Sowing the Seeds of Terrorism? Capitalist Intrigue and Adventurism in Afghanistan

I wrote this analysis several years ago. I was elected chair of the Department of Democracy and Justice Studies in the spring of 2012 and my focus shifted to rebuilding the department after several retirements and colleagues leaving for more lucrative positions. As a consequence, the analysis languished on one of my many hard drives. I have come across it and decided to publish it here on Freedom and Reason. I believe you will find that it provides much needed historical context for those considering the situation in Afghanistan, how we got in this mess and how we might get out of it.

On April 29, 2011, President Barack Obama authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan believed to be the hideout of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. On May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, along with several CIA operatives, had entered the compound and killed bin Laden and several occupants.

The political establishment watches the assassination of Osama bin Laden, May Day, 2011

Within a week of the news of bin Laden’s assassination, The Washington Post published an essay by journalist Peter Bergen titled “Five Myths about Osama Bin Laden.”[1] The chief myth Bergen wished to dispel was the claim that the CIA created Osama bin Laden. Bergen writes, “Common among conspiracy theorists is the notion that bin Laden was a CIA creation and that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were blowback from an agency operation gone awry.” He claims to refute this myth by asserting that the CIA had “no dealings” with the “Afghan Arabs” (including bin Laden) and “few direct dealings with any of the Afghan mujaheddin.” Rather “all U.S. aid was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”

As evidence for his claims, Bergen quotes ISI officer Mohammad Yousaf, who asserts in his 1992 book The Bear Trap: “No Americans ever trained or had direct contact with the mujaheddin.” He also cites al Qaeda insiders, namely Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Suri, who deny that any money from the United States aided the Arab mujahideen. Such denials are expected; it would look particularly bad for the global Islamist movement to have it widely known that al Qaeda were a creation of the U.S. intelligence community.

However, the documentary record, comprised of facts gathered from such mainstream corporate media outlets as The Washington Post, contradicts Bergen’s claims. Bergen is not unique in obfuscating the character of the relations between the United States and, not only bin Laden and al Qaeda, but the constellation of Islamists groups and organizations perpetrating violence around the world. Following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the mainstream corporate media as a whole manufactured ignorance of the U.S. role in terrorism perpetrated by those claiming to be part of the global Islamic resistance movement.

The present essay is a review of mainstream corporate media stories from the 1970s and 1980s for the purpose of demonstrating that the United States was deeply involved in building the al Qaeda terrorist network, as well as supporting several terrorist groups and organizations around the world. This history is not ancient history. As of the date of this publication, the United States, under Donald Trump, remains in Afghanistan. It is the  nation’s longest war. I have students in my freshman classes born after the US invaded. However, bin Laden’s assassination under Obama was something of an official ending of the conflict in the minds of the American public, much in the same way the fall of the Soviet Union made the threat of nuclear war go away.

* * *

On September 11 2001, suicide bombers commandeered four US airliners and piloted three of them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC, killing approximately 2,700 civilians. An analysis of the origins of the terrorists who allegedly perpetrated this act is desirable for the purpose of assigning responsibility for the contemporary state of world affairs, which includes the long and continuing war in Central Asia (now the longest war by U.S. forces in the nation’s history). The record shows that the United States government, under the leadership of both national parties, sowed the seeds of an extremist movement against the West and Western influence Central Asia and the Middle East, the harvest of which has, so far, resulted in the deaths of at least several tens of thousands of people, a more disordered world, and a weakening of individual freedom

Islamic terrorism strikes Manhattan September 11, 2001

In April 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a populist coalition of Khalq (masses or peoples) and Parcham (banner or flag) factions, came to power in the cultural crossroads of Central Asia.[2] In the “Saur Revolution,” an openly communist, mostly urban movement toppled the republican government of Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan. PDPA’s secretary general was Noor Mohammad Taraki of the Khalq faction. As prime minister and president of the revolutionary council, Taraki immediately set out to change Afghanistan, implementing a far reaching program of political, economic, and social reform that included equal rights for women, the elimination of usury, legalization of labor unions, the establishment of a minimum wage, a graduated income tax, and land redistribution.[3] Afghan society was sorely in need of political and economic reform. Under the Daoud government, ninety percent of Afghanistan’s population of eighteen million was illiterate, infant mortality was fifty percent, and life expectancy was forty years. The United Nations ranked the country as one of the five poorest in the world.[4]

Although opponents of Afghan communism claimed that the Soviet Union orchestrated the revolution,[5] the PDPA was an indigenous phenomenon.[6] Indeed, the people’s faction forced the pro-Moscow banner faction out of government within weeks of assuming power.[7] To be sure, PDPA policies were not popular with all Afghans. Dispossessed members of the exploitive classes opposed economic reforms. Mullahs feared socialism’s secular focus and condemned the emphasis on women’s rights. Officials of the Daoud republic, as well as expelled members of the Parcham faction, were bitter over the loss of political power.[8] Nonetheless, there was initially soft opposition to the PDPA program.[9] However, within a year, a myriad of forces had organized PDPA opponents into an aggressive albeit fractious countermovement and disrupted the Taraki government.[10] Prime Minister and Pashtun nationalist figure Hafizullah Amin, likely an agent for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), took advantage of the social disorder and ordered Taraki’s execution in October 1979.[11]

Once in power, President Amin, and his followers, the black Khalq, moved quickly to suppress opposition. Taraki loyalists, the red Khalq, were imprisoned, expelled, or executed.[12] The state apparatus grew repressive and the party stifled the pace of progressive reforms, developments that antagonized both the traditional Islamic communities and the masses.[13] At the close of 1979, remnants of the Taraki government and a resurgent Parchami faction, led by Babrak Karmal, overthrew the Amin regime.[14]

Karmal benefited from considerable assistance from Soviet security and military forces, although the Soviet Union denied playing a significant role in the overthrow of Amin.[15] Evoking the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty of 1978, the Karmal government invited the Soviet Union to Afghanistan to help stabilize its control over the country.[16] On orders from Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet army entered the country in December of 1979.[17] The Soviet Union would occupy Afghanistan for a decade, assisting the PDPA in its ultimately unsuccessful war against determined and well-financed guerrillas.[18]

