to al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and other militant groups, the U.N. unfroze his assets, and dropped a travel ban and arms embargo against him.
“Therefore, the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2253 (2015) no longer apply to him,” the Sanctions Committee said in a statement.
In the details mentioned about the leader, the statement said Hekmatyar was listed on February 20, 2003 and was believed to be in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border area in early 2011.
On the other hand, Hekmatyar’s whereabouts have been unknown ever since he inked the peace deal with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
With the U.N. decision to remove sanctions, government officials are expecting Hekmatyar to eventually return to Kabul.
Many foreign governments, including the United States, praised the accord at the time as a step toward wider peace in Afghanistan.
Spokespeople for Hekmatyar and the Afghan government have yet to comment on the recent development.