The Mujahideen fighter lurks with a US supplied bazooka to hit a Soviet convoy. As part of ‘operation cyclone’ the CIA started secretly arming every Mujahideen volunteer in sight, without considering who they were or what their politics might be–all in the name of ensuring that the Soviet Union had its own Vietnam in the mountains of Afghanistan.
by Hassan Rizvi
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 Jihadi 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 backfired 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 into conflict the issue of Pakhtuns domination- an issue the US never seemed to be inclined to support. Nevertheless 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 whatever 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; however 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 Jihadi 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 Massoud is killed. Massouud in turn would speak to the EU parliament warning against terrorism and an imminent major terrorist attack in the near future. Soon Massoud 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 Massoud’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. (If you missed first part of this series, and want to read it now, click here)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.
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