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GAO report: Saudis are top fianciers of Taliban

WASHINGTON — The United States has determined that Saudi Arabia continues to be the leading source of funding to Al Qaida and is also the top financial backer of Taliban.   

A report the Government Accountability Office said the Saudi government did not appear to be involved in the funding, but that Saudi funds to both Al Qaida and Taliban has helped finance the war against NATO in Afghanistan.

GAO said Saudis were the chief source of funding to Taliban, Middle East Newsline reported. The report said couriers were transporting cash from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states to Afghanistan and Pakistan for Taliban.

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"They are a top source of funding for Al Qaida and associated terror groups, such as the Taliban," GAO said on Sept. 29.

"It is vital that the U.S. demand more from the Saudi government in cutting off the money flow to the Islamist extremist network," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said. GAO said Riyad has failed to stop the flow of funds from individuals and charities to Al Qaida and Taliban. The report said the Saudi funding continued amid the kingdom's crackdown on Al Qaida and counter-insurgency support to neighboring Yemen.

The report also warned of Saudi Arabia's policy to rehabilitate Al Qaida insurgents. GAO reported a 20 percent recidivism rate of the 4,300 Al Qaida operatives who went through the re-education program.

"Saudi officials acknowledge such cases illustrate the difficulties associated with assessing which participants should be released," GAO said.

The congressional watchdog recommended that the White House draft performance targets for Saudi Arabia in the war against Al Qaida. Over the last five years, several prominent of Congress have sought to link U.S. arms sales to Riyad to its commitment to block funding to Al Qaida.

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