The Taliban’s former financial minister regularly traveled to Saudi Arabia to raise millions of dollars, The New York Times reports.
After the U.S. invasion in 2001, finance minister Agha Jan Motasim fled to Pakistan to establish the still de-facto headquarters of the Taliban terrorist movement. Motasim told The NYT he went to Saudi Arabia two or three times a year to raise millions of dollars in donations, traveling under the the guise of religious pilgrimage.
“It was not only the Saudis who would help us but people who would come from different countries,” Motasim said. “Saudi Arabia was the only country where I could meet them.” Motasim them moved the money to Afghanistan in a variety of ways, including smuggling solid gold bars into the country.
“When I was in government, not a single penny went to the Taliban,” former Saudi intelligence official and Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal, protested to The NYT.
The source of the funding is a major point of tension between Western-backed governments and Saudi Arabia. While the Saudi Arabian government may not directly fund terrorist organizations, its citizens remain some of terrorism’s largest financial backers. The government makes little effort to crack down on its citizens, and continues to allow dubious characters to use its territory to build financial terror networks.
“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a 2009 paper released by Wikileaks. Clinton lamented the “ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist funds emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.”
Saudi Arabian support of terrorist organizations is not unique to Afghanistan.
“Saudi citizens continue to represent a significant funding source for Sunni groups operating in Syria. Arab Gulf donors as a whole — of which Saudis are believed to be the most charitable — have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Syria in recent years, including to ISIS and other groups,” The Washington Institute For Near East Policy noted in June 2014.