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Saudi Intel Chief Meets Top Afghan Officials - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief met Wednesday with top officials in Afghanistan, the government said, likely part of a behind-the-scenes effort to smooth hostilities between the Afghan government and insurgents seeking to overthrow it.

Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other government leaders during his Wednesday trip to the Afghan capital, the statement said. He also met with opposition leader Burhanuddin Rabbani and other former jihadi leaders who fought against Soviet occupation but are now involved in the political process.

Muqrin was sent to Kabul by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the statement said, without disclosing the content of the talks.

As the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, Saudi Arabia has been attempting to play a low-profile, inconspicuous role in trying to bridge the differences between Karzai’s government and some members of the insurgency.

Last September, Taliban members met with Afghan and Pakistani officials during a dinner hosted by the Saudi king, but there were no visible results from the meeting.

Karzai has called many times on Taliban leadership to give up its fight and join the political process, and has urged the Saudi monarch to help facilitate peace talks with insurgents. The Taliban has said no talks can take place while foreign troops are in Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia is a leader of the Sunni Muslim world and the location of Islam’s two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. It was one of a handful of countries that recognized the strictly Islamic Taliban as rulers of Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has forced the U.S. to rush as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, seeking to the turn the tide in fighting that has seen al-Qaida-linked militants and the Taliban make a comeback after initial defeats in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Some 32,000 U.S. troops already in Afghanistan serve alongside 32,000 other NATO-led and coalition troops, the highest number since the U.S.-led invasion.

U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who toured the region this week, said that “things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they’re going to get better.”

President-elect Barack Obama pledged during his election campaign to withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office and shift the focus to Afghanistan.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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