This is a rather lengthy article, and I was delaying publishing it on Instablog for this reason. Yet I see that terrorism is on the rise in India too. Unfortunately my frequent predictions that after Afghanistan and Pakistan, India because of it again getting involved in Afghanistan would soon itself become a hot bed of terrorism appear to be coming true. This article is therefore being published to give a bird eyes view of the issues to the general public who blame Islam and Pakistan for the rise of global terrorism. Unfortunately the subject is such that despite my best efforts I could not make it any shorter.
In Part-1 we studied the background to the US involvement in Afghanistan. Essentially Curzon’s great game of containment of Russia had been turned on its head by the India. It decided that it’s interests would best be served by allying with the Russian. The resulting rise in Afghan militancy against Pakistan supported both by Russia and India, invited the ire of the Shah of Iran as well as the Saudi’s who viewed Russian interference as an attempt to reach the warm waters and oilfields of the Persian gulf.
We also saw how Alexandre de Marenches head of French Intelligence exercised central influence on development of events in this region. His creations the Safari Club along with the BCCI, took on the load of containment of world wide Soviet penetration at a time when CIA was ‘castrated’ due to Congressional inquiries. He too was convinced Russia wanted access to the warm waters of the Gulf through Afghanistan. Just three weeks before the Russian Invasion of Afghanistan when Arnaud De Bochgrave of Newsweek asked for advise where to go to in order to get the best breaking news story he replied,” If I were you, I would go to Kabul’!
Finally we saw how building up on this Brzezinski conceived the idea of trapping and ‘bleeding’ the Russians in a Vietnam of their own – using Islamic militants. In this article we will see exactly how – after having drawn the USSR into Afghanistan – the USA went about achieving this objective.
It is important to note here that till the time of this US involvement suicide bomber was an unknown phenomena in Pakistan but had been discovered and first used by the Tamil rebels of Sri Lanka. Also the rest of the Muslim world, specially the Arabs had not been involved in Pakistan’s war with Afghanistan – hence global Radical Islamic Jehadi was an un invented commodity.
From ‘Cold War’ to ‘Détente’ to ‘Global Jihad’.
Even in the early stages of the cold war the US had realized that religion was the most potent foe of the atheistic communist doctrine; and that the dynamic and fast growing religion of Islam was much more anti-communistic then even Christianity. Since WW2 it sought to contain communism using Muslim allies.
Nevertheless the division of US ally Pakistan into two by Russian backed ally India in 1971 – made US helplessness apparent world wide. The perception gained ground – within US government itself as well as – around the world, that the USSR had achieved nuclear parity while the US had been seriously weaken by Vietnam. To counter this the US decided to use it’s relations with Pakistan as a bridge to improved relations with China and thus contain the USSR.
Following on the heels of a secret visit to China by Kissinger, in February 1972 Richard Nixon met with Mao Zedong and Chou En-Lai at Beijing to announce a stunning rapprochement. A fear of encirclement by adversaries lead the Soviets towards détente. Strategic Arms Limitation Talks started in May 1972, resulting in the signing of the SALT II treaty, on June 18, 1979. With this the ‘cold war’ came to an end.
But the post Watergate functioning of the Safari Club awakened the Americans to the possibility of re-energizing their fading dreams for a Pax-Americana. The work already done by The Safari Club in Afghanistan; Pakistan’s visible determination to avenge their recent defeat in East Pakistan (1971) through a defeat of the Russo/Indian axis in Afghanistan; as well as Carters keenness to avoid the stigma of direct US involvement; enamored Brzezinski with plans of drowning the USSR in a flood of Jehadi fighters drawn from around and within the USSR.He started taking just enough interest to provoke a Soviet Invasion.
The successful enticement of Soviet troops into Afghanistan raised the love affair another notch into a marriage of convenience. US President Jimmy Carter withdrew the SALT II treaty from the Senate, describing the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan as “the most serious threat to the peace since the Second World War”. In 1980, Ronald Reagan went further vowing to increase military spending and confront the Soviets everywhere. After getting elected he revived the B-1 bomber program, installed US cruise missiles in Europe, and announced his experimental Strategic Defense Initiative, i.e. “Star Wars”. Also he dramatically increased support for Afghan War,while Richard Pipes the head of the NWG at the time, predicted that with the right encouragement Soviet Muslims will “explode into genocidal fury” against Moscow.
