September 18, 2018
1. The Carter Doctrine, Brzezinski and the Stinger missiles
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Day 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued his Carter Declaration, stating that the Persian Gulf was part of America’s vital interest and America would defend it by all means possible.
A policy proclaimed by President Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union Address on 23 January 1980 stressed that the United States would use military force, if necessary, to defend its “national interests” in the Persian Gulf.
The statement that came to be known as the “Carter Doctrine” concluded:
“Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
Jimmy Carter, the State of Union Address Delivered Before a Joint Session of the Congress, January 23, 1980.
Yet subsequently we have learned that there was more to that invasion than was initially realised.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur openly admitted that the official story that the US gave military aid to the Afghan opposition only after the Soviet invasion in 1979 was false. (See the interview with Zbigniew Brzezinsk from Le Nouvel Observateur, January 15-21, 1998, p. 76).
The truth was, he said, that the US began aiding the Islamic fundamentalist Mojahedin at least six months before the Russians made their move because, in his words, “this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.” (See “Afghanistan, the CIA, bin Laden, and the Taliban” by Phil Gasper, International Socialist Review, November-December 2001).
Brzezinski was asked if he regretted that decision:
“Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost ten 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.”
(See “Superpowers’ ‘mistakes’ in Afghanistan”, BBC News, 24 December, 2004).
After the Soviet invasion, Brzezinski wrote to President Carter:
“This will require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, more arms aid, and, alas, a decision that our security policy towards Pakistan cannot be dictated by our non-proliferation policy.” (See: “Afghanistan, the CIA, bin Laden, and the Taliban”, by Phil Gasper, International Socialist Review, November-December 2001).
Later, Brzezinski offered the dilemma:
“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.” (See Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II by William Blum, “Afghanistan 1979-1992.”
Robert Gates, the former defence secretary and the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, wrote in a State Department report in 1979, months before the Soviets rolled across the border to support the Taraki-Amin regime:
“Beginning early in 1979, the United States government began considering providing covert support to the potential opposition in the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan and, beginning in July, actually the president authorised the kind of support…. I think there is a certain deterministic approach that, well, these were fundamentalist Muslims and therefore we should have known at the time we were arming them that they might be a problem in the future…. We were certainly aware of the Wahhabi influence in Afghanistan and of what the Saudis, and the private Saudis particularly, support for more fundamentalist groups was all about. But the truth of the matter is that given the amount of money that they were providing, that didn’t seem too out of line for us in the light of the war that was going on.”
(See BBC News website, “Superpowers’ ‘mistakes’ in Afghanistan“).
It seems that other officials in the Carter Administration were also quite sanguine about a large number of casualties inflicted on the Afghans in order to win the war against the Soviet Union.
According to Representative Charles Wilson, President Carter’s CIA Director Stansfield Turner was asked whether it was morally permissible to use other lives for the sake of America’s geopolitical interests. He answered: “I decided I could live with that.” (Quoted in Akbar Ganji, “U.S.-Jihadist Relations, Part II: Waging Jihad to Defeat the Soviet Union”, Huffington Post, July 7, 2014.
Of course, nobody bothered to ask millions of Afghans who were subsequently killed and wounded if they were willing to be used as cannon fodder in order to serve America’s “geopolitical interests”.
According to Representative Charles Wilson, a Texas Democrat, “There were 58,000 dead in Vietnam and we owe the Russians one…. I have a slight obsession with it, because of Vietnam. I thought the Soviets ought to get a dose of it…. I’ve been of the opinion that this money was better spent to hurt our adversaries than other money in the Defense Department budget.” (See: “The Cost of An Afghan Victory” by Dilip Hiro; The Nation, Vol. 268, February 15, 1999).
In order to expel Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the United States and Pakistan under General Musharraf trained and armed a group of Muslim fundamentalists, the Mujahedin (Jihadi Warriors), to fight against Soviet forces.
During the anti-Soviet jihad, Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul as the head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (the ISI) was in charge of organising and overseeing the operations by the Mujahidin in Afghanistan.
In an interview after leaving office, Gul claimed that during the days of the Afghan jihad, he personally was in charge of disbursing more than 500 million rupees (over $200m in those days) a month. This is no idle boast. It is estimated that between 1980 and 1991, Washington and Riyadh contributed a total of US $40 billion, split evenly between them, towards the Mujahidin war against the Soviet Union. (See Impact International, vol. 27, No 10, October 1997, pp. 26-28).
