US press­ing for Saudi help to sta­bi­lize Pak­istan and Afghanistan

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

CAIRO: The United States has been push­ing its pow­er­house ally Saudi Ara­bia to help sta­bi­lize Pak­istan and Afghanistan, but it has strug­gled to over­come the king­dom's deep mis­trust of Pak­istan's pres­i­dent and doubts over US strat­egy for rein­ing in mil­i­tants, leaked U.S. diplo­matic memos show.

Saudi Ara­bia has long had enor­mous in­flu­ence in Pak­istan and Afghanistan, us­ing its petro-wealth and re­li­gious ties to Is­lamic hard-lin­ers in both coun­tries. The king­dom was one of only two coun­tries to rec­og­nize the for­mer Tal­iban govern­ment in Afghanistan and still has con­nec­tions to Tal­iban fig­ures.

But Saudi Ara­bia has been cau­tious in me­di­at­ing be­tween the Tal­iban and the U.S.backed Afghan govern­ment. A 2008 ef­fort to get the two sides to­gether in the Saudi holy city of Mecca col­lapsed, and ear­lier this month Saudi For­eign Min­is­ter Saud al-Faisal said the king­dom would not me­di­ate with the Tal­iban un­less the move­ment broke its ties with al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. The memos re­leased on the Wik­iLeaks web­site this week show dif­fer­ences in strat­egy be­tween Washington and Saudi Ara­bia. Amer­i­can di­plo­mats have been press­ing the king­dom to throw its weight be­hind Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari with fi­nan­cial aid and in­tel­li­gence help against the Pak­istani Tal­iban and mil­i­tant groups who have been cross­ing the border into Afghanistan to bat­tle NATO and Afghan troops.

The pres­sure seems to have brought some grudg­ing progress. But Saudi of­fi­cials ap­pear wary of ag­gres­sive ac­tion by the Pak­istani mil­i­tary against in­sur­gents in Pak­istan, ad­vis­ing in­stead greater out­reach to un­ruly tribes to rein in mil­i­tants. Above all, they seem con­vinced Zar­dari is too cor­rupt to keep the coun­try to­gether - and would pre­fer a mil­i­tary strong­man or Saudi Ara­bia's top ally in Pak­istan, for­mer prime min­is­ter and now op­po­si­tion leader Nawaz Sharif.

A Pak­istani pres­i­den­tial spokesman in Is­lam­abad dis­missed the re­ported com­ments, say­ing Zar­dari re­gards the Saudi king "as his elder brother." -Ap

BRUS­SELS: Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank (ECB) Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Trichet (C) ar­rives at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to ad­dress the Eco­nomic and Mon­e­tary Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in Brus­sels. -Reuters

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