Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have a fancy relationship. Their ties date again to the 19th century when Afghanistan grew to become the primary Muslim nation to acknowledge the second Saudi state of 1824 to 1891. In 1930, Ibn Saud acknowledged King Nadir Shah’s rule in Afghanistan, in 1932, the 2 nations signed their first friendship settlement, and in 1950, King Zahir Shah’s go to to Saudi Arabia was commemorated on a Saudi stamp.

Ties over the next a long time remained shut. This was not a lot due to Saudi geopolitical pursuits in Afghanistan, however relatively how the nation affected Saudi Arabia’s relations with Iran and Pakistan, a significant rival and an vital ally of the dominion respectively.


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The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 marked the summit of Saudi affect. In coordination with Pakistan and the USA, the Saudis famously supported the mujahideen and likewise assisted many Afghan refugees. All through the Nineteen Eighties, the dominion exercised direct interference over varied Islamist teams in Afghanistan and plenty of Saudis traveled there to combat the Soviets.

After the Soviet Union departed in 1989 and all through the next civil struggle in Afghanistan, the Saudis continued their function of manipulating Afghan politicians and factions, utilizing their petrodollars and non secular affect on behalf of the US, with combined outcomes. In 1993, all the Afghan mujahideen factions signed a peace settlement in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, however that didn’t cease the battle.

Saudi Ties With the Taliban

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, some commentators have inspired the Saudis to attempt to play the non secular card once more. In June, Muslim students from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia signed a “declaration of peace” in Mecca, which Arab Information described as a “historic, landmark occasion on the trail towards reconciliation between warring factions.” However the Taliban rejected the transfer — which, in any occasion, had no impression on peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan authorities — as a theatrical try and steal the diplomatic limelight from Qatar utilizing Islamic mercenaries.

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Saudi affect over the Taliban started with funding hardline non secular faculties, or madrassas, in Pakistan the place the motion began. It successfully resulted in 1996 when the Taliban first took over Afghanistan. On the finish of the Nineteen Nineties, Saudi residents had been formally barred from giving cash to any charity that was not state-approved, which meant Saudi public funding for the Taliban was largely minimize off, aside from a number of people performing with out the specific data of the federal government. A 2013 analysis paper by the German Institute for Worldwide and Safety Affairs acknowledged that Saudi “fundraisers for the Taliban … are believed to extensively exploit networks and use outdated mechanisms courting again to the instances of Saudi cooperation with mujahedeen and Taliban functionaries.”

When the Taliban final dominated Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, Saudi Arabia was considered one of solely three nations to formally acknowledge their authorities; Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates had been the opposite two. This was not as a result of the Saudis supported the Taliban regime, however relatively as a result of they had been in search of a approach to grease the wheels for an method by Prince Turki al-Faisal, the top of Saudi intelligence, to steer the Taliban to extradite Osama bin Laden, the Saudi chief of al-Qaeda.

The Saudis calculated that by recognizing the Taliban authorities, they may win affect as that they had achieved prior to now with different factions and warlords. However in 1998, when Prince Turki traveled to Afghanistan with a delegation of Muslim figures, the previous Taliban chief, Mullah Omar, turned him down.

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The Saudi View of the Taliban

The Home of Saud now faces a disconcerting second over Afghanistan, not least as a result of like the previous Afghan authorities, the royal household relies upon on the US for cover towards exterior enemies and inner threats.

In a report by Wikistrat concerning the implications of the Taliban takeover on Saudi Arabia, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Center East at Rice College’s Baker Institute for Public Coverage, feedback: “Questions are more likely to be mounting in Riyadh concerning the sincerity and the reliability of US safety ensures which themselves have been a matter of appreciable uncertainty for the reason that September 2019 assaults on Saudi oil infrastructure.” He provides that the “sudden abandonment of Afghan companions, spelled out clinically and coldly in [Joe] Biden’s televised deal with, might resonate strongly amongst US regional companions for whom President [Barack] Obama’s perceived abandonment of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 set in movement a questioning of US motivations that then continued into the Trump period.”

Neil Quilliam, a Center East analyst at Chatham Home, continues in the identical Wikistrat report: “The Taliban management will seemingly start a marketing campaign to problem the legitimacy of the Al Saud and attraction on to the Saudi inhabitants to problem the ruling household’s authority.” He provides that the “nature of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is a trigger for concern in Saudi Arabia. President Biden’s speech concerning the withdrawal, whereby he famous that remaining in Afghanistan not constitutes an important curiosity, has additionally despatched shockwaves by means of the Saudi management.”

The Taliban might activate Saudi Arabia within the media struggle. Transnational jihadist teams like al-Qaeda might additionally threaten the Saudis from Afghanistan once more. However as Sami Hamdi defined within the Arab Digest podcast, there are the explanation why Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may profit from the scenario in Afghanistan when it comes to discovering a renewed utility towards the US. A international diplomat in Riyadh, quoted by Reuters, predicted that the dominion will take a realistic method. “The Saudis have a historic relationship with Afghanistan and can finally have to just accept the Taliban [again] … They haven’t any different possibility,” he mentioned.

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In 2019, Jalaluddin Shinwari, the previous Taliban deputy minister of justice, advised the New York Occasions: “What [we] are saying to Individuals is that this: You’ve accepted Saudi Arabia, and we gained’t do greater than their fundamental code — retribution for homicide, chop off the hand for robbing. When you’ve got accepted Saudi, what’s improper with us being one other? The remaining shall be your priorities: support, friendship, financial relations.”

The US Would By no means Pull Out of Saudi Arabia

The Taliban can dream of a relationship with the US akin to that which the Saudis take pleasure in. But that relationship is totally totally different from no matter ties the US has with Afghanistan. America would by no means pull out of Saudi Arabia the best way it did from Afghanistan, not solely due to hydrocarbons — though with the Center East nonetheless offering round 31% of world oil manufacturing and 16% of worldwide pure gasoline provide, this stays an vital issue. Neither is American help nearly Israel’s safety — though the US and its Western allies actually want to guarantee this, and they’re able to work with any Arab regime, significantly Saudi Arabia, that is able to formally acknowledge Israel on US phrases.

The primary cause the US can by no means pull out of Saudi Arabia is due to the unthinkable penalties of dropping Saudi management of the 2 holy mosques in Mecca and Medina to al-Qaeda or one other jihadist motion. That’s the reason US help for the Saudis stays stable regardless of misgivings on either side.

*[This article was originally published by Arab Digest, a partner organization of Fair Observer.]

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.