German Public TV Interviews Afghan Militant Leader

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Germany's equivalent of PBS, ZDF, has interviewed one of the most-wanted insurgent leaders in Afghanistan outside of the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has waged war in Afghanistan since before the 1979 Soviet invasion, is an unlikely candidate for a public television interview. Hekmatyar has fought U.S. and NATO troops alongside the Taliban (whose rise he fled in 1996), making him a top target of Western militaries--including Germany's.

Thomas Rid of the King's College of London's War Studies department found the just-released interview, which you can see here. Rid writes, "Hekmatyar said some obvious things that are to be expected. Like: 'It is a reality that America has lost the war, it can only withdraw now.'" But ZDF also broke some news: Hekmatyar now says he opposes the presence of "foreign fighters" in Afghanistan, a phrase commonly used to describe the Arab and Central Asian militants who make up al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Rid Translates:

"Wir brauchen keine auswärtigen Kämpfer und haben das Recht, selbst zu bestimmen, wie dieser Krieg gekämpft wird. Wir empfehlen ihnen, abzuziehen und in Palästina oder Irak weiterzukämpfen."

Translation: “We don’t need foreign fighters and have the right to determine on our own how this war is fought. We recommend they withdraw [from Afghanistan] and continue their fight in Palestine or Iraq."

American analysts have long argued that the 63-year-old Hekmatyar, who is aging rapidly and moderating gradually, may be open to reconciling with the Afghan government for a peace deal. In this interview, Hekmatyar appears to be suggesting his willingness to break with al-Qaeda, something that the Taliban have been unwilling to do.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.