Hamid Gul says Abdullah best hope for Afghan peace

Published: June 11, 2014
A file picture taken on November 4, 2007 shows Hamid Gul in a police van in Islamabad.  PHOTO: AFP

A file picture taken on November 4, 2007 shows Hamid Gul in a police van in Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

RAWALPINDI: He trained Afghan resistance fighters against the Soviets and helped create the Taliban, but today Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) former chief Hamid Gul says the group’s long-time foe Abdullah Abdullah has the best chance of securing peace.

Widely viewed as a “Godfather” figure for Pakistan’s strategy of using proxies to exert influence in neighbouring countries, the 77-year-old retired general is still seen by some observers as offering a window into the mindset of the military establishment.

As Afghanistan prepares for a run-off election on Saturday between Abdullah and his rival Ashraf Ghani, Pakistan – which backed the Taliban regime that was ousted in 2001 and is often accused by Kabul of supporting their insurgency – has maintained a resolutely neutral stance.

But Gul, who headed ISI between 1987 and 1989 during the late stages of the Soviet occupation, said it would take a fighter, not an academic to secure peace for Afghanistan – as long as he refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States.

In an interview with AFP at his Rawalpindi home, Gul, smartly dressed in a white shalwar kameez and sporting the trimmed moustache favoured among army officers, said Abdullah’s past as a resistance fighter together with his shrewd choices of running mates made him uniquely placed to negotiate with those he called the “Afghan opposition” – the Taliban.

Abdullah draws his main support from ethnic Tajiks in the north, while Ghani is a Pashtun like the majority of the country and the Taliban.

But, said Gul: “Abdullah has a distinct advantage for future peace in Afghanistan – if that is the objective and it should be – that he is a fighter.”

“And the other people with him are also fighters,” he continued, referring to running mates Mohammad Khan, an ally of powerful warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who has traditional ties to Pakistan, and Mohammad Mohaqeq – a Hazara seen as closer to Iran.

“Ashraf Ghani is not a fighter,” he said about the ex-World Bank economist who spent the 1980s living in the United States. “And for a fighter to open a dialogue with a non-fighter would be very difficult.”

Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country slid into anarchy, and Taliban fighters trained in Pakistan gradually prised control from the Northern Alliance of commander Ahmad Shah Massoud – a revered national hero who was also Abdullah’s mentor.

During this period, Gul maintained contacts with both sides in an unofficial role as a mediator. “At that time I used to live in Ahmad Shah Massoud’s guesthouse and Abdullah was deputed to look after me so I met him almost every day” during trips from 1992-1995, prior to the Taliban’s ascent to power, he said.

He added his last trip to Afghanistan came in 2001. “And that was to attend the last parade of Taliban government on 19th of August 2001, just three weeks before 9/11. I was a chief guest there.”

Since leaving the army, Gul has remained in the limelight, and is viewed with deep suspicion by India for his alleged links to Kashmiri militancy, as well as by the United States, which worked with him during the 1980s but later lobbied for his inclusion on a UN list of international terrorists.

Stridently anti-American, Gul warned that war would continue if the next Afghan president signs a long-awaited security pact allowing some 10,000 US troops to remain in the country in non-combat roles until 2016.

“If the Americans pull out then a deal is possible through intra-Afghan dialogue, that means with the opposition, mainly Hekmatyar and Taliban,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s old allies.

“Contingent on this situation arriving is the Americans’ pull-out. There can be no compromise because this is the spirit of the Afghan nation. The earlier the Afghan people see the back of them the better,” he added.

Some observers in Pakistan have accused Gul of aggrandising his role in regional affairs post-retirement, but respected security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said he remained “strongly connected” with the prevalent line of thinking in the Pakistani military’s high command.

“The army definitely would want to have an influence (in Afghanistan) and the presence of a friendly state in the neighbouring country which protects them against their traditional enemy India,” she said.

For his part, Gul said he was happy to be active in retirement. “I have acceptability on both sides of the divide,” he said of pro- and anti-government forces. “People keep coming from Afghanistan. They bring me good wishes and they are very well informed.”