It would turn out to be a marriage in which the willing bride ‘Pakistan’ –as well as other Muslim in-laws – would be wooed with all sorts of enticing visions, heedless of the consequences! Meanwhile much had to be done before the marriage could be consummated-and so Brzezinski set about the task of arranging the party.
The guests would include China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia –and but for the fiasco of the Shah having been allowed permission for medical treatment in USA –even Khomeini’s Iran. The plan involved their co-operation with the west in assembling, training, equipping and raising against Russia; the largest, most efficient and most motivated guerilla force the world had ever seen.
The Outline Plan. Brzezinski came up with a plan to recruit Muslim fighters not only from Islamic countries around the globe, but also from Muslim minorities in other countries including the west. They would be motivated by the concept of Islamic Jihad; believing that God had ordered them to defeat the Godless Russians invaders. Their earthly reward would be glory, good pay and massive earnings through drug trade for the leaders; while in case of death they would be Shaheeds (mytrs) and would gain paradise!
The CIA would co-ordinate the global effort and provide special forces(green berets and SEALs/SAS) to train Islamic Jehadi leaders and instructors all over the globe; and along with Saudi and Egyptian help recruit and dispatch these Islamic fighters to Pakistan’s ISI .The USA and Saudi Arabia would also finance and equip the entire war effort. Pakistan’s ISI (along with its special forces SSG) would be responsible for the recruitment and training of local Jehadi fighters, as well as the training of those arriving from outside. More over Pakistan would serve as the sole pipeline for the operational control, re-supply and logistics including payments to all fighters within the theatre of operations.
It will be revealing at this stage to see which particular countries were relevant to this US plan; and why?
Egypt. Anwer Sadat a close ally of the Americans had been isolated in the Muslim world ever since he made his peace treaty with Israel. The Al Azhar University at Cairo was recognized through out the Muslim world as the fore most religious institution. The Muslim Brotherhood also had branches through out the world, and like Pakistan’s Jamat e Islami advocated the establishment of an ideal Islamic state based on the teachings of The Holy Quran.The support of Anwer Sadat was vital for gaining access to Egyptian bases as regional collection and dispatch points of arms and equipment to Mujahideen in Afghanistan; while the support of two above mentioned institutions was the key to raising a huge army of Egyptian fighters for the envisioned global Jihad. In addition it was hoped that Anwer Sadat’s identification with the Global Jihad might serve to end his isolation in the Muslim world.
Pakistan. It was the bride Brzezinski must woo at all costs if his global Jihad was to succeed. Already engaged in covert operations against Afghanistan for the last five years, it had the required intelligence already in place. Moreover being the country most jeopardized by the Russian invasion, it could be counted on to be the most zealous in the fight. The Jamat e Islami founded by Maulana Mahdoodi had a wide following in Pakistan –and also branches world wide. It also advocated the use of militancy for the achievements of its aims if necessary, and had prepared many of its followers to fight in Afghanistan as well as Kashmir. Enlisting its support would greatly facilitate the recruitment drive both in Pakistan as well as globally.
Saudi Arabia. We have already discussed the important role it played in the Safari Club both with regards to spreading of the teachings of Wahabi radicalism world wide, as well as the financing of covert operations. It enjoyed enormous respect as an ally amongst all sections of Pakistanis. More over as the custodians of the Holy Kaaba it commanded respect through out the Muslim world. Its importance both as financers as well as enablers of massive recruitment world wide, in support of global Jihad could never be under estimated.
China. Both as a regional power, as well as a country with which Pakistan had close ties, getting China on board for any major undertaking was unavoidable. More over its large Muslim population and Russian origin weaponry would be invaluable in provision of both recruits and equipment which could not be pinned on the Americans
But US relations with Pakistan were at low ebb because of a US anti-nuclear proliferation embargo. So Assistant secretary of State Warren Christopher was sent on a mission to woo the bride, soon Brzezinski would follow with the formal proposal. He would go first to Egypt then Pakistan; while US Defense secretary Harold Brown would go to China.
The Initial US Effort. Soon after Warren Christopher’s wooing mission to Pakistan; in January 1980 Brzezinski visited Egypt .From that date the airbase at Qena- already in US use for reconnaissance flights against Iran – was also made available for airlifting supplies to Pakistan. Later Aswan was also made available, and Egypt started sending it’s own out of date surplus Russian equipment for use by the Mujahideen.An old arms factory near Halwan was converted to produce copies of Russian weapons for dispatch. Later Representative Charlie Wilson would travel to Israel to meet w Zvi Rafiah; and Israel would also feed captured Egyptian, Syrian and PLO equipment-including T-55 tanks- into this supply route .Over time much useful equipment including artillery and mortar shells and even Strela missiles were sent. By summer of 1980 Cairo west airbase was also made available; and by end of 1980 US special warfare troops (SEALs) were based in Egypt to impart training to Egyptian instructors-including Al-Zawari- who in turn would train the Egyptian recruits.
