Eyebrows will be raised that Saudi Arabia has resuscitated its ten-year old plan to construct a mosque and education centre in a massive 30-hectre hilltop complex overlooking Kabul, costing $100 million. The project is to be completed at breakneck speed by early 2016, in about an year after the NATO’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The move is aimed at bolstering Saudi influence in Afghanistan as the west withdraws.
The Kabul government seems enthusiastic about the project since Saudis spend money lavishly and given the pervasive corruption, there will always be scope for kickbacks.
Afghanistan is a nation of observant Muslims but their traditional Islam is mixed with Sufi culture. Through the past three decades, Wahhabism has been relentlessly injected into the Afghan psyche — with unpleasant consequences for international security, of course.
From the Saudi viewpoint, the raison d’etre of the Taliban saga of the 1990s was about ‘containing’ Shi’ite Iran, and the United States happily went along with that sordid enterprise. But this time around, a strong case can be made that notwithstanding the continuing US-Iran standoff, Washington should be alert about the Saudi shenanigans.
After all, restless souls of over 2000 young American men and women are wandering aimlessly in the hills and valleys of the Hindu Kush; and, anyone with a conscience and is capable of the milk of human kindness would know that the Afghan’s cup of sorrows is already overflowing.
So much blood has been split in the name of religion and ‘jihad’ in the Hindu Kush. The point is, when the muezzin calls for prayer from the minaret of the upcoming magnificent Saudi mosque in Kabul, the cry will resonate. It will resonate as far away as the Ferghana Valley, Xinjiang, Kashmir and North Caucasus.
Nay, Saudis will amplify the muezzin’s call and ensure it is heard loud and clear in Qom, Najaf and Karbala as well. Indeed, many disquieting questions arise.
Most certainly, Afghans could have far better use of Saudi money so that they could keep their body and soul together. They already have had a surfeit of religion — in fact, they suffer from it.
Again, why this unseemly hurry? Of course, Taliban if they reach Kabul by early 2016 should have a decent place to go to say namaz. Obviously, Saudis are preparing for the return of Mullah Omar and the Haqqanis.
The Saudis are repeating what they have always done — insulate themselves from the al-Qaeda by putting rings of engagement around it, while the rest of mankind can go to hell.
Conceivably, the Saudis are bringing their nasty obsession with Shi’ite Iran into the Hindu Kush, which would be dangerous, since its impact could be very negative on Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Finally, there is the big question: Is the Saudi regime acting suo moto or in consultation with the US? In the 1980s and 1990s, the two allies took goose-steps while letting out the genie of Wahhabism in Afghanistan.
The “islamization” of Central Asia may suit the US’ geopolitical objectives vis-a-vis Russia and China. By the way, Qatar too is quietly getting a toehold in Tajikistan. Read the Guardian report here