AP exclusive: Top Afghan warlord splits from Taliban? Update: U.S. arrests Taliban commander -- in Pakistan

It’s Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the former Afghan prime minister who’s been waging freelance jihad on U.S. forces since 2001 and in conjunction with the Taliban since 2003. He’s an “evil sod” whose handiwork inspired an almost singular hatred in our pal Major John Tammes during his tour of duty in Afghanistan. He’s also the guy who bragged in December about having cost the GOP the midterm elections.

Hekmatyar, I mean. Not Tammes.

Now he wants to chat.

Fugitive Afghan rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar told The Associated Press his forces have ended cooperation with the Taliban and suggested that he was open to talks with embattled President Hamid Karzai…

Still, Hekmatyar, who once served as Afghan prime minister, insisted he had a large pool of fighters who could sustain a long struggle and sent a defiant message to President George W. Bush that he had no hope of defeating the insurgency…

“It was not a good move by the Taliban to disassociate themselves from the joint struggle,” he said. “Presently we have no contact with the Taliban. In fact, Hezb-i Islami [Hekmatyar’s militia] is the only party in Afghanistan which has the capability to form a strong, stable Islamic government in Afghanistan.”

He boasted a few months ago about having helped Osama escape from Tora Bora so I’m thinking the chances of a deal here are slim. The Counterterrorism Blog doesn’t know what to make of this either: it could be disinformation or it could be a publicity stunt, which he’s been known to pull from time to time. Or, it could be that the spring NATO offensive has put the fear of god into him. If it’s scary enough to turn jihadis into transvestites, it’s scary enough to elicit a truce offer perhaps.

Meanwhile, an Indian paper claims the Taliban has captured two Pakistani nuclear scientists. Anti-Pakistan propaganda — in an Indian paper? Bombshell!

Update: Another dicey report which, if true, won’t win Musharraf any friends at home. But it is sweet. No wonder Hekmatyar wants to deal.