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Peter Tomsen, the U.S. special envoy to Afghan resistance fighters during the war against the Soviet Union, said warlords such as Gen. Dostum should not be trusted or “indulged.”

Gen. Dostum said those who want to keep him out of Afghanistan want to see the country fail and must be in league with the Taliban.

“Please realize who are friends and enemies. Don’t be anxious about the return of Gen. Dostum,” he said in an interview in his lavish villa.

Pointing to a laminated picture of Gen. Tommy Franks hanging in his living room, he noted that Gen. Franks, former commander of Centcom, had called him a national hero for his role in helping oust the Taliban.

“The U.S. needs strong friends like Dostum. They don’t need their own commanders who don’t know the land, the language, the people of this country,” he said. “Where is Washington? Where am I? This is the problem.”

When the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, “I was in the Hindu Kush mountains fighting against the Taliban on horseback,” he went on, recounting how the CIA and U.S. Special Forces reached out to him when they needed a strong ally to roll back the Taliban in the north.

“He may not be the clean-cut U.S. soldier and true, he has flip-flopped more than once, but he is a fighter and survivor,” said a U.S. military official, who has worked closely with Gen. Dostum in the past. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We need to count on the Afghan people and tribes much more than we are doing now. Without them this war is lost.”

Gen. Dostum insists he is ready to raise a militia and sweep across the north again, without the support of Afghan government forces which he deems “too weak” to do the job.

“All the way to Waziristan if I must,” he said, referring to the tribal refuge of the Taliban and al Qaeda across the Pakistan border.

• Sara A. Carter reported from Washington.