Part I of this series began describing the relationship between the United State and its regional allies and the extremist Islamic groups that goes back to the late 1970s. In the present article, Part II of a five-part series, we describe how Islamic jihadist groups were funded, trained and armed by the U.S. and its allies to fight the Soviet Union that had invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979. Although the goal of defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was achieved, the guns that had been provided to the Islamic groups were eventually turned against other countries in the region, most notably Saudi Arabia.
Osama Bin Laden was a close friend of Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was chief of Saudi Arabia's intelligence services from 1977 - 2001, and his chief of staff, Ahmed Badeeb. Years later Turki claimed bin Laden was not a professional Saudi intelligence operator, and that he met bin Laden several times in Saudi embassy in Pakistan, but that they were only passing encounters with no consequences. But Badeeb has described "an active, operational partnership between GID [the Saudi intelligence service] and bin Laden." He was not a paid agent, because he was wealthy man. In his book [p. 87] Coll quotes Badeeb saying, "I loved Osama and considered him a good citizen of Saudi Arabia."
When the war began in Afghanistan, the ISI asked Prince Turki to send a member of the Saudi royal family to Pakistan to head the secret war in Afghanistan. The funds for the religious schools in Pakistan - the madrasahs - were being provided by Saudi Arabia, and Wahhabism was being taught by them. Turki did not send a royal member, but dispatched instead bin Laden. He arrived there just when Brzezinski, turban on head, was there, greeting him and telling him, "Allah is on your side."
During this period bin Laden met regularly with senior Saudi officials, including Turki and Prince Naif, the Minister of Interior who "liked and appreciated him [bin Laden]," according to Baddeb. Bin Laden was shuttling back and forth between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and "developed strong relations with the Saudi intelligence and with our [Saudi Arabia's] embassy in Pakistan," Coll reported Badeeb saying in his book [p. 88]. "We were happy with him [bin Laden]. He was our man. He was doing all what we ask him," Badeeb has said.
But, most interestingly, the United States and the CIA did not really have an intricate plan for the war, other than wishing to kill as many Soviets as possible at all cost, without apparently thinking about the aftermath of the war. As Coll writes [p. 55], Howard Hart, the CIA's chief of station in Islamabad from 1981-1986, understood that his orders from CIA were, "You're a young man; here's your bag of money [to recruit spies and fighters], go raise hell. Don't fuck it up, just go out there and kill Soviets, and take care of the Pakistanis and make them do whatever you need to make them do." Coll also writes that [p. 173] Milton Bearden, CIA's chief of station in Islamabad from 1986-1989, said years later, "Did we really give a shit about the long-term future of Nangarhar [a province in eastern Afghanistan]? May be not. As it turned out, guess what? We didn't." This lack of vision, other than killing, would of course come back to hurt the United States.
Up until 1989, when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, the CIA still had a positive view of bin Laden, viewing him as a wealthy Saudi Arabian who had fought with the Soviets in Afghanistan and had defeated them, and who must be greeted as a hero upon his return to Saudi Arabia. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee that made those decisions, was reported saying that he would make the same call again today, even knowing what bin Laden would do subsequently. "It was worth it," he said, adding, "Those were very important, pivotal matters that played an important role in the downfall of the Soviet Union."
Bin Laden was a civil engineer and a member of a wealthy Saudi family, which was not, however, a part of the Saudi royal family. He recruited 4000 Saudi citizens and took them to Afghanistan. Altogether, 100,000 fighters were recruited and taken to Afghanistan, who were funded, armed and trained by CIA and Saudi Arabia. The high level of civilian casualties that the war would certainly entail was considered by the Carter administration, but was set aside. One senior official of the Carter administration said, "The question here was whether it was morally acceptable that, in order to keep the Soviets off balance, which was the reason for the operation, it was permissible to use other lives for our geopolitical interests." Representative Charles Wilson, a Texas Democrat, said that Carter's CIA directorStansfield Turner said, "I decided I could live with that [high civilian casualties]."
But, the United States did not stop there. Meeting in 1985 with the Mujahideen leaders at the White House, Ronald Reagan referred to them as the "moral equivalent of America's Founding Fathers." Think about it for a moment: Bin Laden and other hardline Muslim fundamentalists and leaders of the Mujahideen, such asGulbuddinHekmatyar and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, were moral equivalent of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other founding fathers. In the same meeting with the Jihadists, Reagan said, "We have here six Afghanistan freedom fighters. There is a man here whose wife was killed in front of his two children. Another one [is here] who lost his brother in a town, village, in which 105 people were massacred. One lost a brother who was the mayor of that village. They are here to tell the outside world, the free world, what is really going on in Afghanistan." Earlier in 1982, Reagan had dedicated the space shuttle Colombia to what he called freedom fighters in Afghanistan. "This is Colombia lifting, representing man's finest aspirations in the field of science and technology, so too the struggle of the Afghan people represents man's highest aspirations for freedom. I am dedicating on behalf of the American people the March 22 of Colombia to the people of Afghanistan," he said.
Reagan was one of the most popular American presidents. It was through the use of such popularity and the CIA-Saudi Arabia-Pakistan axis that al-Qaeda andTaliban were born and grew. Many years later, in 1998, the same forces attacked the U.S.Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Clinton administration attacked their camps in Afghanistan and Sudan.
In his memoirs, My Life, Bill Clinton wrote (p. 799) that he did want to tell Pakistan that the US was going to use its airspace to attack Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but was concerned that the Pakistani government might think that the flying missiles were coming from India. So, he sent General Joseph Ralston, vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Pakistan to inform them just a few minutes before the attacks were to begin, so that there would not be any time for Pakistan's ISI to inform Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Then, we had the catastrophic attacks on the U.S. on 11 September 2001 that killed close to 3000 people. Of the 19 terrorists that took part in the attacks 15 were Saudi Arabian citizens, two from the UAE, and one each from Egypt and Lebanon, with the first three nations being staunch allies of the U.S. The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks has not wiped out either Taliban or al-Qaeda. And, on 10 September 2013 Pakistan released from detention Mullah Abdul GhaniBaradar, the former second-in-commend of Taliban. He had been arrested in 2010 during a joint operation by the CIA and Pakistan's security forces. And in May, the United States also exchanged five of the Taliban commanders that had been detained at Guantanamo Bay with one American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.
According to the United Nations, civilian casualties in 2013 increased by 14 percent over 2012, and that next to 2009, 2013 was the worst year for the Afghan girls, boys and women. Compared with 2012, the number of women killed in 2013 increased by 36 percent (235 killed and 511 injured), while casualties among children increased by 34 percent (561 killed and 1196 injured).
What is going to happen to Afghanistan, if and when the U.S. and NATO forces withdraw from that country by the end of 2014? There is little, if any, to be optimistic about.
In the next part of this series we describe transformation of Iraq into a jihadist land by the United States and its allies.
This article was translated by Ali N. Babaei