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States formed an alliance to assist Afghan guerrillas in their efforts to disrupt Soviet occupation, destabilize the PDPA government, and reverse the social and economic gains made by the Afghan people. Pakistan envisioned an international brigade for the campaign and encouraged Saudi Arabia to send a prince to the region to inspire the jihadists, the proponents of armed religious struggle.[19] The Saudi royal family did not commit any sons to religious war, but an international brigade was organized, the mujahideen, with substantial financial support from the ruling class of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi state, as did other Middle Eastern countries, furnished thousands of mercenaries, thereby at least committing the sons of other families to jihad. The United States supplied the mujahideen with money, advanced weapons technology, logistical support, and extremist Islamic and anti-democratic propaganda. Pakistan, acting as a surrogate for the United States, provided the US government with plausible denial in a proxy war against the Soviet Union.[20]

In providing assistance to reactionary forces in the region, the US-Pakistan-Saudi alliance fostered the development of a repressive countermovement in Afghanistan against socialism and Soviet influence, called the Taliban, and organized the global terrorist network al Qaeda. In time, al Qaeda, led by Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, would strike civilian and military targets around the world, including New York City and Washington DC in 2001. At the start of the twenty-first century, US elites would seize these moments, moments that were largely of their own creation, to expand the police state at home and to launch a series of imperialist wars abroad.

* * *

Traditional accounts of United States involvement in Afghanistan record that the United States moved to intervene in Afghanistan in the winter of 1980 when President Jimmy Carter and his foreign policy staff developed a program to aggravate occupying Soviet forces.[21] The usual storytellers rarely depict Washington’s response as particularly confrontational; rather, observers portray the administration as calculating the situation to bog down the communists.[22] However, harassing the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was part of a larger strategy to frustrate Soviet activities in Central Asia—activities Carter speciously characterized as “colonial domination”—that was hardly irresolute.

President Jimmy Carter (right) and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (left)

In his 1980 State of the Union Address, President Carter identified three global developments shaping US foreign policy under his leadership. First, he claimed that there was “steady growth and increased projection of Soviet military power beyond its own borders.” The Soviets were intensifying their confrontation with the West, he asserted. Afghanistan therefore represented a sharpening of communist aggression. Soviet belligerence required the United States to organize an effective counterattack. Second, citing “the overwhelming dependence of the Western democracies on oil supplies from the Middle East,” Carter raised the specter of continued energy shortages if the United States did not move to protect its strategic energy interests. The United States experienced two severe oil shocks in 1973 and 1979, caused in part by OPEC raising prices. The government easily manipulated the American addiction to gasoline and oil to provoke anxiety in the populous. Third, according to Carter, “the press of social and religious and economic and political change in the many nations of the developing world, exemplified by the revolution in Iran,” required U.S. support.[23]

These three developments connected in such a way, he argued, that the United States had to concentrate its energies in the Middle East and Central Asia. The Soviet takeover of Afghanistan, his American audience was led to believe, could very well lead to Soviet control over region and thus command of more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil.[24] The Soviet military was within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean, marching ever closer to the Straits of Hormuz. To soften the pecuniary language of the struggle over vital energy resources, Carter sought to enflame religious passions in the region, claiming that Moslems were “justifiably outraged by this aggression,” which he characterized as belligerence against Islamic people. In their move to “subjugate the fiercely independent and deeply religious people of Afghanistan,” said Carter, the Russians were seeking to cement a strategic location that posed “a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.”

To meet the overwhelming Soviet threat, the White House presented to Congress a detailed containment policy. The Carter Doctrine imposed extensive economic sanctions on Russia and struck a symbolic blow by organizing a boycott of the 1980 Olympics, which Moscow was hosting that year.[25] Citing the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Carter claimed that his comprehensive strategy strengthened peace and strategic alliances in the Middle East, which this United States would achieve in part through a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Carter’s policy reinstated the Selective Service and intensified the massive military buildup already underway. “Our forces must be increased if they are to contain Soviet aggression,” the President said, formally committing the US military to engage any force threatening vital US interests in the Persian Gulf.[26] He recommended tightening controls on intelligence and loosening restraints on agencies that conduct intelligence gathering operations.

The architect of Carter’s Persian Gulf policy was National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. A foreign policy advisor to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations during the 1960s, and the first director of the globalist Trilateral Commission in the 1970s, Brzezinski was a devoted anti-communist. His chief concern was that the implosion of relations between the United States and Iran in January 1979 left the US without a dependable bulwark against Soviet projection into Central Asia.[27] Relations between the two countries had become strained when the US-backed government of the Shah Reza Pahlavi—along with the Israeli-US trained secret police force SAVAK that secured the Shah’s rule—collapsed and was replaced with an Islamic state. Wanting a strongman and a reliable security apparatus in the region, the ability of US cold warriors to shape the history of the region became problematic.[28] Brzezinski initially pushed for military intervention in Iran to restore US hegemony. Carter resisted such a drastic move. (It has been suggested that the Soviets were counting on the United States to invade Iran and give them cover in Afghanistan.[29]) Complicating the situation, Iranian activists, angry over the meddling of the United States in Iranian domestic affairs, and in the thrall of an Islamist movement, stormed the US embassy in November 1979 and took dozens of Americans captive, holding fifty-two of them for 444 days.[30] Iran’s chief Imam, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, refused to demand that the students release the hostages and called for holy war.[31]

A few days after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Brzezinski wrote a memorandum to President Carter in which he asserted that support for the Islamic resistance in Afghanistan was paramount to the interests of the United States. Destabilization of the Afghan government would have to stand in place of a puppet regime in Iran to stem Soviet expansion. (Iran, independently of the United States, aided the mujahideen against the Russians.) Brzezinski urged Carter to send money and arms to the Afghan rebels. Moreover, Brzezinski argued, success depended on bringing other entities into the resistance effort. He suggested coordinating “propaganda” and “covert action” campaigns with willing Muslim countries. The Brzezinski plan offered the bonus of building good will between the United States and Islamic groups. Pakistan was the obvious choice of a forward staging area for operations in Afghanistan, despite the anti-American sentiment prevalent among its people.[32] Brzezinski asked the President to review US Pakistan policy and urge Congress to increase military aid to that country.[33]

Carter’s State of the Union reflected Brzezinski recommendations.  It was announced that the administration had “reconfirmed” the 1959 agreement to help Pakistan preserve its “integrity” and “independence.” The president promised that the US would “take action” if Pakistan were threatened by any outside aggression.” He asked the Congress to “reaffirm this agreement” and announced that he was organizing additional economic and military aid for Pakistan. Belying the “human rights” rhetoric typical of his administration (and especially his post-presidency), Carter made these requests as Pakistan’s military ruler, General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, was moving to enhance state repression and fundamentalist Islamic rule in his own country.[34]

The Carter Doctrine was but the public face of intervention; the White House had in fact pursued destabilization of the PDPA several months before the Soviet invasion. In mid-summer 1979, Carter signed the first directive providing secret aid to the Muslim rebels fighting the PDPA, a presidential finding that permitted the CIA to initiate covert operations.[35] In a memorandum dated July 3, 1979, Brzezinski “warned” Carter that covert US action against the PDPA government would prompt Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Years later, Brzezinski admitted that provoking the Russians was one of the purposes of intervening in Afghanistan.[36] Brzezinski saw an opportunity to weaken the Soviet Union by putting its military in a difficult situation—a situation made more difficult by extensive US involvement.