From Egypt Brzezinski flew straight to Pakistan. Pakistan viewed the Russian invasion of Afghanistan as a God sent opportunity to strike a tough bargaining position. The ISI chief Akhtar A. Rehman was keenly in favor of using Afghanistan as a Vietnam for the Russians, yet Zia was determined to strike a tough deal. He asked for and got the US to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s perusal of its nuclear ambitions. He also got the US to accept that all arms, supplies, finance and training must be provided through Pakistan and not directly by CIA.
Later when US coordinated aid started flowing Zia insisted on absolute adherence to this condition. He further specified that the countries supporting must maintain absolute secrecy and repeatedly deny if necessary any shipment. Second the arms were to start immediately and be sent to Pakistan by fastest means available, but not less then two plane loads per week. Third the remaining supplies must be regular, and could come overland (China and Iran) or via sea from others (USA, UK, France, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia etc)
Henry Kissinger had already used the close ties between Pentagon and Pakistan military to build a link with China. Now after Brzezinski’s visit to Pakistan, US defense secretary Harold Brown flew to China where he secured Chinese assent and active help for the global Jihad.
Osama Bin Laden. It will be worthwhile at this stage to focus on the role of Osama bin Laden-the man who was to be painted post 9/11 as the maniacal leader of Al-Qaeda Islamic terrorist network.
In his book CIA’s Beardman claims that Osama bin Laden was never aware of the role he was playing on behalf of Washington. This is likely an attempt at distancing the CIA from Osama as a result of 9/11,for enough evidence is available to prove that not only was Osama aware of US effort in support of the Afghan war, but also that he was closely involved in routing it to the Arab fighters.
What is certain is that Osama Bin Laden appeared on the scene immediately after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Leaving Saudi Arabia together with a group of supporters and heavy engineering equipment he arrived in Pakistan in 1979. According to Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Osama was 22 years old in 1979, when he was trained in an ISI sponsored guerilla training camp near Peshawar, Pakistan. It is said that the ISI wanted a Saudi prince to head the Saudi contingent as proof of the Saudi commitment for the anti-Soviet effort. They failed to get royalty, but a person from the influential bin Laden clan was considered good enough.
Richard Clarke, counter terrorism head during the Clinton and Bush administrations, believes Osama was handpicked for the job by the head of Saudi intelligence (Turki) .The Saudis deny he was ever their agent, but it is known that he regularly met with Prince Turki and Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif. Turki’s chief of staff Ahmed Badeeb one of bin Laden’s teachers in high school even said: “I loved Osama and considered him a good citizen of Saudi Arabia.” Badeeb will later say bin Laden developed “strong relations with the Saudi intelligence and with our embassy in Pakistan. We were happy with him. He was our man”.
It seems clear therefore that Osama was hand picked soon after the Soviet invasion to play a middleman’s role between Saudi intelligence and ISI. More over the status of his relations with the CIA though cloudy, are also thus clearly established. The truth is that although Osama was neither recruited by the CIA, nor was their agent; once the US had decided to come in a big way; as the middleman between Saudi intelligence and ISI it was inevitable that he would get closely involved with the CIA too.
Numerous charities and foundations coordinated by Saudi intelligence in close liaison with Safari Club were already in existence and financing covert operations world wide. In addition as per Indian claims Pakistan had already set up 37 training camps in Pakistan ,49 in Azad Kashmir, and 22 camps in Afghanistan to supply fighters for Afghanistan and Kashmir. Now that the USA had also committed the CIA to globalization of the covert fight in a big way, it too would have to set up front organizations for undertaking the required financial and recruitment drive.
The CIA would be the main coordinator globally and the ISI would co-ordinate everything within Pakistan. Staying within this arrangement, Osama was possibly placed in charge of co-coordinating and marrying up the existing Arab global effort with the one to be set up by the CIA/ISI.
