- Guillermo d. Olmo @ BBC Colmo
- BBC News World
In the United States, they were even classified as “freedom fighters.” But it may be more appropriate to call them Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas.
Afghan rebel groups opposed the invasion of Afghanistan for many years with the support of Washington, which provided them with weapons and money aimed at weakening the power of the adversary Soviet Union.
As revealed by intelligence documents, press investigations and the testimonies of the protagonists many years later, the US strategy was to trap the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and plunge it into a mess consuming lives, money and resources.
The aim was to make the Soviets enjoy something similar to what the Americans experienced in the Vietnam War.
The U.S. mission was called Operation Hurricane and the press described it as “the biggest covert operation in CIA history.”
In 1996, eight years after the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the Taliban captured Kabul and denounced the Islamic fundamentalist regime around the world for its human rights abuses.
How did the United States contribute to the victory of the Taliban?
The origin of everything
In the spring of 1979, more than 30,000 US troops, with the support of planes and tanks, began landing in Afghanistan with the support of the “revolutionary” government in Kabul.
A year ago, he established a socialist state in Afghanistan known as the Tsarist Revolution, which, in Islamic tradition, faced opposition from local Islamist militants, known as fighters in the “holy war.”
Moscow wanted to support the socialist government of Afghanistan and pro-Soviet President Babrak Karmal, which faced serious armed Mujahideen opposition.
Robert Cruise, a historian who specializes in Afghanistan at Stanford University, told the BBC World that “the United States is surprised that it has been competing with the Soviet Union for construction and infrastructure projects on Afghan soil since the 1950s.”
In this context, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and other advisers persuaded then-US President Jimmy Carter that a covert operation to arm the insurgency was a good idea.
Thus began one of the regular conflicts of the Cold War, in which the United States and the Soviet Union competed for geopolitical domination, but not directly on the battlefield. Each supported separate groups in the wars of other countries, known in English as the “Proxy Wars”.
Murad Sishani, a BBC expert on militants and jihadists, explains that the United States supported jihad (holy war) to defeat the Soviet enemy during the conflict in Afghanistan.
How Operation Hurricane Emerged
First, Operation Hurricane Insurgents were provided only with expired Soviet-made AK-47 rifles, and only by recruiting volunteers and funding from Arab countries.
“That way, Washington can deny participation,” Cruz says. Saudi Arabia is one of the most active financiers, but Egypt and other countries of Anwar el-Saddam also contributed to the effort to support the Mujahideen.
The plan called for the cooperation of Pakistan’s intelligence services, where several jihadist groups operated. An example of how they work is U.S. legislator Hub R. Given by Reese, he revealed in 1988 that he had donated 700 Tennessee donkeys to a military base in Kentucky to be sent to Pakistan.
U.S. support for the Mujahideen with Ronald Reagan at the White House was most apparent. The increasingly powerful lobby in Washington backed aid to Islamist militants, complaining that the Soviets did not have enough weapons to control them.
In 1984, the US Congress passed a resolution on Afghanistan stating that “providing adequate assistance to freedom fighters to fight and die is unreasonable, but cannot advance the cause of independence.”
Reagan welcomed a delegation of jihadist leaders to the White House, and in his 1986 Union address on Capitol Hill, he delivered a message to the Afghan rebels: “You are not freedom fighters.”
But Reagan did something very important. He approved the handing over of the guerrillas’ portable stinger missile launching units.
Guerrillas hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan began firing Soviet helicopters and the balance of forces on the ground quickly changed.
Democrat Senator Charles Wilson, one of the most vocal advocates for Washington’s presence in Afghanistan, said lawmakers were surprised by Stinger’s victory.
In September 1988, after nine years of intervention, Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev ordered the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, and then a civil war broke out between various sections of the country and one government, without the support of the Soviet Union, not long before it fell.
But did the Taliban benefit from US support?
Murad Sishani said, “There is a conspiracy theory. The United States supported the Taliban movement from the aftermath.” “But it’s not like that.”
In fact, the Taliban did not appear in the Afghan city of Kandahar until 1994, where they soon rose to prominence as student-warriors. Its teams were formed by Pashtun youth who attended religious schools in Pakistan that taught conservative interpretation of the Koran.
“When the Taliban appeared, the Soviet government had already collapsed, but it is true that some of the leaders who founded it were among the US-backed warriors in the war against the Soviet Union,” Sishani says.
The great goal of the United States was to defeat the Soviet Union. As Shishani recalls, “the word jihadist has no negative connotations” due to the bloody actions of groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
“The United States provided arms to Afghanistan, but in fact many countries did,” he said.
When Robert Cruise of Stanford University appeared in Kandahar, he recalled that the Taliban presented themselves as “a pure new force that wants to fight back everything that has gone before.” He says the group’s initial leaders were not among the key figures receiving US aid.
However, the Taliban’s victory came, in part, from its promises to restore order and establish a clean, traditional Islamic state. Thus, the group benefited from a climate of insecurity and disruption induced by US support for Islamic insurgents. Moreover, in the words of the group, “American aid and victory against the Soviet Union helped to create a kind of jihadi utopia.”
What is the balance of Operation Hurricane?
The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan was seen as a prelude to the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. In the 1990s, the United States enjoyed the pinnacle of its power as a power, until the subsequent rise of China.
Robert Gates, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA officer, wrote a book about presidents who “won the Cold War” many years after Operation Hurricane conceived.
But by the end of the Cold War, the civil war in Afghanistan had killed thousands in a country where US geopolitical agenda was not a priority.
“During the Afghan civil war, Washington chose peace, including human rights abuses by US-backed mujahideen groups,” the group said.
The expert likens support for the anti-Soviet movement in Afghanistan to US support for other armed movements fighting against leftist governments in other countries, such as the fight against the Sandinista Front in Nicaragua.
According to the group, the policy reveals that “for the elite and Washington, the population of other countries is only a means to an end.”
The creators of Operation Hurricane never showed signs of grief. Former consultant Brzezinski made this clear in an interview with the French newspaper “Le Nouvel Observateur”.
When asked if he regrets supporting the jihadists, he replied with another question: “What is important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?”
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