“According to the official version of history,” Brzezinski recounts in an interview in the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998 that “CIA aid to the Mujahedeen began during 1980.” He notes that this was “after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 December 1979.” The official version of history is a lie. “But the reality,” Brzezinski admits, “secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

Confronted with the overthrow of the Taraki government, almost certainly orchestrated or at least facilitated by the CIA, and a burgeoning anti-democratic countermovement backed by the US government, the Soviet Union did respond in the predicted fashion. The “secret operation,” Brzezinski said, “had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap.” Elated that the Soviet Union fell for the ploy, Brzezinski wrote to Carter: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”[37] The claim that their actions brought about the fall of the Soviet Union is a bit of an exaggeration on Brzezinski’s part. But it is no exaggeration to point out that Carter and Brzezinski played a key role in creating the conditions for United States intervention in Afghanistan by inducing Soviet interference in the region.

Carter era policy, which involved U.S. funding to mujahideen, a fact explicitly denied by journalists such as Peter Bergen, triggered a series of events culminating in the worst terrorist attacks on United States soil. This is not to say that the Islamists did not operate with their own motives. The Islamist desire to resurrect the caliphate and spread it globally exists independent of United States intervention in the Muslim world. However, destabilizing secular regimes and spreading advanced weaponry in these parts of the world, as well as using Islamic terrorists for various strategic goals, have enabled the jihadists to wage significant war against the secular West. To be sure, this threat must be confronted. But an effective response depends on an accurate accounting of this history and moving forward with a different foreign policy and national security model.

* * *

Carter never had a chance to personally pursue his policy further. Mired in a stagnant domestic economy and the continuing Iranian hostage crisis, he was defeated in the 1980 presidential election by former California governor and Barry Goldwater protégé Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s ascent to state power changed the nature of the United States’ external behavior. Under Reagan, the United States was to adopt a more aggressive posture. Like Brzezinski, Reagan was a dedicated anti-communist. Unlike Brzezinski, apocalyptic Christian Zionism informed Reagan’s anti-communism.[38] Reagan’s choice of Vice President, former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman and CIA director George H. W. Bush reinforced his extremism. Bush brought with him close associations with authoritarian figures around the globe. This shift in the ideological character of United States leadership towards ultra-right thinking and practice meant that, while Carter required prodding by hawks to oppose the spread of communism, the Reagan regime would not hesitate to militantly prosecute capitalist encirclement of the socialist world. With providence guiding his regime, Reagan had no compunction about backing authoritarians abroad if those means satisfied the desired end, namely the destruction of worker states and the advancement of corporate power.

Reagan argued that the Soviet Union, guided by expansionist goals articulated in the Brezhnev Doctrine, was increasing its network of communist client states. Administration officials claimed that they could point to several countries that had come under Soviet influence or control within that past decade—Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, Grenada, Laos, Libya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Syria were among the more notable. Several of these countries demonstrated significant insurgent movements. The United States found no shortage of surrounding states eager to act as surrogates for US action in several of these hot spots. Reagan used these arguments to accelerate and enlarge Carter’s military buildup and to deeply involve the United States in conflicts in Angola, Iraq, Iran, Nicaragua, and Cambodia.[39] In 1985, with mounting Iranian military successes against Iraq, and with liberal Democrats in Congress pushing him,[40] Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 166—US Policy, Programs, and Strategy in Afghanistan—authorizing expanded US covert aid to guerrillas in Afghanistan.[41]

CIA Director William Casey (right) with President Reagan (center) and Vice-President Bush (left)

Cambodia, Nicaragua, Iraq, and Angola all involved extensive US intervention into the internal affairs of nations during the 1980s. However, the US adventure in Afghanistan would become the largest covert action program since World War II.[42] United States taxpayers shelled out approximately four billion dollars to contain the Soviet army in Central Asia. The Reagan-Bush policy had moved far beyond Carter and Brzezinski’s original vision of harassment and containment. Led by a quasi-fascist regime, the United States would become engaged in a full-blown proxy war against the Soviet Union in Central Asia.

Reagan’s NSC team included cloak-and-dagger enthusiasts CIA Director William Casey, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and National Security Agency advisors Robert McFarlane and John Poindexter (all figures involved in Bush’s scheme to sell missiles to Iran to finance the contras).[43] With McFarlane annexing the Carter finding, the Reagan NSC directive transformed the goal of the Afghanistan intervention from calculated reaction to determined counterrevolutionary insurgency. The Reagan White House aimed not merely to harass and contain the Soviet Union but to drive the communists out of Afghanistan.[44]

Casey, who managed Reagan’s rise to the power, assumed a direct role in restructuring US intervention in Afghanistan. In October 1984, Casey traveled to a military base south of Islamabad. From there, his guides flew him via helicopter to camps near the Afghan border to observe mujahideen during training exercises. Impressed by what he saw (including the rebels’ skill at bomb making), Casey arranged in 1985 for the CIA to provide the mujahideen with intelligence, including satellite reconnaissance and intercepts of Soviet communications, military operational plans, as well as advanced weapons technology (such as timing and targeting devices for explosives and missiles). Committed to psychological operations, Casey arranged for the distribution of thousands of copies of the Koran and books alleging Soviet atrocities in its southern republics throughout the region.[45] These materials were used in madrasas in Pakistan to indoctrinate a generation of jihadists.