The Mujahidin were given all the necessary funds and weaponry, including anti-aircraft Stinger missiles. However, after expelling the Soviet forces, various groups of the Mujahedin began to fight among themselves, and Afghanistan’s capital Kabul was damaged more due to the fighting among the Mujahedin factions than it had been under Soviet forces.
2. Why the Soviet Union fell apart
It is unfortunate that many people have come to believe US officials’ justification for creating the Mujahedin and the Taliban and their assertion that the Afghan war brought about the end of the Soviet Empire.
The former Soviet Union had been suffering from a number of deep-rooted problems for decades, including the loss of legitimacy, the weakening of Communist ideology, economic mismanagement, the overstretched military, the excessive militarization, and above all the loss of people’s faith in their system.
It was those factors that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Afghan war was just the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Sadly, many of those symptoms can be seen in the West when large sections of the population have lost their faith in self-serving politicians, and the growing hollowness of claims to democracy and human rights in Western societies.
3. The Taliban
The Taliban came to power with US, Pakistani, Saudi and UAE (United Arab Emirates) support. They were to fight against the squabbling Afghan Mujahedin who had been the West’s earlier clients.
The overall purpose was to pacify the country so that a pipeline could be built to transport gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to the Pakistani port of Karachi, a project that has recently been revived again.
A part of the reason behind the construction of that pipeline was to prevent a proposed Iranian pipeline, dubbed “the Peace Pipeline” which was intended to take Iranian gas to Pakistan and India.
John Holtzman, the deputy chief of mission in Islamabad, told reporters that the Taliban could play a useful role in ending Afghanistan’s long civil war by providing a strong central government.
Astonishingly, according to reports in many Western newspapers, Holtzman was planning to fly to Kabul shortly after the Taliban took over to welcome them now they were their control of Afghanistan.
The head of protocol had already gone to Kabul airport to meet him, when the Clinton administration realised that an image of getting too friendly with the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban could be a disaster with American women voters. The visit was postponed. (See Jonathan Steele’s article in ‘The Guardian’, Wednesday, 9 October 1996).
On April 17, 1998, the then US ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, visited Kabul at the head of a delegation, including the US ambassador in Pakistan, and met with the chairman of the Caretaker Council, Alhaj Mola Mohammad Rabbani.
Richardson was quoted by the Taliban’s Bakhtar Information Agency, as saying: “The US considers Afghanistan as its friend and respects Islam and Islamic values and wants to have close relations with Islam. The US completely defends peace, the independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and wants to resolve all issues related to America peacefully, and the US has never spared any efforts in this.” (Radio Voice of Shari’ah, Kabul in Pashtu, 1500 GMT, 17 April 1998. See BBC Monitoring Newsfile 17 April, 1998).
Shortly after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, 11 Iranian diplomats and a correspondent from Iran’s state News Agency IRNA were killed in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.
More than 70,000 Iranian troops were deployed along the Afghan border, but when Iranians threatened to go to war against the Taliban, James Rubin, the then spokesman of the State Department, strongly warned them against taking any action against the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Taliban leaders were warmly received in Texas for talks on gas pipeline. (See “Taleban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline”, BBC report, December 4, 1997.
Speaking about the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honestly admitted that they had been initially organizing and funding those groups.
“Let’s remember here, the people we are fighting today: we funded them twenty years ago, and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union. They invaded Afghanistan and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress, led by Democrats, who said you, know, that it sounds like a pretty good idea: let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and lets go recruit these mujaheddin.
And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahhabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union. And guess what! When they (Soviets) retreated they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
So, there is a very strong argument which is it wasn’t a bad investment in terms of Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we sow because we will harvest.”
(See “Hillary Clinton speaks out about US links with Taliban”, Live Leak).
However, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban were made synonymous with Al Qaeda and attacked and toppled, although they are still in control of a growing part of Afghanistan, and the scourge of terrorism has plagued Afghanistan ever since.
According to a scholarly study on the number of casualties during the first ten years after “The War on Terror”, 220,000 were killed in Afghanistan and a further 80,000 in Pakistan as the result of the American invasion. (See Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the “War on Terror”, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, March 2015, p. 15.
Share and use these hastags