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Ex-Afghanistan Warlord Claims, ‘No Doubt’ Pakistan ‘Supports’ Taliban

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Afghanistan
Former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks to the media after arriving to register as a candidate for the presidential election at Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kabul, Afghanistan January 19, 2019. RFERL

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of Afghanistan’s most notorious former warlords, said there is “no doubt” neighboring Pakistan supports the Afghan Taliban.

In an interview with RFE/RL in the Afghan capital on April 14, Hekmatyar also expressed hope that talks scheduled this week between the Western-backed Kabul government and the Taliban could prove a significant step towards ending the war.

U.S. and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of providing safe havens for the militants, a claim rejected by Islamabad.

Hekmatyar forged close ties with Pakistan’s shadowy military establishment and its notorious spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), a relationship that was built during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, when the mujahideen commander was one of the main beneficiaries of Pakistani and CIA money and weapons.

U.S.
Washington has said Pakistan is playing a positive role in the ongoing U.S.-Taliban peace talks in Qatar that are aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war. VOA

“Pakistan has an interest in Afghanistan’s political affairs,” said Hekmatyar, whose Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a controversial peace accord with the Kabul government in 2016. “Pakistan is supporting the Taliban. There is no doubt about it.”

Hekmatyar said Pakistan now sees the war in Afghanistan as “more harmful” than beneficial to its interests, especially because of a crippling financial crisis and growing international pressure on Islamabad to clamp down on the Taliban.

Washington has said Pakistan is playing a positive role in the ongoing U.S.-Taliban peace talks in Qatar that are aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have held several rounds of talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, culminating in the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

That framework deal is dependent on a political settlement among Afghans, including the Kabul government, the Taliban, and opposition figures.

The Taliban long refused to talk with Kabul, calling it a U.S. “puppet,” although Kabul has said a government delegation will meet the Taliban for introductory talks in Doha on April 19.

Pakistan
U.S. and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of providing safe havens for the militants, a claim rejected by Islamabad. Pixabay

Hekmatyar is a member of the Reconciliation Leadership Council, a new council led by President Ashraf Ghani, that will appoint negotiators for the April 19-21 talks with the Taliban, create their mandate for talks, and oversee their work.

The council is composed of both current and former senior government officials and leaders of political parties and opposition groups.

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The 69-year-old said he hopes the council will bridge chronic divisions among the political elite over peace talks with the Taliban, but warned that Kabul should not sideline powerful opposition figures from the process.

“Peace should not be monopolized,” said Hekmatyar, a candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for September. “Peace is a national issue. An agreement requires us all to engage honestly and unconditionally. (RFERL)

Next Story

U.S. To Expands Indefinite Detention for Asylum-Seekers

The decision will have no impact on unaccompanied migrant children, who are exempt from expedited removal. Most families are also paroled because of a lack of facilities to hold parents and children together.

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U.S.
Attorney General William Barr appears before a House Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request, April 9, 2019, in Washington. VOA

The U.S. Attorney General on Tuesday struck down a decision that had allowed some asylum-seekers to ask for bond in front of an immigration judge, in a ruling that expands indefinite detention for some migrants who must wait months or years for their cases to be heard.

The first immigration court ruling from President Donald Trump’s newly appointed Attorney General William Barr is in keeping with the administration’s moves to clamp down on the asylum process as tens of thousands of mostly Central Americans cross into the United States asking for refuge. U.S. immigration courts are overseen by the Justice Department and the Attorney General can rule in cases to set legal precedent.

Barr’s ruling is the latest instance of the Trump administration taking a hard line on immigration. This year the administration implemented a policy to return some asylum-seekers to Mexico while their cases work their way through backlogged courts, a policy that has been challenged with a lawsuit.

Several top officials at the Department of Homeland Security were forced out this month over Trump’s frustrations with an influx of migrants seeking refuge at the U.S. southern border.

U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehend undocumented migrants after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Texas, April 9, 2019.
U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehend undocumented migrants after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Texas, April 9, 2019. VOA

Migrants crossing illegally

Barr’s decision applies to migrants who crossed illegally into the United States.

Typically, those migrants are placed in “expedited removal” proceedings, a faster form of deportation reserved for people who illegally entered the country within the last two weeks and are detained within 100 miles (160 km) of a land border.

Migrants who present themselves at ports of entry and ask for asylum are not eligible for bond.

But before Barr’s ruling, those who had crossed the border between official entry points and asked for asylum were eligible for bond, once they had proved to asylum officers they had a credible fear of persecution.

“I conclude that such aliens remain ineligible for bond, whether they are arriving at the border or are apprehended in the United States,” Barr wrote.

Barr said such people can be held in immigration detention until their cases conclude, or if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides to release them by granting them “parole.” DHS has the discretion to parole people who are not eligible for bond and frequently does so because of insufficient detention space or other humanitarian reasons.

Effective date delayed

Barr said he was delaying the effective date by 90 days “so that DHS may conduct the necessary operational planning for additional detention and parole decisions.”

The decision’s full impact is not yet clear, because it will in large part depend on DHS’ ability to expand detention, said Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

“The number of asylum-seekers who will remain in potentially indefinite detention pending disposition of their cases will be almost entirely a question of DHS’ detention capacity, and not whether the individual circumstances of individual cases warrant release or detention,” Vladeck said.

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The decision will have no impact on unaccompanied migrant children, who are exempt from expedited removal. Most families are also paroled because of a lack of facilities to hold parents and children together. Pixabay

DHS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision. The agency had written in a brief in the case arguing that eliminating bond hearings for the asylum seekers would have “an immediate and significant impact on … detention operations.”

Record detentions

In early March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency responsible for detaining and deporting immigrants in the country illegally, said the average daily population of immigrants in detention topped 46,000 for the 2019 fiscal year, the highest level since the agency was created in 2003. Last year, Reuters reported that ICE had modified a tool officers have been using since 2013 when deciding whether an immigrant should be detained or released on bond, making the process more restrictive.

The decision will have no impact on unaccompanied migrant children, who are exempt from expedited removal. Most families are also paroled because of a lack of facilities to hold parents and children together.

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Michael Tan, from the American Civil Liberties Union, said the rights group intended to sue the Trump administration over the decision, and immigrant advocates decried the decision.

Barr’s decision came after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to review the case in October. Sessions resigned from his position in November, leaving the case to Barr to decide. (VOA)