Meet Afghanistan's Next Bogeyman

ByABC News
September 6, 2002, 12:37 PM

Oct. 7, 2002 — -- In May, U.S. officials told ABCNEWS that one of their unmanned Predator airplanes in Afghanistan had found a group of men they considered a target.

The CIA Predator, armed with two Hellfire anti-tank missiles, fired at the men, striking with devastating fury. There were injuries, and according to some reports, deaths. But officials told ABCNEWS the man they wanted to kill escaped unharmed.

That attack was reminiscent of another three months earlier, when a Predator launched a Hellfire at a trio of suspected senior al Qaeda officials meeting on a hillside in the vicinity of Zhawar Kili, southwest of the capital, Kabul.

There were suspicions that Osama bin Laden might have been among the trio of men but if he was, he is also considered to have escaped unharmed.

However, the attack in May was different in that it was not aimed at bin Laden or any of his Taliban or al Qaeda associates. The target was a man who actually fought the Taliban at one time, and has only recently been linked to al Qaeda.

Most Americans have likely never heard of him.

But one year after the United States began Operation Enduring Freedom the campaign that eventually toppled the Taliban he has emerged as one of Washington's most wanted.

His name is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (pronounced gool-boo-DEEN hek-mat-YAHR).

Like bin Laden and Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Hekmatyar was once the recipient of American largesse. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, he was the mujahideen commander who received the most CIA funding funneled through Pakistan.

But in post-Taliban Afghanistan, the attitude of the United States and his former backers, the CIA has changed.

"We view Hekmatyar as an agitator, troublemaker and self-aggrandizer whose stated goals are to disrupt the government of [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai and to promote attacks on Americans and U.S. interests," a State Department spokesperson told ABCNEWS.

Hekmatyar has in fact labeled Western troops in Afghanistan "occupation forces," and repeatedly called for a jihad in the style of the one led against the invading Soviets more than a decade ago.