Exiled Afghan warlord threatens to return if US sends ground troops
TEHRAN, Oct 17 (AFP) - An exiled Afghan warlord has threatened to enter Afghanistan if the United States sends ground forces into his homeland and warned they would suffer "the same fate" as the former Soviet Union.
"I will join the resistance forces against the entry of US troops into Afghanistan," Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who once led Afghan troops against the Soviet Union, told AFP and CNN.
"History repeats itself and I say that without any ambiguity: the United States will fail in Afghanistan and will experience the same fate as the former Soviet Union," he said.
Hekmatyar, who lives in exile in Iran, is the head of the hardline Afghan Islamist Hizb-i-Islami (Islamic Party) and served as prime minister after the departure of the Soviet troops in 1989 after their disastrous campaign.
He said he believed a US ground attack against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia in retaliation for harbouring the main suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, was "imminent."
"They have no other choice but to enter Afghanistan, but it will be like entering a swamp, the same as happened to the Soviet troops," the 60-year-old warlord said.
"If the United States fails in Afghanistan, they will face their decline in the world," said Hekmatyar, who also denounced US and European efforts to "impose" former exiled Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah on Afghanistan.
"There is a lot of opposition and sensitivity towards the ill and incapable king which will without doubt be a bad experience," he said.
He added that "Zahir Shah is for the Americans what Babrak Karmal was for the Soviets," referring to the former prime minister who had been exiled to the Soviet Union and later returned to power with the support of the invaders.
He said the sole solution to the crisis is "essentially political and based on the role of the population, meaning free elections."
According to Hekmatyar, 60 percent of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia, some 70,000 armed men, consist of his former soldiers.
Questioned about bin Laden, Hekmatyar said: "Nothing will be solved with the killing of bin Laden because there are others like him."
"One should attack the root of the evil and solve the problems here and there, notably in Palestine," he said.
Hekmatyar also accused Washington of having had the "intention to attack Afghanistan even if the September 11 events had not occurred," and noted that the "thousands of Stinger missiles" the United States gave his forces in the 1980s are "still in Afghanistan despite American efforts to buy them back."
On October 8, just one day after the US-led missile and air attacks Afghanistan for failing to hand over bin Laden, Hekmatyar condemned the "barbaric attack" by the United States and Britain.
"We Afghans condemn the barbaric US-British attack against Afghanistan, which is a savage aggression against a country undermined by war and misery," Hekmatyar said in a statement.
An ethnic Pashtun, Hekmatyar fought against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and then against his Tajik rival, the late Ahmed Shah Masood, when the communist government collapsed in 1992 and both factions entered Kabul.
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