Saudis reluctant to play greater role in Pak-Afghanistan

Saudi Arabia is reluctant to play a more rigorous role to stabilise Pakistan and Afghanistan as the royal family distrusts the present military and political set up in Islamabad.

Last Updated: Dec 03, 2010, 17:16 PM IST

Washington: Saudi Arabia is reluctant to
play a more rigorous role to stabilise Pakistan and
Afghanistan as the royal family distrusts the present military
and political set up in Islamabad and is pinning for an
emergence of a strong forceful new leader, leaked US documents
have revealed.

The United States has been pressing its strong ally in
the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia to play a greater role in
bringing about rapprochement in both Pakistan and Afghanistan,
US media reports said.

"The Saudis agree there is a need to cut off terrorist
safe havens in Pakistan," US media reported quoting a leaked
US embassy letter from Kabul to Washington, but, it differs
from the American policy of a military campaign to achieve
this end.

The Saudis instead have advised greater outreach to
unruly tribes to rein in the militants. "Money is better than
the bullets in the fight against Taliban," the US embassy
cables said after a meeting in Abu Dhabi attended by Saudis,
Afghans, Jordanians, US and Pakistani officials.

US officials acknowledge that Saudi Arabia wields
enormous influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan as it uses its
oil wealth and religious ties to Islamic hardliners in both
the countries. The Royal Kingdom was only one of the two
countries to recognise the erstwhile Taliban regime in
Afghanistan and still retains ties to the group`s senior
commanders.

But the Royal family has been cautious in mediating
between the Taliban and the US backed Afghan government after
a Saudi backed effort in 2000 in the holy city of Mecca
collapsed.

But now the Saudi government appears to be taking a
tough stand against the Taliban asking it forthright to severe
ties with al Qaeda and world`s most wanted terrorist Osama bin
Laden.

The Americans, CNN reported want Saudis to open their
coffers to President Asif Ali Zardari and also provide him
vital intelligence inputs against the Taliban, but Riyadh
seems convinced that Zardari is too corrupt to keep Pakistan
together and would prefer a military strongman or its top ally
Nawaz Sharif at the helm of affairs.

CNN said at a recent meeting Saudi King Abdullah told
President Obama`s then National Security Advisor James Jones
in January 2009 that Zardari was an "impediment to denying
terrorists safe havens" and even went to the extent of calling
him "rotten head".

In March last year, Obama`s Special Representative
Richard Holbrooke pressed Saudi leaders to help Zardari
warning that instability in Pakistan could lead to country`s
nuclear weapons falling into terrorists hands.

Following his meetings with the Saudi leaders
including Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef,
US media said there had been a spurt in efforts by the Saudis.

Almost a year later, in February this year, US
diplomats reported some progress with Riyadh taking action
against Saudis funding the Taliban and Pakistani militant
group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Still, they said that Saudis were frustrated at
failure by Sharif and Zardari to reach reconciliation and "it
appears that tumultuous happenings in Pakistan is making the
Saudis nervous and they seem to pin for emergence of another
Musharraf: a new strong forceful leader, they can trust", the
US embassy cable said.

PTI