Unlike the infamous Contra operations in Nicaragua, which were defunded and banned by the United States Congress, Casey convinced Congress to fully fund the CIA Afghan program.[46] By 1987, observers estimate that the annual flow of weapons into Afghanistan was around 65,000 tons. Shipments included Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and other sophisticated weaponry.[47] The US distributed aid through various pipelines, including Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).[48] The Saudis matched US financial contributions, which were funneled directly through the ISI.[49] After the Soviet Union withdrew in early 1989, the Bush administration continued to pour weapons into Afghanistan. The CIA-ISI coalition sustained the authoritarian mentality with copies of extremist-nationalist Islamic tracts, as well as children’s textbooks showing mujahideen killing Soviet soldiers.[50]

By the mid-1980s, the United States was deeply involved in the internal dynamics of Afghanistan, supporting Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.[51] Hekmatyar became a spokesman for the mujahideen and was regularly consulted by the Western media to provide the Afghan worldview. Washington’s courting of Hekmatyar proved at points unwise. Although it did not seem to trouble the White House that Hekmatyar’s followers threw acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil, it must have bothered Reagan and Bush that Hekmatyar developed close ties with Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, especially that he appeared to spend as much time fomenting internecine warfare among mujahideen factions as he did conducting war against the Soviets.[52]

In addition to aid from various state entities and wealthy contributors, the CIA and the ISI used profits from the Central Asia opium trade to supplement their operations funds. During the 1970s, most of the heroin entering the United States came from the Golden Triangle region in Southeast Asia (Burma-Thailand-Laos). Before US involvement, poppy production was limited and heroin use was rare in the Gold Crescent region in Central Asia (Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran). When the CIA shifted operations to Central Asia in the 1980s, Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan became major heroin producers.[53] The General Accounting Office estimated that by 1986 forty percent of the heroin in the United States was originating in the Golden Crescent. Some sources estimated that as much as 80 percent of heroin originated in the region.[54] The CIA arms and supplies pipeline from Karachi, Pakistan to points in Afghanistan served as the return path to Karachi and out to points in North America and Europe.[55] The mujahideen managed the poppy trade in those areas they controlled (frequently battling to determine who would control key trade routes).[56] Once known as the silk route that connected cultures to the East and West, Afghanistan became known as the opium trail.

Reaganites displayed particular affection for a band of guerrillas known as the “Afghans.” The Afghans were not Afghan natives but extremist Muslims from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern and North African countries. Just as he referred to the Contra death squads in Nicaragua as the Central American equivalent of the US “founding fathers,” Reagan bestowed upon the Afghans the honor of “freedom fighters.” The Afghans did not disappoint. They were every bit the merciless butchers that the Contra rebels were.

During this period, the Afghans were affiliated with Hekmatyar and the Hezb-e-Islami. Osama bin Laden, a businessman from a wealthy Saudi Arabian family closely associated with the Saudi royal clan, led the Afghans. Osama arrived in Peshawar in the mid-1980s to head the Maktab al-Khidamat (or MAK), a front organization funneling US weapons and supplies to the mujahideen.[57] Osama’s duties included raising money and soldiers for the war effort. He used his connections with Saudi elites to generate funds. He used his gift for channeling anti-Western and anti-communist hatred to mobilize young Muslim men for jihad. Bin Laden’s star rose rapidly under CIA-ISI tutelage and he soon commanded an army of several thousand Islamic fighters. Saudi Arabia had sent something of a prince after all. In the crucible of the Afghan war, Osama would raise up al Qaeda (Arabic for “The Base”), claimed by Washington to be the largest terrorist network in the world. The U.S. extensively funded bin Laden’s activities, even assisting in the construction of terrorist training camps.

Alliance-organized insurgency, especially after the US distanced itself from Hekmatyar, set the stage for the ascendancy of the Pashtun Taliban, Islamic reactionaries led by religious cleric Mullah Mohammed Omar. Many Taliban were trained in Pakistani-funded madrasas where clerics preached Deobandism, a species of Islam originating in Deoband, India in the nineteenth century as a reaction to British imperialism. Couched in the rhetoric of negation, Deobandism opposes a narrowly interpreted Islamic orthodoxy to Western modernity. Pakistan organized camps for the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province (ironically, the home of the non-violence Muslim leader Badshah Khan).[58]

After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the long civil war that followed, the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996. The Taliban was formally recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in 1997. Keeping their options open, the US was reluctant to legitimate the Taliban. Nevertheless, Washington continued to work closely with the group. When the US shifted loyalties from the Hezb-e-Islami to the Taliban, so too did bin Laden. Al Qaeda would align with the Taliban with the Kabul takeover and bin Laden would become Omar’s “honored guest.” The Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan until its demise in late 2001 at the hands of the US military—having fallen out of favor with Washington—and the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban factions of the mujahideen.[59]

During its reign, the Taliban rigidly regulated Afghan society, forcing women out of the public sphere and imposing strict Shari’a, including Hadd offenses and the establishment of muhtasib (vice and virtue enforcers). Rule-breakers were publicly dismembered and soccer fields became gallows. The Taliban sought to wipe out Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage, going so far as to blow up the Bamiyan Buddhas.

The progress Afghan society had made under the PDPA was reversed. By the time of the Taliban’s collapse, roughly seventy percent of men and eighty-five percent of women could neither read nor write, one-quarter of Afghan children died before the age of five, the average Afghan could expect to live to be forty years of age, infant and maternal morality were the second-highest in the world, and only twelve percent of the population had access to safe drinking water.[60]

* * *

United States interest in gas and oil in Central Asia became clear with the pullout of the Russian military from Afghanistan in 1989 and the sudden collapse of the Soviet system in 1991. By 1992, mostly US-based companies, Amoco, ARCO, British Petroleum, Exxon-Mobil, Pennzoil, Phillips, TexacoChevron, and Unocal, controlled half of all gas and oil investments in the Caspian region. The industry acquired several high profile political figures to advise company operations in the region. Former NSA under President Carter Zbigniew Brzezinski was a consultant for Amoco. Bush’s vice-president Cheney advised Halliburton. Former Secretary of State under presidents Nixon and Ford, Henry Kissinger, and former State Department counterterrorism official, Robert Oakley, were consultants for Unocal. NSA under Bush Junior, Rice served on the board of TexacoChevron. The industry sought to develop the “Stans” (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), with their some ten trillion cubic meters of gas and 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, permitting the west to undermine the hegemony of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).

Within less than five years of the fall of the Soviet Union, Unocal, in association with Delta Oil (Saudi Arabia), Gazprom (Russia), and Turkmenrozgas (Turkey), began negotiating with various Afghan factions to secure the right to construct a trans-Afghan pipeline to move fossil fuels from the Caspian Sea basin to the Arabian Sea. Outside of the Middle East, the Caspian Sea region contains the largest proven natural gas and oil reserves in the world (Central Asia has almost 40 percent of the world’s gas reserves and 6 percent of its oil reserves). The United States sought not only to secure these reserves for its increasing energy appetite, but also saw as imperative control over transport, as this permitted control over prices. The desired routes: through Turkey to the Mediterranean and through Afghanistan to Pakistan, thus bypassing routes through Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Rerouting oil and gas through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan would enhance US energy security while simultaneously undercutting Russian and Iranian political and economic influence in Central Asia. Installing an authoritarian government in Afghanistan compliant to US interests became a necessary step towards securing conditions for the further development of exploitable energy sources in Central Asia.

