Cablegate: Embassy Riyadh
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S E C R E T RIYADH 000061
TREASURY FOR U/S STUART LEVEY AND AA/S HOWARD MENDELSOHN STATE FOR S/SRAP RICHARD HOLBROOKE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2020 TAGS: ECON PREL EFIN KTFN SA
Classified By: Acting DCM Lisa Carle for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. On December 13, 2009, Treasury Department Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Howard Mendelsohn, along with GRPO officers and Treasury analysts, met with senior Saudi Mabahith officials to discuss suspected Taliban-related financial activity in Saudi Arabia. Prior to this meeting, Treasury and GRPO officials shared with Mabahith detailed information on the financing of the Taliban and other terrorist and extremist groups based in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mabahith pointed to the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), Saudi Arabia’s overseas intelligence agency, as having the lead on Taliban matters for the Saudi Arabian Government (SAG). Mabahith pledged to disrupt any Taliban-related financial activity in the Kingdom, including fundraising carried out by Taliban leaders participating in reconciliation efforts. Mabahith asked GRPO and Treasury to provide additional detailed and actionable information to assist in its investigations.
2. (S/NF) During the course of the multi-hour intelligence exchange session, GRPO and Treasury analysts walked through the previously shared intelligence, which suggested that Taliban-related finance officials have visited Saudi Arabia in order to raise funds. Mabahith pledged to follow up on the information provided, to work through intelligence channels to share information and results, and submit additional requests for information. END SUMMARY.
(U) Taliban/Haqqani Network
3. (S/NF) Mendelsohn acknowledged the important steps the Saudi government has taken to combat al-Qaida financing, and highlighted the importance the USG places on combating Taliban financing. He stated that the Taliban receives significant money from narcotics trafficking and extortion, but noted that the U.S. believes that the group also receives significant funds from the Gulf, particularly from donors in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
4. (S/NF) Mabahith agreed that the Taliban is a serious threat and stated that Saudi authorities can more easily target al-Qaida financing since the group’s members are frequently Saudi nationals, often with Saudi addresses and phone numbers. Taliban/Haqqani network fundraisers, however, usually enter the Kingdom from Afghanistan or Pakistan, and may use fabricated travel documents, according to Mabahith. Mabahith also acknowledged that the Hajj represents an opportunity for terrorist fundraisers. The same officials further acknowledged the historical ties that existed between Saudi Arabia and the Taliban, suggesting that lingering sympathies may create a potential donor base in the Kingdom.
5. (S/NF) Mendelsohn stated that senior Taliban officials travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss reconciliation issues, but said they also conduct fundraising activities while in the Kingdom. Mabahith initially responded that Taliban reconciliation issues were handled by the GIP and stated that the Mabahith has very little insight or coordination with the GIP in this area. After further discussion, Issa said that even if Taliban fundraisers travel to Saudi Arabia under the auspices of reconciliation, Mabahith officials would arrest anyone who breaks Saudi law while in the Kingdom.
6. (S/NF) Treasury analysts provided information on XXXXXXXXXXXX three senior Taliban officials who have made multiple fundraising visits to Saudi Arabia, according to U.S. intelligence. (NOTE: Information available to the USG and shared for this exchange included telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and passport information for crosschecking against Saudi customs databases. END NOTE.) Mabahith was not familiar with the individuals and pledged to follow up on the identifying information provided by GRPO and Treasury. GRPO and Treasury analysts also shared names and phone numbers of multiple Taliban and Haqqani associates known either to reside in or travel to the Saudi Arabia.
7. (S/NF) Reviewing a list of several full or partial names of suspected Taliban donors in the Kingdom, Mabahith recognized XXXXXXXXXXXX, a prominent Saudi who reportedly gave XXXXXXXXXXXX $30,000 in September 2008. Mabahith had no information regarding XXXXXXXXXXXX’s financial contributions to the Taliban, but speculated that the money could have come from a trust or a charity that was associated with XXXXXXXXXXXX, rather than from XXXXXXXXXXXX himself. Mabahith pledged to investigate XXXXXXXXXXXX and stated that it would not hesitate to “press him” regardless of his social status. Mendelsohn emphasized the importance of taking actions to delegitimize Taliban fundraising, just as the Saudi government has worked hard to delegitimize al-Qaida and deter donors from giving money to the group.
8. (S/NF) Mabahith also detailed the SAG’s new fingerprinting system. Mabahith suggested that the system will likely be more effective against Taliban fundraisers, who travel through official points of entry, than it will be against al-Qaida-affiliated foreign fighters, who enter the country illegally. Mabahith also stated that this system should reduce the effectiveness of forged travel documents used at official points of entry. They pointed out the country’s large borders, highlighting the continuing challenges they expect to encounter.
(S/NF) Jamaat al-Dawa al-Quran wa al-Sunna
9. (S/NF) Mendelsohn also raised USG concerns about Pakistan-based extremist group Jamaat al-Dawa al-Quran wa al-Sunna (JDQ) and its involvement in attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan. GRPO and Treasury passed names and other identifying information of suspected Saudi Arabia-based JDQ donors and affiliates. Mabahith pledged to investigate the names and follow up through intelligence channels.
(U) Al-Haramain Foundation
10. (S/NF) Mendelsohn commended Mabahith for its successful operations exposing and disrupting the terrorist support activities of the Saudi-based NGO al-Haramain Foundation (AHF), and pledged USG support for their investigation. Mabahith confirmed that more than 40 AHF-affiliated individuals had been arrested as a result and that Mabahith had a strong case against former AHF Director Aqil al-Aqil. Mabahith candidly noted that Saudi authorities were embarrassed about the way they had handled Aqil al-Aqil, since they had previously arrested and released him based on an earlier lack of evidence. SMITH