RIYADH: An “inept” US cannot fix Afghanistan’s problems and should only focus on “chasing terrorists,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, who served as the chief of Saudi intelligence for 24 years, said on Saturday at a gathering in Riyadh.
Turki is seen as influential in high Saudi circles. Taking a harsh stance against the United States, Turki, who has also been an ambassador to the US, UK and Ireland, said the USled North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s presence in Afghanistan has “irrevocably alienated the Afghan people and has no hope of rebuilding the country.”
While Turki currently does not hold an official government position, he is nevertheless believed to often reflect sentiments at high government levels. He has also long served a central role in Saudi- Afghan relations. “What Afghanistan needs now is a shift from nationbuilding to effectively countering terrorists,” Turki told his audience. US President Barack Obama “should not be misdirected into believing that he can fix Afghanistan’s ills by military means,” he added.
“Hunt down the terrorists on both sides of the Afghan- Pakistan border, arrest them or kill them, and get out, and let the Afghan people deal with their problems.” As long as GI boots remain on Afghan soil, they remain targets of resistance for the Afghan people and ideological mercenaries, the former Saudi spy chief commented, adding “The inept way in which this administration has dealt with President [Hamid] Karzai begs disbelief and amazement.”
Turki said that both sides are now filled with resentment and have a bad taste in their mouth. He also criticised the US’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arab states want to see progress in the US-guided Palestinian-Israeli peace talks by September, he commented. “The Arab world has given Obama until September to get things done. It is not enough to talk the talk. \
He has to walk the walk,” he said, noting “If he does not succeed ... then I ask President Obama to do the morally decent gesture and recognise the Palestinian state that he so ardently wishes to exist.” The Saudi prince also suggested that an alternative would be that Obama “pack up and leave us in peace and let the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese negotiate directly with the Israelis. No more platitudes and good wishes and visions, please.” Touching upon Iraq, Turki accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of trying to “hijack” the results of the general election held in Iraq in March.
“We are watching a deliberate effort on the part of the incumbent prime minister […] to deny the Iraqi people their legitimately elected government,” he said. “The consequences of that are more bloodshed and potential civil war,” he said. Unpopular with Riyadh, Maliki and his State of Law Alliance won 89 parliamentary seats, two less than the Iraqiya bloc of former prime minister Iyad Allawi, who is well-regarded by the Saudi government.
Turki also called for the UN Security Council to guarantee Iraq’s integrity, saying that both internal and external groups seek to carve up the country. “With American forces due to leave Iraq next year, this is the only option that will meet the challenge posed by several Iraqi political factions whose main ambition is to partition Iraq.” “Equally sinister are the designs of some of Iraq’s neighbors to take advantage of impending Iraqi internal conflict to advance their acquisition of Iraqi territories,” he said.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.
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