Soon after his training in Pakistan Osama left for a visit to the USA in 1980, and also reportedly was seen in the UK in 1981.Nothing is certain about the reasons for the visit. Barnett Rubin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations claims that about this time in the USA, – a man “enlisted” by the CIA who had “close connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi intelligence, and the Muslim World League.” – was given the role of looking after the financing and recruitment of foreign Jehadi. Slate writes, “Azzam trotted the globe during the 1980s to promote the Afghan jihad against the Soviets”.
Now this Azzam also later became known as Osama’s mentor. Was Osama also trotting alongside him on the same mission? It would appear to be so, for in 1984 Azzam set up the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as Al-Kifah in Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan.Osama bin Laden soon took it over from him.Azzam moved back to the US to set up its first American branch in New York – known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. As we shall see in a later part of the article Azzam then enlarged the network to 30 branches! All US branches were CIA backed, and served both as financial as well as recruitment centers.
It becomes obvious that the office at Peshawar was a set up for tying in the CIA effort with the effort already in place in Pakistan. Thus the MAK center at Peshawar is in a position to receive –through Pakistan’s ISI- not only the money of private Arab charities, but also all CIA funds and equipment for Arab fighters. It would become the main center for funneling foreign funds and fighters from all over the globe into the Afghan war.
In fact back in 1982 the CIA had become unhappy with the ‘Afghan native’ fighters due to rivalry ridden infighting, and wants more Arab fighters as Arab were easier to ‘read’ and also ‘one-dimensionally anti-Soviet ’.CIA Director William Casey visited Pakistan to sign an agreement committing CIA’s support for recruitment of Muslim from around the world. In addition to the Gulf States, this would include Turkey, the Philippines, USA, UK and China.
Azzam and Osama were probably tasked after this by their respective handlers to set up a suitable funnel for the purpose. They came up with the MAK center at Peshawar. From here Osama could keep a tab on and control the financing and feeding of all foreign fighters into the Afghan Jihad. The entire initial data base was initially also held by him. Researcher Kurt Nimmo writes:” This database of Islamic fighters was labeled in Arabic, ‘Q eidat ilmu’ti’aat’, which is the exact translation of the English word database. But the Arabs commonly used the short word ‘Al Qaeda” which is the Arabic word for ‘base.'” Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2003, also confirms this: “al-Qaeda was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujaheddin who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.”
Thus starting soon after the Russian Invasion in 1979, US efforts had by 1984 laid the foundations for converting the discordant Pakistani covert war against the Soviets, into a global Jihad- code named ‘Operation Cyclone’. Even by end of 1982 the rate of flow of equipment would rise to 10,000 ton annually, and the flow of foreign fighters also increases.
Operation Cyclone-The US led Global Jihad Against Russia
Afghan Mujahideen Leaders Meet US president Regan in America
NSDD 166.In March 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 166, (NSDD 166). William Casey director of CIA described it as the largest covert operation in history. It authorized stepped-up covert military aid to the mujahideen, and laid down a new goal for the Afghan war: Total defeat of Soviet troops in Afghanistan through covert action leading to a Soviet withdrawal.
The new covert U.S. assistance began with a dramatic increase in arms supplies — a steady rise to 65,000 tons annually by 1987.”In addition to arms, it provided very specialized training, state of the art military equipment including surface to air missiles, military satellite maps and latest communications equipment
The U.S. supplied support package had three essential components-organization and logistics, military technology, and ideological support for sustaining and encouraging the Afghan resistance. The ISI increased its staff to over 150,000 military and intelligence officers, bureaucrats, undercover agents and informers. In the final stages U.S. counter insurgency experts worked closely with the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) even in organizing Mujahideen groups and in planning operations inside Afghanistan.
Eventually the entire Afghan nation, supported by tens of thousands of PakistaniJihadis and some 35,000 Muslim radical Jehadis from 40 countries would join the fight. Most of the funding would be from the United States and Saudi Arabia with a significant part generated from the Golden Crescent drug trade.
MAK offices in the US in the late 1980s. [Source: National Geographic]
Recruitment. We have already seen how Abdullah Azzam ,a CIA agent mentored Osama in setting up his financial and recruitment fronts ;and also the main funnel at Peshawer.Azzam also followed this up by expanding the US net work to 30 branches. For this reason Slate calls him “the Lenin of international jihad.”
The war lords in Afghanistan recruited their own followers. These were reinforced by fighters from all over the world. In Pakistan the Jamat i Islami set up recruitment centers all over the country-including Kashmir. Recruitment centers were also opened in many other countries including the Middle East, Turkey, UK, Philippines and China. These were funded by MAK (through CIA and ISI) but operated and run through mosques and Islamic centers in respective countries.