The Unocal consortium, CentGas, was forced to compete with the Argentinean gas company Bridas, which had explored sites in Turkmenistan in the early 1990s and negotiated a deal securing, among other sites, the Yashlar block, with an estimated stock of nearly one trillion cubic meters of gas, lying near the border of Afghanistan. In 1995, Bridas secured a contract to build a pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan pending successful negotiations with Afghanistan. All seemed well when Bridas struck a deal with the Rabbani government, which had come to power in Afghanistan in April 1992 after the fall of the Najibullah regime. United States ally Hekmatyar and the Hezb-I-Islami joined with the Jamiat-I-Islami party, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, to form the new government. However, in 1994, the Taliban mysteriously emerged, its ranks drawn from Islamic schools in Pakistan, and began taking cities and territories in Afghanistan. By the fall of 1996, the Taliban had toppled the Rabbani government and undermined Bridas’ bid to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Not coincidentally, CentGas emerged as the frontrunner to build the pipeline across the country.

Unocal worked closely with the Taliban in developing plans for the pipeline. In 1997, Unocal met with Taliban leaders to “educate them about the benefits such a pipeline would bring this desperately poor and war-torn country.” However, Unocal withdrew from the consortium in December 1998 after suspending involvement in August of that year. A 21 August 1998 Unocal statement cited “sharply deteriorating political conditions in the region” and the reluctance of the United States and the United Nations to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan as reasons for pulling out. Unocal denied their association with the Taliban in the days following 9-11. In a press release dated 14 September 2001 Unocal averred, “The company is not supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan in any way whatsoever. Nor do we have any project or involvement in Afghanistan.” However, after the United States invaded Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban regime, and emplaced an interim government, oil companies and interim ruler Hamid Karzai and Mohammad Alim Razim, minister for Mines and Industries, restarted the pipeline project talks in the spring 2002. Razim stated that Unocal was the frontrunner to obtain contracts to build the pipeline and that the pipeline is to be built with funds from the reconstruction of Afghanistan, funds supplied by the United States taxpayer.

Crucial to these negotiations is the presence of US envoy to Kabul, Afghanistan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, formerly a lobbyist for the Taliban and oil companies. As special envoy, he ostensibly reports to Secretary of State Colin Powell. However, as a National Security Council (NSC) official and Special Assistant to the President for Southwest Asia, Near East and North Africa, he reports to NSC chief Condoleezza Rice. Khalilzad has a long history working in Republican governments. He headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Department of Defense. He served as Counselor to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Under George Bush Senior, Khalilzad served as Assistant Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning. He served under Reagan from 1985 to 1989 at the Department of State, where he advised the White House on the Iran-Iraq War and the Soviet War in Afghanistan.

In 1997, as a consultant to Unocal, Khalilzad worked closely with the Taliban in negotiations for establishing oil and gas pipelines through Afghanistan. Khalilzad defended the Taliban in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, writing, “The recent victory by the Taliban, a traditional orthodox Islamic group, can put Afghanistan on a path toward peace or signal continuing war and even its end as a single entity.” In praising the mujahideen (for whom he raised money for as executive director of the Friends of Afghanistan), he parroted a line from his colleague at Columbia University Brzezinski, claiming that the mujahideen “not only forced the Soviets to withdraw but also played a role in the demise of the Soviet Union itself.” However, the instability in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal “has been a source of regional instability and an obstacle to building pipelines to bring Central Asian oil and gas to Pakistan and the world markets.” Downplaying the brutality of the Taliban, he contended that it “does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran—it is closer to the Saudi model. The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.” As risk analyst for Cambridge Energy Research Associates in the mid-1990s, Khalilzad personally entertained a Taliban delegation to Sugarland, Texas in 1997.

In August 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed and Khalilzad promptly changed his position on the Taliban. In an article published in The Washington Quarterly (winter 2000), Khalilzad presented what would become key elements of the Bush policy on Afghanistan. He wrote that administration officials under Clinton in 1994 and 1995 underestimated “the threat [the Taliban] posed to regional stability and US interests.” He noted that Afghanistan’s importance “may grow in the coming years, as Central Asia’s oil and gas reserves, which are estimated to rival those of the North Sea, begin to play a major role in the world energy market.” Afghanistan would serve as a “corridor for this energy.” He impressed the Bush administration, becoming an advisor to the president, and enjoying appointment to the NSC. The United States has indeed established a military presence throughout the Caspian Sea region. The trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline currently being negotiated will stretch 1,650 kilometers.

For documentation for this section, see my article (coauthored with Laurel Phoenix) “The neoconservative assault on the Earth: The Environmental Imperialism of the Bush Administration,” published in Capitalism Nature Socialism May 23 2006. In that article this history is expanded and brought up to date in the context of the Bush administration’s neoconservative policy.  

* * *

US support for Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan lost much of its raison d’être with two occurrences. First, the Soviet Union’s sudden collapse in 1991 following a failed military coup ended the Cold War. Without a clear geopolitical rationale for involvement in Afghanistan, the US Congress no longer had a reason to throw money at the project. Second, the Taliban became uncooperative in the trans-Afghan project, now led by energy giant Enron (with substantial interests held by Halliburton). The pipeline deal collapsed in August 2001.[61]

The Soviet Union paid a heavy price for its involvement in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. The official state count of Soviet soldiers killed in the period 1979-89 is 13,833.  Western and alternative Soviet estimates put the number closer to 40,000.[62] The Afghan people suffered a much worse fate. Close to half a million people were killed in Afghanistan in the period 1979-89. Between 1989 and the mid-1990s, after years of fighting among Afghan factions, approximately 50,000 more Afghans were killed. Some estimates put the Afghan death toll for the period 1979-2001 at two million. Millions more Afghans became refugees, fleeing into Pakistan and Iran. Those who remained behind were subjected to the brutal order of the Taliban. The United States paid a heavy price, as well. On September 9, 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance was assassinated by two men posing at reporters. Two days later, suicide bombers commandeered four US airliners and piloted three of them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC, killing approximately 2,700 civilians. The hijackers had trained at al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden and his inner circle had orchestrated the plan.

