By Shadi Khan Saif
The senior Saudi diplomat in Afghanistan has accused Qatar of supporting Taliban “armed terrorists”, even though Riyadh officially recognised the group when it ruled the country in the 1990s.
Speaking to reporters at an event in capital Kabul on Monday, Charge d'affairs Mishari al-Harbi accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, including the Afghan Taliban.
The Saudi envoy said the Taliban’s office in Qatar served as a conduit for foreign funds.
“Saudi Arabia had suffered a lot at the hands of al-Qaeda and Daesh and thus we decided to launch a strong campaign against the terrorist groups,” al-Harbi was quoted as saying by the local Pajhwok Afghan News.
“Qatar has harbored leaders of a number of terrorist groups and it is backing terrorist groups in Afghanistan.”
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates officially recognized the Taliban government after it grabbed power in 1996.
Following the 2001 U.S. invasion, the Taliban established a diplomatic office in Qatar in 2013 with the approval of the U.S. and the Afghan government’s High Peace Council.
The office had raised hopes of resolving the conflict through dialogue but it became mired in controversy and now remains as a shadow political wing of the group.
In January, five diplomats, including the U.A.E. ambassador were killed in an attack in southern Kandahar province. The Taliban was blamed for the deaths.
In a rare interview, al-Harbi told the BBC last week they saw the Taliban as “armed terrorists”.
In response to fresh comments by the Saudi diplomat, the Taliban in a statement said their regime had cordial ties with Saudi Arabia and the kingdom was one of the first countries to recognize the Taliban government.
“We expect the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] to play an effective role in resolving the Afghanistan conflict in this critical juncture of history,” it said.
Doha and Riyadh have been at odds following the Saudi-led trade and diplomatic embargo of Qatar amid string of allegations, including terrorism aimed at the energy-rich country. Doha denies all allegations as the embargo remains in place.