Training. Initially key Pakistani officers and some Afghan mujaheddin leaders were trained by Navy Seals and Green Beret officers at Camp Peary, near Williamsburg, Virginia, which is said to be the CIA’s main location for training spies and assets. Other training took place at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Harvey Point, North Carolina, and Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia. US consular official Michael Springmann reports fighters from many Middle Eastern nations getting US visas, apparently to train in the US for the Afghan war.
Training was imparted in how to detect explosives, surveillance, how to recruit new agents, how to run paramilitary operations, and more. They are taught to use different weapons, including rockets, mortars, missiles, remote-controlled mines and bombs, and sophisticated timers and explosives.
Guerrilla training was integrated with inspirational Jihad lectures, featuring CIA sponsored speakers. They could be CIA-trained Afghan fighters traveling on a CIA-issued visa; or clean-cut Arabic-speaking Green Beret lecturing on the glory of being ‘warriors of the Lord.’ People like Azzam, Abdul-Rahman, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, could often turn up as star guest speakers to deliver fiery sermons on themes like ‘Blood and martyrdom are the only way to create a Muslim society’ or ‘the world opposes our objectives, because it is the enemy of Muslims.’ Predominant themes were that Islam was a complete socio-political ideology, and that this was being violated by the atheistic Soviet invaders who must be killed, and that the Islamic people in Afghanistan are warriors of Allah through Jihad.
Instructor’s training centers staffed by Green Berets and SEALs were set up in 1980 both in Egypt and Pakistan. Fearing a diplomatic incident, US and British troops rarely ventured into Afghanistan, but up to 1982 the British SAS did provide weapons training even in Afghanistan. After Russian soldiers found the passports of two British instructors in a training camp this was discontinued; and UK enrolled mujaheddin were trained in secret camps in remote parts of Scotland.
The instructors thus trained were used in turn to train tens of thousands more in camps set up by ISI in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Radical Indoctrination. Under NSDD 166, Washington also supported and financed the process of religious indoctrination. The CIA spent $ 51million to create and supply Afghan school children with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to breed radicalism from the grass roots. Nebraska academic Thomas Gouttierre led the textbook project.
These were filled with talk of Jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, violent images and militant Wahabi teachings. Children are even taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles, and land mines.Mathmatics involved posing the children with problems like how many second would it take for a bullet aimed by a Jehadi to crack open the head of an infidel Russian, given the velocity. The primers are so radical that even the Taliban regime would continue using these American-produced books!
Financing The Jihad Through Drug Trade. The history of the drug trade in Central Asia is closely connected to the CIA’s operations. Prior to the covert operations opium production in Afghanistan and Pakistan was small- and directed to regional markets. There was no local production of heroin, but within two years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, “the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer.” (Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).
CIA involvement started with a small suggestion in1981. Alexandre de Marenches head of the Safari Club met President Reagan at the White House. He proposed ‘Operation Mosquito’ a joint French-American-ISI operation to produce fake Russian newspapers with articles designed to demoralize Soviet troops. He also suggested US supply of drugs to Soviet soldiers. It is claimed that the idea was rejected, but soon after fake issues of the Soviet army newspaper did appear in Kabul; and also large qualities of cocaine, hashish, opium, and heroin become available to Soviet troops. At that time cocaine was only grown in South America!
In 1982, a secret memo will exempt the CIA from reporting on drug smuggling conducted by CIA officers or assets. Obviously the CIA wished to use the proceeds of the Afghan drug trade to finance its operations. Alfred McCoy’s study confirms that” Under CIA and ISI protection, Afghan resistance opened heroin labs on the Afghan and Pakistani border. Among the leading heroin manufacturers were Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan leader who received about half of the covert arms that the CIA shipped to Pakistan. In 1995 the former CIA Director of this Afghan operation, Mr. Charles Cogan, admitted sacrificing the drug war to fight the Cold War. “Our main mission was to do as much damage to the Soviets. There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes, but the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.” (Alfred McCoy, Testimony before the Special Seminar focusing on allegations linking CIA secret operations and drug trafficking-convened February 13, 1997, by Rep. John Conyers, Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus)
The Pakistan backed Taliban government which came to power in 1996 virtually eliminated this trade, with opium production declining by more than 90 percent. But in the immediate wake of the US led invasion of Afghanistan, opium production has again increased 33 fold from 185 tons in 2001 under the Taliban to 6100 tons in 2006. In 2007, this was approximately 93% of the global supply of heroin, and valued in excess of 190 billion dollars a year. (Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 6 January 2006)
The Operational Structure Of Jehadi Groups.The entire Jehadi fighting force was united under the banner of Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen which was an alliance of seven Afghan parties fighting against the Soviets : Islamic Party (Khalis), Islamic Party (Hekmatyar), Islamic Society (Rabbani), Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan (Sayyaf), National Islamic Front for Afghanistan (Gailani), Afghanistan National Liberation Front (Mojaddedi), and Revolutionary Islamic Movement (Mohammadi).Although the alliance took its formal shape in the 1985, it had de facto existed as a political bloc since May 1979, when the Pakistani government decided to limit the flow of foreign financial aid, mainly from USA and Saudi Arabia, to the said seven organizations, thus limiting infighting amongst numerous smaller groups-while simultaneously cutting of the flow to doubtful and undesirable groups.