The attack was not unexpected. Prior to 9-11, bin Laden had been involved in several terrorists attacks. His organization was behind the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen on October 12, 2000 that left 17 sailors dead.[63] On August 7, 1998, al Qaeda bombed US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 263 people and injuring more than 5,000. On June 25, 1996, al Qaeda bombed the Khobar military complex near Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US soldiers. The October 3-4, 1993 gunfight in Somalia that left 18 US soldiers dead and 84 wounded was the work of al Qaeda sponsored fighters. And the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed 6 people and injured more than 1000, was in part organized by al Qaeda. Reagan and Bush’s favorite Islamic warrior had—long before 9-11—turned violently against his benefactors.

Bin Laden loathed the United States for its military, economic, and political support for Israel and its incessant intrusions into the Islamic world, a fact that could not have escaped CIA agents working with the Afghans. In the habit of playing with fire, US intelligence understood that Osama was strategically using America’s wealth and anticommunist obsession to further his objectives in the region. With the Soviet Union dissolving, and the United States inflicting more insult and injury on the Muslim world by sending troops into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and then attacking Iraq in 1991, it was inevitable that Osama would cast his ruthless gaze upon America. As the decade advanced, bin Laden and associates moved ever more central to the network of forces making asymmetrical war on the West, a war that had continued after his assassination by US forces under Obama.

* * *

A conjuncture of events moved the United States to groom Afghanistan to become a US client state. The fall of a pro-Western Iranian government, the overthrow of peripheral capitalism in Afghanistan, and the institution of a pro-socialist government in the Golden Crescent, signaled to the US that its hegemony in the region was faltering. After the Soviets occupied Afghanistan in 1979, the United States’ desire to shape Afghanistan’s future became justifiable as aggressive containment of Soviet expansionism.[64] The proxy war in Afghanistan falls within the logic of capitalist encirclement of the Socialist world system, a project that, however immoral and anti-democratic, had the support of much of the American electorate.

Although all parties involved in the conflict are responsible for death and displacement, these outcomes would have been unlikely had the United States not pursued a program of destabilization and insurgency in the region. The United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, are substantially responsible for the rise of extremist Islam and the brutal rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as the creation of a global terrorist network that put millions of human beings in harm’s way. To achieve long-term control over Afghanistan, the Pakistan-Saudi-US alliance cultivated an extremist countermovement of anti-democratic Muslim factions to assume the reigns of the state after the expulsion of the Soviet military and the fall of socialism. The alliance shaped the discontent and frustration of traditionalists into a permanent offensive weapon against socialism. Once socialism was defeated, this weapon turned its wrath upon the United States.

By assisting in the development of al Qaeda and the Taliban against the backdrop of decades of imperialism in the Middle East and Central Asia, the United States government helped prepare the stage for 9-11.[65] However much wealth bin Laden inherited or could amass, it is unlikely that he could have developed the capacity to attack US interests around the world had the Reagan-Bush regime not paid for his terror network and provided al Qaeda with a base of operations in Afghanistan. However, while a narrative has emerged on the left that it is doubtful that bin Laden would have been motivated to carry out attacks against US targets had the United States not for decades violently shaped the Middle East and Central Asia to its material and ideological benefit (an interpretation I shared when I started this research), one must not forget the affirmative motive Islamists seek in reestablishing the Caliphate. The motive for crime must not be reduced to means and opportunity.


[1]  Peter Bergen, “Five Myths about Osama bin Laden, “The Washington Post, May 6, 2011.

[2]  “Afghanistan rebels say president killed in coup,” The Washington Post, April 29 (1978), A20. “The funeral that turned into a bloody bath,” The Economist, May 6 (1978), 67. Angus Deming, “Kabul’s bloody coup,” Newsweek, May 8 (1978), 55. “Meaning of the latest coup in Afghanistan,” US News & World Report, May 15 (1978), 35.

[3]  Henry S. Bradsher, “Afghanistan,” The Washington Quarterly7 (3, 1984): 42. William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Common Courage Press, 1995).

[4]  Robin Knight, “Afghanistan’s shaky venture into Marxism,” US News & World Report, December 11 (1978), 55. Jonathan C. Randal, “Tensions in revolutionary Afghanistan,” The Washington Post, November 7 (1978), A17. Randal, “Marxists set new course for backward Afghanistan,” The Washington Post, November 23 (1978), E13.

[5]  Angus Deming and Barry Came, “After Kabul’s coup,” Newsweek, May 15 (1978), 39. Thomas W. Lippman, “Leftist Afghan Regime Seen Trying to Obscure Soviet Tie,” The Washington Post, February 23 (1979), A21.

[6]  John Ryan, “Afghanistan: A forgotten chapter,” Canadian Dimension, June (2001), 35.

[7]  “Afghanistan: Taraki turns on his king-makers,” The Economist, August 26 (1978), 48. Bill Roeder, “Purge in Afghanistan,” Newsweek, September 4 (1978), 14. Stephen Webbe, “Afghan war: Do we share the blame?” Christian Science Monitor, January 24 (1980), B1. Afghan did, however, sign a cooperation treaty with the Soviet Union. Kevin Klose, “Soviets Sign Treaty With Afghanistan; Kabul’s New Rulers,”The Washington Post, December 6 (1978), A17.

[8]  “Afghanistan: Next stop, Kabul,” The Economist, February 17 (1979), 65. Jonathan C. Randal, “Tensions in revolutionary Afghanistan,” The Washington Post November 7 (1978), A17. Carol Honsa, “Three years of Marxism haven’t stopped Afghan rebels,” Christian Science Monitor, April 29 (1981), 7.

[9]  “Iran and Afghanistan,” The EconomistMay 13 (1978), 70. Kevin Klose, “Soviet Moslem areas show little interest in Islamic revolt,” The Washington Post, December 5 (1979), A20.

