Former Saudi spy chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, speaking at a Washington think tank event Wednesday, said after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, the United States should have declared victory in Afghanistan and gone home.
"Killing bin Laden would have been the perfect moment for your president to say, 'We've done it, we are victorious, this is the timetable that we've set for withdrawal of troops and goodbye and good luck,' " Turki said Wednesday, at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Washington Post's Craig Whitlock reported. "This would be the perfect moment to leave with a victory and not to go on and sort of continue in this endless mission of strike and counterstrike."
"I don't mean withdrawing your embassy, your economic aid or your other support, but having troops on the ground in Afghanistan has never succeeded," he added.
The nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, Prince Turki served as Riyadh's envoy to the UK and Washington during the administration of George W. Bush. In the 1980s, he served as a key Saudi contact with the CIA-backed mujahadeen fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Among those also supporting their fight was bin Laden, with whom Turki met, as Whitlock recounts.
"He also met bin Laden several times in Afghanistan and Pakistan, before the Saudi native had his citizenship stripped by the kingdom for his terrorist activities," Whitlock writes. "In 1998, Turki traveled to Kandahar to persuade Taliban leader Mullah Omar to hand over bin Laden after al-Qaeda bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He was unsuccessful."
Turki resigned as Riyadh's intelligence chief after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when investigators learned that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi. "That event weighs heavily on my shoulders as a Saudi," he said.