The seven parties between themselves controlled a number of affliated commanders –the highest operational rank amongst the Jihadis. Significant commanders typically led 300 or more men,but there were many commanders with lesser number of fighters.Each commander controlled several bases to dominate a district or a sub-division of a province.Some of the legendary commanders of the Afghan war were:
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar the favored warlord of the ISI and CIA. Casey was said to be particularly fond of him as both shared a goal of extending the fighting beyond Afghanistan into the Soviet Union itself. He was a ruthless fighter, who also led several raids into USSR territory. He was also a major drug trafficker. Almost half of all the covert weapons directed at Afghanistan were sent to his group.
Another ISI and CIA favorite was Jalaluddin Haqqani. In the 1980s, he was cultivated as a “unilateral” asset of the CIA, helping to protect Osama bin Laden, who was building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces. Originally a member of the Hezb-i Islami ,he was the first resistance leader to capture a city, Khost, from the Najibullah government. After the fall of Kabul to the Mujahideen in 1992, he was appointed justice minister in the first Mujahideen government. He attracted generous support from prosperous Arab countries compared to other resistance leaders. Haqqani was not originally a member of the Taliban. In 1995, just prior to the Taliban’s occupation of Kabul, he switched his allegiance to them. In 1996-97, he served as a Taliban military commander north of Kabul, and was accused of ethnic cleansing against local Tajik populations. During the Taliban years in power, he served as the Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs and governor of Paktia Province.
The GID’s (Saudi Intelligence Agency) favorite was Abdul Rasul Sayyaf a Pashtun warlord .He was a member of Akhwan-ul-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood), founded in 1969 by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Dr. Syed Burhanuddin Rabbani, which had strong links to TheMuslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Fluent in Arabic. His tenure as an Ustad (Professor) at the Shariat in Kabul ended in 1973 when he fled to Pakistan after an unsuccessful plot to overthrow President Daoud Khan . Sayyaf then headed the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan, and fought against Soviet occupying forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s, forming a close relationship with Osama bin Laden . Together in the Jalalabad area they established a training camp network, later used by Al-Qaeda personnel, with bunkers and emplacements. In 2001 he was the only Pashtun leader allied with the United Front (Northern Alliance) –and therefore the US – in its war against the governing Taliban prior to the fall of Kabul. In this period though wielding little clout as a military leader, he was able to maintain a small army paying men under his command with donations he received from his Arab benefactors. He is also the one who trained the dreaded Abu Sayyaf terrorist group of the Philippines.
Ahmed Shah Massoud of the Panjshir valley north of Kabul,one of the most independent,charismatic and effective of Mujahideen commanders.He was also the most well read and certainly the most militarily proficient amongst them all.His tragedy was that in a land over which all sorts of powers vied for control he dreamed of a democratic and free Afghanistan.With the result that he was always relatively poorly supplied.Opposed to both Russian as well as Pushtun domination,he is credited by some western writers of having caused over 60% of the Russian losses-but found little favour with the ISI or Saudis. By the end of the war he was leading at least 10,000 trained troops-the only semblence to an army amongst mujahideen commanders- and had expanded his political control of Tajik dominated areas to Afghanistan’s northeastern provinces.His Northern alliance later also provided the base for the US invasion of Afghanistan.After the Russian withdrawl he remained the lone obstacle preventing Taliban and Pakistani domination of the country.However in this final stage he was being supported by the Russians,the Iranians and the Indians-and perhaps covertly even by the US.