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Zaida P
    Jun 11, 2014 - 12:32PM

    “Godfather” Gul ji, maybe it is time to finally retire. Look where your archaic policies have brought Pakistan. Kuch reham karo.


  • uzair
    Jun 11, 2014 - 12:43PM

    Same will happen as happened in Pakiatan.. Zia ul haq, the fighter. Isn’t current president of afghan also an ex fighter? Afghanistan needs education more than anything. America has been fighting for a decade.. How clueless people get to govern our lives! These people shouldn’t be making news.


  • Rex Minor
    Jun 11, 2014 - 12:57PM

    Dr Abdullah who claims to have the Pashtun and the Tajik background is a front man of the American administration and could be a suitable individual for foreign relations, but Ashraf Ghani is a pucca Pashtun economist who is more palatable to Mullah Omar, the undisputed Talaban leader. The former ISI boss has not the clue about the Pashtun mentality who do not want a fighter dictator in kabul, but the one who follows orders like a good soldier, Hamid Karzai style.

    Rex Minor


  • Nadir
    Jun 11, 2014 - 1:22PM

    And this bigot who should be in jail will offer us guidance?


  • Jibran
    Jun 11, 2014 - 2:31PM

    If anyone who qualifies the most for article 6 is this maniac, whose lunacy has brought Pakistan to its knees. If not, he belongs to a mental institution.


  • Fazl
    Jun 11, 2014 - 2:39PM

    General Hamid Gul is seriously sick, he should be admitted to hospital for thinking like that. It is not a normal comment, he is responsible for the thousands of casualties and human losses both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For God’s sake stop this game anymore, it is enough. Which kind of justice is this that you want a fighter leader for Afghanistan but wish an educated one for your own country. Did your prophet wish the same on the part of Arabs or was the Islamic message uniformly delivered irrespective of race, geography and borders. It is upto the Afghans whether they like Dr. Ghani or Abdullah, choice is theirs….but it seems Afghans got a slight understanding of whom should they pick to lead them, and lets see what happens the next week……Hamid Gul has to think wisely anymore. Thanks


  • observer
    Jun 11, 2014 - 2:47PM

    Hamid Gul along with Zia are responsible for the present situation in PakistanRecommend

  • Malik
    Jun 11, 2014 - 2:47PM

    Mr Gul, the country has already “benefited” a lot from your advices. Please keep them to yourself.


  • Mansoor
    Jun 11, 2014 - 2:52PM

    Keep your esteemed opinion for Pakistan, clear the mess you have created from Pakistan first then talk about any other country.


  • Dr. khan
    Jun 11, 2014 - 3:21PM

    Mr.Gul, your pan Islamic ideology has miserably failed and that has affected the whole region including Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. ET please don’t give coverage to such idiots.


  • Khattak
    Jun 11, 2014 - 3:22PM

    No wonder people hate us and point the blame fingers towards Pakistan. Mark my word, Afghans will choose Dr. Ghani over Abdullah. They are not stupid like Pakistanis and know who is the best candidate to lead the country.


  • Zezu
    Jun 11, 2014 - 3:29PM

    Oh my God, plagiarism , i just read the content from other website.


  • pakistani bloach
    Jun 11, 2014 - 3:49PM

    He is a very shrewed person. he may be saying for ppl to know but he may believe otherwise. Those who saying he and zia ruined country should know that pakistan had no option but to fight with soviets. It was same situation that time aswel. afghan forces nd terrorists were crossind bordera and attacking pakistan. Russian planes were flying in to our airspace like they were in thr own country. bloachistan was on fire as it is today so i say, pakistan did a great job at that time but failed afterwards. They needed to tame these people and make sure thr was a stable afghan governement accepted by all.


  • Faruque Malik
    Jun 11, 2014 - 3:52PM

    “Statesmanship is too serious a business to be shared with generals, just like war is too serious a business to be left to the generals”.

    I hope sanity prevails in the Afghan mindset and they decide for a statesman instead of a fighter.

    As regards Gen (r). Gul’s opinion, I think he knows a lot about cockfighting only.


