Abdur Rab Rasool Sayyaf
Pipeline to Riyadh
Sayyaf was a fundamentalist Islamic scholar. He studied in Kabul and Cairo and advocated strict Islamic law, no education for women, public veiling and other practices considered medieval today. One of the mujahideen commanders still active politically, Sayyaf attended the Loya Jirga convened by Karzai to legitimize his administration. He argued for the inclusion of explicit Islamic language in the new constitution.
In 1973, Sayyaf joined Hekmatyar and Masud in a failed attempt to overthrow the government and had to flee to Pakistan. He went back to Afghanistan when the government changed but still was imprisoned as a threat to the state. Most of the men arrested with him died in prison, but Sayyaf had relations in the government and was released. Back in Pakistan he joined the exiled leaders in forming a guerilla resistance to the Communist government in Kabul.
As a convert to the Wahhabist version of Islam, Sayyaf was set apart from other Afghans and closely connected to the Saudis and their petro-dollars. The Saudis, through their chief of intelligence, Prince Turki, sent billions to Afghanistan to fight the communists and spread the Wahhabist creed. Sayyaf had little popular base amongst Afghans, but as the spigot head of money and guns coming from Arabia he managed to gather many Pashtun commanders to his organization. He also had by far the largest share of foreign volunteer fighters. Uzbeks, Chechens, Filipinos, Arabs, and many others served under Sayyaf. This foreign legion was much hated by Afghans for their arrogance and contempt for local customs. Sayyaf and Osama worked closely together for years, training fighters and building bases. The famous Philippine Islamic terrorist group “Abu Sayyaf” is named after him because its core members trained in Afghanistan.
When the Taliban arrived, most of Sayyaf’s commanders defected. He took what few remained and joined Masud’s northern alliance, where he served as a liaison to the Arab world. He vouched for the Al-Queda “reporters” who killed Masud, something he will never live down, especially since he used to be close to Osama. Sayyaf is an old man now, but still actively trying to promote a conservative Islamic agenda in Afghanistan.