The fighters under the warlords operated through over 4000 bases spread all over Afghanistan.The bases served as sources of supply and control.
Hierarchies of organization above the base level were attempted,but the results varied depending on regional, ethnic and sectarian considerations. In the Pashtun areas of the east, south and southwest; tribal structure, with its many rival sub-divisions, provided the basis for military organization and leadership. Mobilization depended on the traditional fighting allegiances to quickly raise a tribal lashkar (fighting force). In favorable circumstances such formations could quickly reach more than 10,000. Normally they could be formed to besiege towns,but because of the independent nature of Pashtun ,the Lashkar durability was necessarily short-and most seiges ended in failures.Despite the proven ability to cause fearfully unacceptable attrition in hit and run missions,such troops were woefully inadequate for purposes of capturing or holding any major cities and bases in operations against trained troops.
Mujahideen mobilization in non-Pashtun regions was very different. The Persian and Turkish speaking regions of Afghanistan lacked strong political representation in a state dominated by Pashtuns. Prior to the invasion, non-Pashtuns possessed very few firearms and little military tradition upon which to build an armed resistance. Here the leadership for mobilization was found from amongst pious learned or charismatically revered pirs (saints).The military leadership being closely tied to Islam helped avoid the infighting common amongst the Pashtun and led to some of the most effective mobilization during the war.
Thus Ahmed Shah Massoud of the Panjshir valley north of Kabul,one of the most charismatic and effective commanders rose from within their ranks.By the end of the war he was leading at least 10,000 trained troops-the only semblence to an army amongst mujahideen commanders- and had expanded his political control of Tajik dominated areas to Afghanistan’s northeastern provinces.His Northern alliance later also provided the base for the US invasion of Afghanistan.
The mujahideen leaders were skilled at sabotage operations. They concentrated on both civilian and military targets, knocking out bridges, closing major roads, blowing up power lines, pipelines, radio stations, government office buildings, air terminals, hotels, cinemas,ambushing patrols, attacking convoys, disrupting the electric power system and industrial production, and attacking police stations and Soviet military installations and air bases. From 1985 through 1987, an average of over 600 “sabotage acts” a year were recorded. The mujahideen would often launch 800 rockets per day. Between April 1985 and January 1987, they carried out over 23,500 shelling attacks on government targets. They also made heavy use of land mines .
Mujahideen Attacks Within The USSR.In 1985, the CIA, MI6 (Britain’s intelligence agency), and the Pakistani ISI agreed to launch guerrilla attacks from Afghanistan into then Soviet-controlled Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, attacking military installations, factories, and storage depots within Soviet territory. The task was given to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.According to, Mohammad Yousaf, a high-ranking ISI officer at the time the attacks on the Soviet Union actually began in 1985:“These cross-border strikes were at their peak in 1986. Scores of attacks were made across the Amu (River)… Sometimes Soviet citizens joined in these operations, or came back into Afghanistan to join the mujaheddin. That we were hitting a sore spot was confirmed by the ferocity of the Soviets’ reaction. Virtually every incursion provoked massive aerial bombing and gunship attacks on all villages south of the river in the vicinity of our strike.”
The Soviet Withdrawl.By 1987 the USSR decided it has had enough! Its Politburo decided that the Soviet-Afghan War must end “within a year”and by November 1987 both the CIA and the ISI are aware of this. As a result of an agreement signed in Geneva, between Afghanistan and Pakistan the Soviet Union pledged to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by February15, 1989. On that exact date the last of its soldiers were out of Afghanistan.
But they left a Soviet backed Communist regime holding the fort at Kabul. None of the players – including the USSR – expected this regime to survive for more then three months. Yet even though it was acceptable to neither the mujahideen fighters or even their principle backers – it would survive for three years!
Conclusion. This article conclusively proves that ‘Global Islamic Jihad’ was forged as an instrument for the pursuit of US strategic interests ,and that it proved itself as a worthwhile CIA asset in Afghanistan. It’s very first operation – “Operation Cyclone” – the organizing and launching of the biggest covert operations the world had ever seen; proved a remarkable success; enabling the USA and it’s Jehadi allies to attain the stated goal of defeating and forcing the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan.
Yet as we have seen in some of the remarks of US officials it was an instrument forged to pursue goal stretching far beyond the immediate objective of defeating the Russian in Afghanistan. It is here that except for some success in Yugoslavia –Bosnia and Kosovo-and Chechnya; the idea back fired very badly.
