March 12th, 2010
07:29 AM ET

Ex-Pakistan spy chief urges talks with Omar

Retired General Hamid Gul

Talking to the Taliban leader in Afghanistan may help bring peace to the country, according to a former Pakistan spy chief once referred to as the "father of the Taliban."

Retired Gen. Hamid Gul, a former head of the ISI spy agency, worked with the CIA through the 1980s to fund and train the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets. Many of the Mujahedeen went on to govern Afghanistan as the Taliban, who are led by Mullah Omar.

"The best situation would be to talk to Mullah Omar," Gul said. "Put up your own conditions where I would say it is legitimate ... I think they will accept. I know their psychology."

Face-to-face talks would work best, Gul added.

"You have to engage him. You have to talk to him," Gul said. "There is no one else, for heaven sake, why beat around the bush?"

Last year, Gul said Omar was the only person who can improve U.S. interests in Afghanistan.

"Mullah Omar, nobody else," Gul said.

He insisted that President Barack Obama's administration can access Omar through the Pakistan military. But the Pakistani Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) denied that the Pakistani military is in contact with Omar and that it can bring him and other commanders to the negotiating table.

In his latest interview, Gul decried the terrorist label on the Taliban, saying former President George W. Bush was wrong to call them that.

"This is wrong, by any definition," he said. "No shred of evidence is available that they were involved in any terrorist activity."

Last year, Gul said a stated Taliban condition to any discussions - the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan first - was not a fixed demand.

With concessions from Washington, it could be softened and make way for negotiations to begin, he said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he will pursue talks with the Taliban as part of a reconciliation and reintegration plan.

Karzai has said he plans to buy off low-level Taliban foot soldiers with cash and make peace with some Taliban leaders by offering them government positions.

While Washington supports the plan, it rejects a dialogue involving Omar.

The Taliban has said Omar is not interested in a peace deal.

-CNN's Reza Sayah contributed to this report.

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