Friday, November 16, 2007

Interesting People: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

From time to time, I'll do a post in the category "Interesting People". These will mainly be people who got a flare of media attention, then burned out. But their story is still fascinating and may even be ongoing still. I find such people interesting because of the extremes of human experience they plumb. See how that all works?

The "interesting person" of the moment is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and his extreme is survival. In his lifetime, Hekmatyar has counted Iran, Pakistan, the Taliban, and the United States as allies at different times. Naturally he lives in Afghanistan, where he was prime minister on two different occasions and was a murderer at 25. Ronald Reagan called him a "Founding Father" of Afghanistan. A good introductory biography of him can be found here, though it ends before the current era in Afghanistan.

Briefly, Hekmatyar is a warlord of the classic mold, controlling a heroin-fueled empire in Western Afghanistan. He sided with the United States after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, he would work with Pakistan to push the Taliban into power. When the Taliban were on the run, he resumed his middle stance. Just this week, American troops were active in his region. Though not fighting against us, Hekmatyar is apparently feeling quite bold lately. Frankly, I don't care what Bush or CNN say -- if Hekmatyar is heading toward a more active role, this says volumes about our current position in the region. While he was never an ally of the United States, he always held back from direct confrontation. That may be changing.

In a country were battle fatalities and assassinations are common ways of dying, this man is on his third or fourth war. He switches sides like a drunk American at a FIFA soccer match, and even after being designated a "global terrorist" by the American government, he's still at large. Hekmatyar could write a book about "surviving in the corporate war zone" and make a bundle.

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