[10]“Another holy war,” The Economist, March 24 (1979), 65. “Afghanistan’s Islamic revolt,” Newsweek, April 2 (1979), 47. Stuart Auerbach, “Moslem Rebels Battle Afghan Troops in Remote Region,” The Washington Post, March 22 (1979), A21. The various groups involved included Sayed Ahmad Gailani’s National Islamic Front of Afghanistan; Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; Yunus Khalis Paiman-i-Ittehadi Islami (Unity of Islamic Forces), an alliance that included Sibghatullah Mujaddidi’s National Liberation Front of Afghanistan; Jamiat-e-Islami party, led by Burhaniddin Rabanni; Mohammed Nabi Mohammedi’s Harakeli Iniqilab Islami Party (Movement for the Islamic Revolution), and New Afghanistan Union National Islamic party, whose main goal is to re-enthrone King Zahir Shah. The Saudis generously bribed these groups in order to fashion an alliance among them. However, journalists visiting the region reported disorganization about the opposition. “Deep in an Afghan cave,” The Economist, February 2 (1980), 52. Edward Giradet, “With Afghan rebels: Ready, willing—able? US News & World Report, February 18 (1980), 38. Among the most determined of these groups was the Islamic fundamentalist Ikhwanis (named after the Egyptian Ikhwan al-Muslimeen).

[11]Amin, the strong man of the Taraki government, had been positioning himself to assume the reigns of power. Stuart Auerbach, “Afghanistan President Quits As Moslem Rebellion Grows; Afghan President Quits as Rebels Gain,” The Washington Post, September 17 (1979), A1. “Afghanistan: Shoot-out in the Kabul corral,” The Economist, September 22 (1979), 60.

[12]Stuart Auerbach, “Foes ‘Eliminated,’ Afghan leader says,” The Washington Post, September 18 (1979), A11.

[13]James Pringle, “Kabul under siege,” Newsweek, September 24 (1979), 62. “Amin punches his point home,” The Economist, November 17 (1979), 68.

[14]Fay Willey, Loren Jenkins, and Kim Willenson, “Russia’s own quagmire,” Newsweek, Sol W. Sanders, “The Soviet Union’s persistent push to the Indian Ocean,” August 6 (1979), 33. Business Week, July 30 (1979), 42. Stuart Auerbach, “Afghan president is toppled in coup: Soviet troops reportedly involved in Kabul fighting,” The Washington Post, December 28 (1979), A1. “The Russians reach the Khyber Pass,” The Economist, January 5 (1980), 25. Jerry Adler, “Moscow’s man in Kabul,” Newsweek, January 7 (1980), 22.

[15]The Washington Post, December 31, 1979, Monday, Final Edition, First Section; A9, 813 words, Soviet Union Denies Involvement in Coup in Afghanistan, By Kevin Klose, Washington Post, Dec. 30, 1979.

[16]“Afghanistan: When Russia signs, look for trouble,” The Economist, January 13 (1979), 50. Kevin Klose, “Moscow justifies actions in Kabul on basis of pact,” The Washington Post, December 29 (1979), A1.

[17]Don Oberdorfer, “U.S. envoy sent to consult Allies on Afghan issue: Carter hits Soviets on Afghan action,” The Washington Post, December 29 (1979), A1.

[18]Edward Girardet, “Divided Afghan tribesmen pull together to oust Soviets,” Christian Science Monitor, May 9 (1980), 5

[19]David Hirst, “Divided Muslim peoples yearn for a new Saladin,” The Guardian, December 12 (1992), 13. Pakistan also had (and continues to have) ambitions in Kashmir and Jammu. Pakistan currently controls approximately one-third of the disputed territory, which they call Azad Kashmir. India holds roughly two-thirds of Jammu and Kashmir. Although anti-Soviet operations were in Pakistan’s interests—as Pakistani elites saw things—the government made their cooperation with US anti-communist goals contingent upon extensive economic and military support from the United States. Stuart Auerbach, “Pakistan ties arms aid to economic assistance: Pakistan details economic, military aid needs,” The Washington Post, January 14 (1980), A1.

[20]Sol W. Sanders, “Pakistan’s new buffer role against the Soviets,” Business Week, August 21 (1978), 48.

[21]Jay Mathews, “Sino-U.S. accord seen on reaction to Soviets: China to receive satellite station, The Washington Post, January 9 (1980), A1. “China—the arms factor,” Christian Science Monitor, January 11 (1980), 24.

[22]Tony Clifton, “Russia’s Vietnam?” Newsweek, June 11 (1979), 67.

[23]For this and other presidential speeches, see Source Documents in US History, on-line at Duke University Libraries,

[24]Daniel Sutherland, “Washington toughens stance with ‘realistic’ views of Soviet aims,” Christian Science Monitor, January 7 (1980), 1. “Afghanistan takeover—Why Russians acted,” US News & World Report, January 14 (1980), 22. Sol W. Sanders, “Moscow’s next target in its march southward,” Business Week, January 21 (1980), 51.

[25]Edward Walsh and Don Oberdorfer, “U.S. to Withhold Grain From Soviets, Curtail Technological, Diplomatic Ties,” The Washington Post, January 5 (1980), A1. Ronald Koven, “U.S. Rebuffed by France,” The Washington Post, January 7 (1980), A1.

[26]George C. Wilson, “Carter is converted to a big spender on defense projects,” The Washington Post, January 29 (1980), A16.

[27]William Branigin, “Soviets gain from U.S. setback in Iran,” The Washington Post, May 23 (1979), A16.

[28]James Rupert, “Iran undermining anti-Soviet battle Afghan rebels say,” The Toronto Star, October 22 (1986), A12.

[29]Charles Fenyvesi, “Carter’s ‘double-cross’ on Afghanistan: When the Russians invaded Afghanistan, they were counting on us to attack Iran,” The Washington Post, April 12 (1981), D1.

[30]John M. Goshko and J. P. Smith, “Bazargan government resigns in Iran,” The Washington Post, November 7 (1979), A11.

[31]“Iran amok ochlotheocracy takes over,” The Economist, November 10 (1979), 15. “Start of a holy war against ‘infidel’ America?” U.S. News & World Report, December 3, (1979), 11.

[32]“Start of a holy war.”

[33]Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Reflections on Soviet intervention in Afghanistan,” Memo to President Jimmy Carter, December 26, 1979.

[34]Stuart Auerbach, “Pakistan moves toward Islamic authoritarianism,” The Washington Post, October 21 (1979), A1.

[35]Steve Coll, “Anatomy of a victory: CIA’s covert Afghan war,” The Washington Post, July 19 (1992), A1.

[36]In his view, the “Soviet Vietnam” was the “conflict that brought about the demoralization and…the breakup of the Soviet empire.” Quoted in “How Jimmy Carter and I started the Mujahideen: Interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski,” Le Nouvel Observateur, Jan 15-21 (1998), 76. These quotes are from a translation by William Blum and David N. Gibbs. See Gibbs, “Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Retrospect,” International Politics37 (2000):2: 233-246.

