This article is from the archive of our partner .

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.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.