He gained the nickname “the Butcher of Kabul” by raining down rockets on the Afghan capital in the early Nineties.
But Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord who has twice served as prime minister, is now warning that the “irresponsible” American withdrawal is leaving behind a government unable to fight off the Taliban.
In an interview at his office near the Afghan parliament, he said: “The Americans are withdrawing with an urgency, and I might add irresponsibly, and they are leaving behind a coming war as well.
“The current war that the sides are engaged in, it has escalated to unprecedented levels, and they are just leaving that to the Afghans. A 20-year war that had billions and trillions of cost associated with it and thousands of American troops injured and killed, and they leave without taking responsibility for the formation of a possible future government in Afghanistan.”
The comments from one of Afghanistan’s most controversial figures came as American and Nato troops have only weeks before they are expected to leave the country. Meanwhile, intense fighting from a Taliban offensive has gripped the nation. Mr Hekmatyar (71) is known as a canny political operator and his criticism of America follows a career in which he has both attacked the United States and profited from its patronage.
Mr Hekmatyar rose to prominence in the Eighties when his hardline Hezb-e-Islami faction received CIA support to fight the Soviet occupation.
He reportedly refused to meet President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1985, where other rebel leaders were dubbed the “moral equivalent” of the US’s founding fathers. The invitation had not come from Mr Reagan himself, one aide said.
He served as prime minister twice during the Nineties, but was accused of war crimes as one of the Mujahideen warlords who squabbled for control and plunged the country into anarchy.
Mr Hekmatyar went into hiding for years after he was swept from power by the Taliban. He led his own insurgent force before he made peace with the current president, Ashraf Ghani, in 2016. Despite the peace deal with Mr Ghani, he remains a sharp critic of the president. The current administration had failed and was corrupt, lacked popular support and was riven by divisions, he said.
“With the current structure and strategy of the Afghan government, it seems very improbable for the Afghan government and its military to be able to sustain this fighting,” he said.
Mr Hekmatyar has launched his own peace proposal, suggesting a temporary interim government that would include members of the Taliban and oversee elections.