Just prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Prince Turki was removed from his post as chief of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, a position he held for 25 years. Most explanations for his abrupt departure revolved around his controversial ties to Osama bin Laden. Prince Turki himself admitted to meeting with bin Laden several times during the 1980s in the hopes of recruiting him to join the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Bin Laden later became a sworn enemy of the royal family after King Fahd agreed to back the U.S. during the Gulf War and his Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994. In 1998, some sources reported that Prince Turki had secretly negotiated with Taliban leader Mullah Omar for bin Laden’s extradition. But others, such as the families of 9/11 victims, charged that Turki had actually paid protection money to al-Qaeda in exchange for promises not to attack the kingdom or make moves to destabilize its government. Yet another theory held that Turki was a victim of a complex power struggle that pitted Prince Nayef against Crown Prince Abdullah.
Prince Turki took over the important position of Ambassador to the United States after Prince Bandar stepped down from the post in July, 2005. Prince Turki is viewed as a capable, Westernized politician who may be receptive to pressure from Washington that the Saudi government do more to fight terror within its borders.