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Saudi prince rebukes US policy in Afghanistan

Interview: Saudi Arabian diplomat Turki Al-Faisal says go after Al Qaeda, not Taliban.

Turki says that Saudi Arabia is an active ally of the U.S. in crushing Al Qaeda in Yemen and everywhere it can. But he questioned the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan for straying from its original mission of going after Al Qaeda and focusing instead on the Taliban.

“The original campaign was targeted against terrorism and terrorists. There has been a veering away from that goal,” he said, explaining that the shift of focus to fighting the Taliban creates a scenario in which the U.S. will ultimately lose. The key, he said, is to sever the Taliban from Al Qaeda through leverage and diplomacy and then capture and/or kill the Al Qaeda leadership.

“The Taliban has been identified as the enemy and I think that is wrong. They are not a cohesive organization. They are fractured. And as the U.S. increases presence in Afghanistan to fight them, they just offer more targets and more opportunity for their ranks to grow,” he said.

Turki said that the U.S. should refocus efforts on Al Qaeda. To do that, he said the U.S. should pull together a wide grouping of countries who have suffered at the hands of Al Qaeda, such as India, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Morocco and, of course Pakistan, to coordinate intelligence and to target Al Qaeda in a global alliance against the terrorist group.

“Put a plan of action in place to capture or eliminate the leadership of Al Qaeda, and I am sure they can succeed in doing that," he said. "By eliminating them or capturing them you can claim victory and then leave” Afghanistan.

Turki explained that talks between the Taliban and the government in Afghanistan were “a work in progress” and that they had begun at the invitation of Saudi Arabia two years ago. GlobalPost reported on these talks in their infancy in 2009.

That, Turki said, was when Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil, a former Taliban foreign minister from the deposed government, met with President Hamid Karzai’s brother, Qayum. There is new information coming out, Turki added, that “Saudi mediation is working.” Still, he added, the talks have a way to go.