KABUL - The United Nations Security Council on Friday dropped sanctions against Afghan strongman Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, potentially paving the way for the notorious warlord to return openly to Afghanistan.
The Afghan government requested the move as part of a peace deal with Hekmatyar and his militant group, Hezb-i-Islami, in September.
The deal was criticized by some Afghans and human rights groups for the pardon it granted to Hekmatyar and many of his fighters.
While playing only a small role in the current insurgent conflict in Afghanistan, Hekmatyar was a major figure during the bloody civil war of the 1990s, when he was accused of indiscriminately firing rockets into Kabul, as well as other human rights abuses.
In removing Hekmatyar from the list of people sanctioned for their ties to al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and other militant groups, the U.N. unfroze his assets, and dropped a travel ban and arms embargo against him.