  • Adil Uddin
    Jun 11, 2014 - 4:02PM

    Abdullah Abdullah has not said anything about Durrand line yet. He’s not a Pashtun so doesn’t have anything to do with Pashtun culture present on both sides of the border.
    Remember how Hamid Karzai gave strong remarks of never accepting Durrand line last year?
    And before some Indian troll starts blaming Pakistan or ISI for drawing those lines , let me update that the current Pak Afghan borders were marked way back in 1893. And there’s a population of Afghans who foolishly refuse to accept it till date.
    If his ( Abdullah’s) government agrees to accept Durrand line as official Pak Afghan border then both the nations can bury the hatchet. One needs to look at Afghan attitude when Pakistan was created at the first place.


  • Jun 11, 2014 - 6:05PM

    “Widely viewed as a “Godfather” figure for Pakistan’s strategy of using jihadist proxies to exert influence in neighbouring countries, the 77-year-old retired general is still seen by some observers as offering a window into the mindset of the country’s powerful military establishment.”
    Time is the true test of any political/strategic policy. It is for all of us to see and judge that what good this policy/strategy of “using jihadist proxies to exert influence in neighboring countries,” has done to Pakistan? What sort of effective influence has been exerted on the neighbouring countries? To day Iran, Afghanistan, China and India all are suffering and moving to seal their borders. Neighbours are loosing trust and feel threatened. Strategic partner America is calling that Pakistan the epicenter of terror. The passport of Pakistan calls for special checks and the embarrass its passenger.
    Leave aside neighbouring countries what has this policy done to the country itself. The terror is visiting own cities and villages causing destruction.
    Pakistan is the only country where the foreign policy is the prerogative of Armed forces. After pursuing this policy for a prolonged period it is for the people of Pakistan to decide if a course correction is warranted. However looking at majority comments it seems flogging of the same old horse will continue.


  • Ibtisam
    Jun 11, 2014 - 7:23PM

    Get this man a visa to Saudi Arabia and permanently send him there. He is worst trouble maker. He and his son involve in drugs smugling with Taliban.


  • Strategic Asset
    Jun 11, 2014 - 7:30PM

    Hamid Gul, widely known in the West as “The Father of the Taliban”. Enough said.


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jun 11, 2014 - 8:20PM

    First lie is that he trained Afghans. These people do not need any training. A sixteen year old Afghan kid is a better shooter than a trained Pakistani soldier. Only they needed were resources which Americans and Saudis provided and our Generals allowed transfers after hefty commissions. I have to find one Afghan who would say that General Gul or any Pakistani played any leading role in Jihad. Agents of super powers are not remembered in history. Their stories are for their own consumption.


  • Orange
    Jun 11, 2014 - 9:47PM

    For God sake..stop making us fool now,. evil mind of yours have already ruined us!


  • Mr sunny loni
    Jun 12, 2014 - 12:55AM

    Did he not say that 911 was an insider job. How would one feel if an american or Indian would say that the Karachi airport attack was an insider job (which actually it was)


  • Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan
    Jun 12, 2014 - 1:27AM

    Indians need to stop commenting on Pakistan and Afghan affairs. Your ridiculous theories don’t impress anyone.


  • Weirdity
    Jun 12, 2014 - 6:01AM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan: “Your ridiculous theories don’t impress anyone.”

    What theory is that?:-)


  • Jun 12, 2014 - 6:50PM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan: So you also believe in the strategy of ” strategy of using jihadist proxies to exert influence in neighboring countries,” Even after 65 years it does not occur to you that Military man is a military man and he is trained not to give up and keep fighting to and they know only one methodology that is combat. Think what has this strategy given to your country except death of innocents and destruction.


  • Jun 29, 2014 - 8:47AM

    Hameed Gul is only responsible for his own country to cover it, we Afghans better know that who can ensure security and peace in our country.
    and now not the time that you used Afghan nation or elders for your interest.
    inshallah all Afghan narions will be winner and will work toghether against the enemies of this country.
    After a short you yourselves will suffer from these people that you have been trainning them against Afghanistan reconstruction.


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