KABUL — He is a ghost with a blood-soaked past, a man with so many enemies that even his closest aides, trying to orchestrate his return to the Afghan capital he once attacked, coyly insist they have no idea where he is.
Six months ago, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar emerged briefly from the shadows, appearing via video to sign a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani. The deal with the notorious fugitive warlord — whose rockets rained down on Kabul during the 1990s civil war — was touted as a breakthrough that could induce Taliban insurgents to follow suit.
Last month, the U.N. Security Council voted to lift terrorism-related sanctions against Hekmatyar, 69, partially clearing his way to return home and participate in politics. His aides here envision a grand entry into Kabul worthy of Alexander the Great, with caravans converging on the city from four directions, thousands of armed guards securing his path, and swarms of loyalists following from camps in Pakistan.