Saudis fund Taliban while their king backs Afghan govt.
Saudi Arabia is in a unique situation in the Afghan geopolitical conflict that it is on both sides of it- the Afghan government and the Taliban. Even as the Saudi king officially supports Afghanistan's government, the wealthy Saudis through 'private or covert channels' have been funding the Taliban. This could threaten the fragile democratic progress made by the country, recovering from decades of war.
The Taliban and Saudi ties
Ever since the Taliban (primarily a Sunni radical movement) became prominent in 1994, they have been supported and financed by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was one of the only three countries, including Pakistan and UAE, that recognized the 7-year Taliban rule in Afghanistan, that lasted from 1996-2001. Saudi was also the last country to severe diplomatic ties with the internationally recognized terror group.
Taliban toppled by US-led invasion
Predominantly present in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban wanted to enforce their own version of Sharia (Islamic law). Post 2001 attack on World Trade Center, Taliban were toppled from power in Afghanistan, by US-led invasion for allegedly harbouring Osama bin Laden.
Surrogate support from the Saudis
As narrated by former Taliban finance minister to 'The New York Times', after 2001, he travelled to Saudi several times to raise money. Apart from the Saudi sheikhs people from different countries also contributed to their funding. This money was moved back to Taliban coffers in various ways, via regional banks near Pakistan's tribal areas, and hawala system of money transfer.
What do the WikiLeaks say?
According to American diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks, a Dec 2009 cable from Hillary Clinton stated that Saudi Arabia is the significant source of Sunni terrorist groups. Similar assertions were made by Ms. Clinton in another leaked email from 2014.
Saudi-mediated covert peace efforts
As the Saudi funding to Taliban continued, the Saudi government was also involved in covert peace efforts between the Afghan government and the Taliban. This includes the 2008 Saudi intelligence-mediated talks involving Taliban and Afghan officials. Former President Hamid Karzai's good relationship with the late King Abdullah yielded positive results only to an extent that Saudi had under control, the uncontrollable factor being Pakistan.
Afghanistan amidst Saudi and Iran strategic battle
For years, Saudi Arabia supported the Sunni Taliban along with Pakistan to contain its Shia rival, Iran's influence in the Afghan region. Now more than ever with the US trying to extricate itself from Afghanistan, the competition between the two has rekindled. While Saudi had built radical madrasas to obstruct propagation of Shia doctrine, Iran is actively building madrasas, universities, for the Afghan's Shias.