America in Afghanistan The Backlash of the 1980s
Background to Afghanistan • April 1978 - People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) • supported strengthening relationships with the USSR • policies enraged the wealthy semi-feudal landlords, the Muslim religious establishment and the tribal chiefs. • began organizing resistance to the government's progressive policies, under the guise of defending Islam.
Christmas Day 1979 • December 1979 Afghanistan's government fell to the PDPA • Soviet troops entered the country to prevent the new government's fall • reactionary jihad now gained legitimacy as a “national liberation” struggle in the eyes of many Afghans.
Mujahideen • many tribal groups were hostile on ethnic and political grounds. • Mujahid (Arabic for “struggler”) - a person involved in a jihad (holy war) • Mujahideen (plural) - also describes the Afghan resistance
Operation Cyclone • Massive CIA operation funding of the Afghan mujahideen • training, arming, and supplying of mujahideen • Initially considered a major success • Under Reagan funding reached levels of $600 million/year.
Why? • Washington feared the spread of Soviet influence to its allies in Pakistan, Iran and the Gulf states • The goal was to drain the USSR dry; the war would be too costly for them
How? • CIA provided assistance through the Pakistani secret services, Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) • CIA entered Afghanistan directly and established secret relationships with Afghan fighters
$3–$20 billion funneled to the mujahideen to train and equip troops with weapons • US goal of driving Soviet forces from Afghanistan "by all means available"
Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998 Posted at globalresearch.ca 15 October 2001 Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists? B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war? Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today. B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Brzezinski Interview
Backlash • CIA’s covert war created a pan-Islamic identity and unity • Islamists from around the globe came to defeat Soviets • Huge success – belief they took down a world power
Unintended Backlash • Washington's favoured mujahideen faction was one of the most extreme, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar • OBL was a close associate of Hekmatyar and his faction.
Al-Qaeda • Means “the base” • created in 1989 • OBL and colleagues began looking for new jihads • OLB and his fighters received American and Saudi funding • Some analysts believe OBL had security training from the CIA
Ghost Wars by Steve Coll Overall, the U.S. government looked favorably on the Arab recruitment drives. ... Some of the most ardent cold warriors at [CIA headquarters at] Langley thought this program should be formally endorsed and extended. ... [T]he CIA "examined ways to increase their participation, perhaps in the form of some sort of international brigade," ... Robert Gates [then-head of the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence] recalled. ... At the Islamabad station Milt Bearden felt that bin Laden himself "actually did some very good things" ... But nothing came of it ...[Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (Penguin, 2005 edn), pp.145-6, 155-6.]
Bin Laden Quotes • “bin Laden said that, in Afghanistan, ‘the largest heretic power on earth was destroyed and [it was] where the superpower myth vanished in the face of the mujahedin’s outcry of Allah Akbar [God is great].’”
Bin Laden Quotes II • “Miller says bin Laden told him “There is a lesson to learn from this [the Afghans’ victory] for he who wishes to learn….The Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in the last week of 1979, and with Allah’s help their flag was folded a few years later and thrown in the trash, and there was nothing left to call the Soviet Union….It cleared from Muslim minds the myth of superpowers.’”
Result of the War • OBL stepping stone to leadership • Leader – valiant battlefield warrior • Allied with many fundamentalist groups • Revered because he gave up riches
More Results • Unquestioning faith in Allah’s victory • Belief in destruction of world powers • Forged a military brotherhood united by Islam
Rise of al-Qaeda • The "Arab Afghans", as they became known, were battle-hardened and highly motivated. • 1996 - HQ and a dozen training camps moved to Afghanistan, where Bin Laden forged a close relationship with the Taliban.