Sunday, March 22, 2009

Afghansitan: Payback time (International Herald Tribune)

Author and former New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer writes about America's role in supporting the creation of the Taliban and the recruitment of Islamic militants from other countries to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980's. These recruits, he says, included Osama bin Laden.

Excerpts from the article:

"In order to forge an Afghan force that would wage this war [against the Soviet troops who invade Afghanistan in late 1979], the United States needed camps in Pakistan. Pakistan was ruled by General Zia ul-Haq, who had proclaimed two transcendent goals: imposing a "true Islamic order" in his country and building a nuclear bomb.
"He had also just hanged the elected leader he deposed, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This was the man the United States would have to embrace if it wanted Pakistan to support the anti-Soviet rebellion it hoped to foment in Afghanistan. It eagerly did so.
"The United States also accepted Zia's demand that all aid sent to Afghan warlords be channeled through his intelligence agency, the ISI, and that the ISI be given the exclusive right to decide which warlords to support. It chose seven, all of them in varying degrees fundamentalist and anti-Western.
"The ISI also came up with the idea of recruiting Islamic militants from other countries to come to Pakistan and join the anti-Soviet force. Its director, Hamid Gul, later said his agency recruited 50,000 of these militants from 28 countries.
"One was Osama bin Laden. Most of the others — brought to the region as part of a U.S.-sponsored project, then armed and trained with U.S. funds — shared bin Laden's radical anti-Americanism and fundamentalist religious beliefs...."

"One million Afghans died in the decade-long war. Five million fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries. Many found food and shelter at religious schools sponsored by Saudi Arabia, where they were taught the radical Wahhabi brand of Islam. Those schools were the cradle of the Taliban...."

"Jimmy Carter approved the idea of sponsoring anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan poured billions of dollars into it. George H.W. Bush turned his back on Afghanistan, allowing it to degenerate into the chaos from which the Taliban emerged. Bill Clinton refused to confront the looming threat with anything more than an ineffective cruise missile raid on one of bin Laden's camps. George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan, succeeded in toppling the Taliban regime, and then, rather than staying engaged, immediately turned his attention to Iraq."

Read the full article here.

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