[37]Asked to reflect on the consequences of fueling the extremist Islamic movement, Brzezinski responded, “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?” It would be interesting to know if Brzezinski expresses the same opinion in the aftermath of 9-11 and two devastating wars.

[38]Among these were the authoritarian World Anti-Communist League (WACL) and racist ideologues such as Roger Pearson. Pearson is the author of Eugenics and Race. In the late seventies, Pearson was the editor for Policy Review, a publication of the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank largely responsible for Reagan’s policies. See Russ Bellant, Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party(South End Press, 1991).

[39]Richard Burt, “Moscow’s arms buildup a major issue for Reagan,” The New York Times, December 7 (1980), A1. “Richard Perle: The Pentagon’s powerful hardline on Soviet policy,” Business Week, May 21 (1984), 130.

[40]“Eloise Salholz, “Congressional liberals call for Afghan arms,” Newsweek, July 2 (1984), 17.

[41]Gregory R. Copley, “Pakistan’s great era of challenge,” Defense & Foreign Affairs, February (1985), 8. William J. Holstein, Shahid ur-Rehman, Mark D’Anastasio, and Boyd France, “Gorbachev raises the ante in Afghanistan,” Business Week, May 20 (1985), 83.

[42]Coll, “CIA’s covert Afghan war.”

[43]“The CIA becomes central again,” The Economist, April 28 (1984), 37. Robert S. Dudney and Orr Kelly, “Inside CIA: What’s really going on?” U.S. News & World Report, June 25 (1984), 27. Philip Taubman, “Casey and his CIA on the rebound,” The New York Times, January 16 (1983), 20. Joseph Lelyveld, “The Director: Running the CIA,” The New York Times, January 20 (1985), 16.

[44]Coll, “CIA’s covert Afghan war.”

[45]Coll, “CIA’s covert Afghan war.”

[46]Mary Anne Waver, “Arming Afghans: A tortuous task,” Christian Science Monitor, March 18 (1985), 1. Edward Girardet, “Arming Afghan guerrillas: Perils, secrecy,” Christian Science Monitor, November 20 (1984), 15.

[47]Weapons came from several sources, primarily the United States, Great Britain, and China. Michael Getler, “U.S. stingers boost Afghan rebels’ performance and morale,” The Washington Post, October 14 (1987), A21. Peter Grier, “Reagan’s plan to give small missiles to rebels sparks security concerns,” Christian Science MonitorApril 2 (1986), 1. Robin Wright and John M. Broder, “CIA seeks return of stingers: Action a response to fears of attack,” The Houston Chronicle, July 24 (1993), A16. The CIA’s missile recovery project amounted to a buy back program that cost the US taxpayer’s millions of dollars.

[48]Hamid Hussain, “Lengthening shadows: The spy agencies of Pakistan,” CovertAction Quarterly73 (3, 2000), 18-22.

[49]Coll, “CIA’s Covert Afghan War.”

[50]Blum, Killing Hope.

[51]William Branigin, “Feuding guerrilla groups rely on uneasy Pakistan,” The Washington Post, October 22 (1983), A1. Edward Girardet, “Radical Afghan group undercuts resistance efforts,” Christian Science Monitor, December 30 (1987), 1. George Arney, “the heroes with tarnished haloes: The ruthless and murderous conflicts of Afghanistan’s other war,” The Guardian, January 5 (1988). Michael Hamlyn, “Mujahidin leaders vows to fights for Islamic state,” The Times, February 25 (1988).

[52]Tim Weiner, Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget (Warner Books, 1990). After Pakistan and the US switched loyalties from Hezb-e-Islami to the Taliban and the Taliban came to power, Hekmatyar fled to Tehran. Hekmatyar was briefly prime minister after the collapse of the Soviet occupation, but he could never conquer Kabul. See also Weiner, “Afghan camps, hidden in hills, stymied Soviet attacks for years,” The New York TimesAugust 24 (1998), A1.

[53]Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade(Lawrence Hill, 1972). David K. Willis, “Hunting down the drug smugglers,” Christian Science Monitor, December 21 (1983), 16. Associated Press, “Drug smuggling ring broken in Afghanistan,” The Toronto Star, December 29 (1986), A19. James Davis, “CIA hunt for the missing stingers,” The Times (India), March 19 (1989).

[54]Jack R. Payton, “Pakistan cost be a future Iran,” St. Petersburg Times, April 19 (1987), D1.

[55]Christina Lamb, “BCCI linked to heroin trade: Pakistan denies ‘black operations’ but hints at CIA link,” Financial Times, July 25 (1991), I1. Steve Coll, “Pakistan’s illicit economies affect BCCI: Bank shaped by environment of corruption and illegal trade in weapons, drugs,” The Washington Post, September 1 (1991), A39.

[56]Elaine Sciolino and Stephen Engelberg, “Fighting narcotics: U.S. is urged to shift tactics,” The New York Times, April 10 (1988), 1. Christina Lamb, “Bhutto sets sights on drugs barons,” Financial Times, June 6 (1989), I6. Ahmed Rashid, “Mujahedin expands killing zone,” The Independent, September 4 (1989).

[57]Vernon Loeb, “A global pan-Islamic network: Terrorism entrepreneur unifies groups financially, politically,” The Washington Post, August 23 (1998), A01. Scott Baldauf and Faye Bowers, “Origins of bin Laden network,” Christian Science Monitor, September 14 (2001), 6. Kevin Flynn and Lou Kilzer, “A close-up look at terrorist leader,” Rocky Mountain News, September 15 (2001), A16.

[58]Kushanava Choudhury, “Idiocy Armed With A Loaded Gun,” The Statesman, March 14, (2001). Choudhury, “Looking into the heart of darkness,” The Statesman, March 18 (2001). Jack Kelley, “US takes on war-hardened Taliban it helped create,” USA Today, September 21 (2001), 1A.

[59]Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia(Yale University Press, 2000).

[60]“Inside the Taliban US helped cultivate the repressive regime sheltering bin Laden,” The Seattle Times, September 19 (2001), A3.

[61]John Loftus.

[62]Edward Epstein, “World insider,” The San Francisco Chronicle, December 6 (1989), A23.

[63]These crimes were probably in association with Ayman al-Zawahiri and Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

[64]Blum, Killing Hope.

[65]As Hussain put it in “Lengthening Shadows,” “intelligence agencies (Mossad in the case of Hamas, CIA in the case of the Taliban) have found to their grief that patronizing the reactionary forces is a dangerous game,” p. 22.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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