Taliban, Saudi Arabia and the Genesis of Global Terrorism: A Short Summary
Saudi Arabia is one of the most powerful Islamic states in the Middle East, playing a vital role in the Islamic world thanks to its financial strength and religious position, which it has acquired through its holy sites and shrines. This country’s relationship with Afghanistan dates all the way back to more than eight decades ago. These relationships reached a new level when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, which led Saudi Arabia to become a major player in Afghanistan’s political and security scene.
Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Afghanistan was highlighted at this time by support for jihadist organisations. Individuals from various nationalities were instructed to attend religious schools at military bases built on the Durand Line by the erstwhile Pakistani government using Saudi money. The Mojahedin movement was sponsored by Saudi Arabia and its allies. The Hekmatyar branch of Hezb-e-Islami kept in touch with Saudi Arabia after the communist regime in Afghanistan was overthrown. As a result, the Saudis gave Hekmatyar $2 million between 1991 and 1994.
Although Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the Afghan government deteriorated when Burhanuddin Rabbani came to power because of his closeness to Iran, After Rabbani opposed some Iranian positions, Saudi Arabia resumed its financial assistance to his government, and more than $150 million was paid to the Rabbani government during those years.
In his book, “The Taliban”, Ahmed Rashid, a distinguished Pakistani writer, says that the Saudis gave the Mujahideen about $4 billion in official support between 1980 and 1990, including informal contributions to Islamic charities, foundations, and mosques. Over the years, Saudi Arabia has spent around $9 billion in Afghanistan, including this unofficial assistance.
The Taliban’s leadership was eventually made up of pro-Wahhabi Pashtuns. Following Najibullah’s downfall, hostilities broke out among Mojahedin groups, and two Saudi-backed Wahhabi organisations, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, split away. Hence, Saudi influence in Afghanistan significantly decreased during this period.
As a result of the Afghan civil war and the Taliban’s establishment (under the auspices of Pakistani and US intelligence agencies), Saudi Arabia rapidly supported the group, and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognised the Taliban’s rule.
Saudi financial sponsorship for the Taliban administration persisted throughout the group’s existence; but, after the Taliban decided to shelter bin Laden, under US pressure, Riyadh stopped supplying financial and political support; nonetheless, the help remained secret. The Taliban didn’t want to hand over Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia, which caused a rift between the two countries. After the US took over Afghanistan and the Taliban fell, Saudi-Afghan relations started a new chapter.
When the Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, in August of this year, the Saudi Foreign Ministry published a cautious communiqué saying, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia respects the Afghan people’s right to decide their future without foreign intervention.”
In this backdrop, the Saudi government has commissioned Turki Faisal, the former chief of Saudi intelligence who is known for having strong contacts with the Taliban, to hold negotiations with the Taliban leaders.
According to WikiLeaks, Saudi Arabia has been the main financier of extremist organisations such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, in post-Taliban Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia has assumed new, peace-loving faces in order to reinforce its proxies, promote Riyadh’s image, employ the Taliban in the new political arena, and engage in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
At a summit of the Heart of Asia countries in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia pledged greater economic support to Afghanistan, and the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia signed an economic partnership. As part of the pact, Saudi Arabia promised to stimulate private investment in Afghanistan and agreed to issue work permits to Afghan citizens as part of the pact. The Afghan public and elite are said to see Saudi investments positively.
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