Afghanistan signed a draft agreement on Wednesday with the Hizb-i-Islami group in a move the government hopes could lead to a full peace accord with one of the most notorious warlords in the insurgency.
Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a veteran of decades of Afghan war and rights groups have accused his group of widespread abuses, particularly during civil war in the early 1990s, when he briefly served as prime minister.
The deal offers President Ashraf Ghani’s government a concrete sign that it is making headway in drawing insurgent groups away from the battlefield and into the political process.
Mohammad Khan, deputy to government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said the draft accord was a positive step but more work would be needed for a final deal.
“We are optimistic about this agreement and we strongly support it,” he told reporters in Kabul before the accord was signed by a delegation from Hekmatyar’s party and officials from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council.
But he added: “This doesn’t mean it’s finalised.” The announcement came as officials from Pakistan, the United States, China and Afghanistan held another round of meetings, in Pakistan, aimed at laying the ground for peace talks with the Taliban.
In 2003, the U.S. State Department included Hekmatyar on its terrorist list, accusing him of participating in and supporting attacks by al Qaeda and the Taliban.