Hekmatyar made the statements in a video recording released on Wednesday. It appeared to be recently made as it mentioned current events such as US President George Bush’s visit to Iraq last month and the political unrest in Georgia, also last month.

Hekmatyar, wearing a simple wool hat and black jacket, said that US and NATO forces in Afghanistan had failed to return peace and security to Kabul or the rest of the country.

“The resistance has reached a stage where it is not possible to be crushed,” he said, speaking in Afghanistan’s Pashtu language. It was his first known public statement since the one he made by fax last month and his first by video recording since July.

A copy of the latest video, on a compact disc, was handed by a member of Hizb-e-Islami, the group which Hekmatyar leads, to journalists at the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister, has repeatedly issued calls for a war against foreign troops in Kabul and eluded US efforts to arrest or kill him.

Disarming militias

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that he could not confirm a news report that American representatives had met with four commanders under Hekmatyar to persuade them to disarm and form political parties.

Rumsfeld voiced support for 
expansion of peacekeepers

Rumsfeld visited Afghanistan last week in an effort to convince regional leaders to disarm their militias.

The US Defence Secretary said Hekmatyar continues to cause “a whale of a lot of trouble” in Afghanistan.

US-led forces ousted the ruling Taliban in 2001. Since then 11,700 soldiers, mainly American, remain in Afghanistan on combat missions against those loyal to the Taliban, al-Qaida and Hekmatyar.

Attacks against foreign aid workers, US soldiers and Afghan government officials have undermined American claims that the coalition is winning the war to stabilise the country.

“We will agree to talks for solving the crisis if the American forces leave Afghanistan and Afghans are given the opportunity to decide their destiny,” said Hekmatyar. He also condemned what he said was “the Americans’ war against Islam and Muslims”.