Ex-spy Hamid Gul says Abdullah is the key to peace in Afghanistan
Agence France-Presse in Rawalpindi, Pakistan
He trained Afghan resistance fighters against the Soviets and helped create the Taliban, but today Pakistan's former spymaster Hamid Gul says the Islamist group's long-time foe Abdullah Abdullah has the best chance of securing peace.
Widely looked upon as a "godfather" figure for Pakistan's strategy of using jihadist proxies to exert influence in neighbouring countries, retired general Gul is still seen by some observers as offering a window into the thinking of the country's 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 Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency 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 a bilateral security agreement with the United States was not enacted.
In an interview at his Rawalpindi home, Gul said Abdullah's past as a resistance fighter together with his shrewd choices of running mates left him well-placed to negotiate with 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, in that he is a jihadi.
"And the other people with him are also jihadis," he continued, referring to running mates Mohammad Khan, an ally of powerful Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who has traditional ties to Pakistan, and Mohammad Mohaqeq, a Hazara seen as closer to Iran.
"Ashraf Ghani is not a jihadi," he said about the ex-World Bank economist who spent the 1980s living in the US.
"And for a jihadi to open a dialogue with a non-jihadi would be very difficult."
Stridently anti-American, Gul warned that war would continue if the next Afghan president signed a long-awaited security pact allowing 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 Islamist 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."