In the first place the unexpected resistance of the Najeeb government upset US planning and forced the ISI as well as the CIA to continue funding the Mujaheddin for another three years. In the process the conflicting tactical and strategical compulsions of the many strange bed fellows in ‘Global Jihad’ started to surface. Leadership at all levels –US, Pakistani, Afghan as well as Arab – failed to rise to the occasion.Obsessed by their own objectives -now that the common enemy was removed- each group would fail to show any unity of purpose, or even the flexibility and accommodation required to attain the fruits of their massive effort. This in turn would propel the war uncontrollably into unexpected and unchartered territory!
To begin with –amongst the various Afghan mujahideen groups – the concept of ‘holy war’ seemed to give way immediately to an ethnic based struggle for leadership and control of the Afghan capital. Pakistan having a huge Pashtun population in it’s tribal area, and, also interested in retaining control over Afghanistan as a means of strategic depth as well as access to Central Asia; was increasingly drawn in on the side of Gulbadin Hikmatyar and the Pashtuns.
The USA aiming for quick stability in order to implement it’s greater game in Central Asian Republics and Yugoslavia – and also perhaps to lessen Pakistani and Pakhtun influence on Afghan issues – supported the concept of a more broad based government. This brought it in conflict with the issue of Pakhtuns domination- an issue the US never seemed to be inclined to support. Never the less because of Pakistani hold on Pakhtun commanders, the US had little choice but to appear to go along with what Pakistan was doing, while continuing to do what ever was needed to pursue its own objectives.
The death of General Zia in a mysterious plane crash tended to sabotage Pakistani influence on Pashtun commanders; how ever even if-as some say- engineered by CIA the crash proved counter productive, as for some time thereafter neither the US nor Pakistan had much control over the war lords in Afghanistan.
The uncontrolled mujahideen parties now committed enormous atrocities on their own citizens, and, destroyed whatever infrastructure was left as they battled each other for control of Kabul and the major cities. The country was politically divided with warlords holding sway on ethnic basis; ruthlessly suppressing their own citizens-and eliminating their opponents. The rise of the Pashtun Taliban in 1994 – a Pakistani attempt to re assert control – was therefore tolerated for a while even by the US, in the hope that this would bring the required peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Similar differences also developed between Bin Laden and his mentor Azzam. We have already noted that Azzam was a CIA man, while bin Laden was an ISI/GID man; Bin Laden sided with the “Islamic Party” lead by the Pashtun Hekmatyar, while Azzam tried to impose the US option of peace between the Mujahideen faction and the Jama’a Al Islamiya faction under the leadership of Rabani and Masuod. Azzam even issued a Fatwa forbidding Jehadi fighters from participating in the power struggle in Afghanistan. These differences thus appear to be an early reflection of the differences between the outlook of the US and pro Pashtun parties to the conflict.
One early effect of this on the set up of Arab fighters within Afghanistan was that Bin Laden disengaged from Azzam and was forced to move to Sudan to begin ‘independent’ operations. In November 1989 Azzam was murdered in New York under mysterious circumstances and Bin laden became the sole ideological leader of the organization of Arab fighters- Al-Qaeda. In 1990 Al-Zawahiri the leader of the Egyptian fighters in Afghanistan also moved to Sudan to join Bin Laden. But even at this stage both The ISI as well as Osama seems to have been part of the US operations involving the use of Al-Qaeda Jehadis in Chechnya and Yugoslavia.
Peace did not come even after the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan; Osama would return to Afghanistan-and Hikmatyar the CIA and ISI’s blue eyed boy would flee to Iran! Ahmed Shah Masud would form the Northern alliance and continue battling the Taliban.Osama allied with Al-Zawahiri would announce that peace is not possible until Masud is killed. Musud in turn would speak to the EU parliament warning against terrorism and an imminent major terrorist attack in the near future. Soon Masud would be assassinated by men posing as press photographers. Two days later 9/11 would occur. The USA would embark on its invasion of Afghanistan using the deceased Masud’s Northern alliance as a base.
What are we to make of all this? Did the creation of an instrument of global Jihad have unforeseen and undesirable ramifications for the USA? Did Osama at some stage along the line develop major differences with the CIA – leading to 9/11 and his subsequent vilification as the leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda? Was the difference much deeper and involved a gradually widening chasm between the CIA and ISI itself?
In the next article God willing I propose to wind up the subject in the light of the events relating to the rise and fall of the Taliban – and culminating in 9/11 and the presence of US troops in Afghanistan.