Saudi Arabia to build major Islamic center in Afghanistan
Saudi Arabia will build a massive Islamic center complete with a university and a mosque in Afghanistan, an Afghan minister said Monday, describing the project as “grand and unique.”
Estimated to cost up to $100 million, the center on a hilltop in central Kabul will house up to 5,000 students, Dayi-Ul Haq Abed, the acting Hajj and religious affairs minister told AFP.
It will be named after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the minister added.
“The agreement was signed last week in Jeddah. The construction will start next year, in couple of months or so,” Abed said.
The mosque, similar to the Faisal Mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad that was also built by oil-rich Saudi Arabia in 1980s, will hold 15,000 worshippers at a time.
The minister said the center will be run jointly by the Saudi and Afghan ministries of religious affairs. Other universities in Afghanistan are run by the higher education ministry.
Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries -- along with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates -- that recognized the hardline Islamist Taliban regime during its rule in Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
The Taliban were overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion shortly after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but have waged an 11-year insurgency.
The U.S. and NATO still have more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai, but they are due to pull out all combat forces by the end of 2014.