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 U.S. 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, U.S. media reports said.
“The Saudis agree there is a need to cut off terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” U.S. media reported, quoting a leaked U.S. 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 U.S. embassy cables said after a meeting in Abu Dhabi attended by Saudis, Afghans, Jordanians, U.S. and Pakistani officials.
U.S. officials acknowledge that Saudi Arabia wields enormous influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan as it uses its oil wealth and religious ties to reach out to Islamic hardliners in both 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 U.S.-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 Mr. 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 Mr. Zardari was an “impediment to denying terrorists safe havens” and even went to the extent of calling him “rotten head”.
In March last year, Mr. Obama’s Special Representative Richard Holbrooke pressed Saudi leaders to help Mr. Zardari, warning that instability in Pakistan could lead to country’s nuclear weapons falling into terrorists hands.
Almost a year later, in February this year, U.S. 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 Mr. Sharif and Mr. 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 U.S. embassy cable said.