Saudi Arabia Ends Ties with Taliban

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia released a statement through the Saudi Press Agency announcing it was severing diplomatic relations with the Taliban because they are “supporting terrorists and making its land a refuge and haven for them.”

The Saudi government acknowledged that the Afghan people’s fight for independence had earned their country “a special status” in the hearts of those who championed the right of nations to be free and independent.

However, it charged the Taliban with diverging from the lofty aims of Islam and operating a recruiting ground for gullible men from different lands, especially Saudi citizens, training them carry out criminal acts violating faiths. The Saudi kingdom concluded the Taliban rejection of an international request to hand over criminals to justice was “defaming Islam and defaming Muslims’ reputation in the world.”

The statement did not specifically mention Osama bin Laden or the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The consequences of the Saudi decision are unclear. The country is one of the most influential nations in the Islamic world and home to the holiest Islam places: Mecca and Medina.

There was no comment from Taliban officials regarding the Saudi decision and the Taliban embassy in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, remains open.

Despite the break with Taliban, the Saudis announced they would not allow the United States to use its military bases for strikes.

Prior to the September 11 attacks, only three world governments recognized the Taliban. The United Arab Emirates broke off relations over the weekend, leaving only neighboring Pakistan still with formal ties to Kabul. However, Pakistan worked closely with the U.S. last week to try to convince the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and has since withdrawn diplomats from the country.

The coalition on combating terrorism is producing unique alliances. The U.S. and Britain have made overtures to Iran, which is deemed a terrorist state by the U.S. State Department. Despite their religious governments, Iran’s largely Shiite Muslim population is strongly opposed to the extremist Sunni Muslims of the Taliban. In 1998 the two countries were on the brink of war.

Moreover, with the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States is forming alliances with several Central Asian countries from the former Soviet Union.

“We have coordinated a position with our allies among the Central Asian states. They share this position and do not rule out providing the use of their airfields,” Putin said.

United States use of Central Asian air bases, especially Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, is believed key to any retaliation against bin Laden and his terrorist camps. 

In Uzbekistan there are conflicting reports about whether they will provide military assistance. The Russian Interfax news agency, reported 200 U.S. troops with reconnaissance equipment are in the country. Yet, Uzbek Defense Ministry spokesman Bakhtiar Shakirov denied the claim.

On Monday, Kazakstan’s president said his nation was ready to offer airspace and military bases for an anti-terrorist coalition.

“We’ve already given our general agreement that we’ll provide all necessary support. But there has been no concrete request yet,” said President Nursultan Nazarbayev.