Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


"The CIA funded Al Qaeda during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."

No. The CIA funneled weapons and money through Pakistan's ISI. While the ISI redistributed these resources primarily to the resistance of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (who was equally inclined to kill fellow mujahideen as he was Soviets) no known benefaction of AQ (Osama bin Laden) via US funds exists.

Osama bin Laden's presence in Afghanistan began in 1984 when with mentor, Palestinian cleric Abdullah Azzam, he founded the Services Office. The SO served as both a propaganda machine and a recruiting element as it reached out globally to enlist foreign (primarily Arab) operatives to join the fight against the Soviet invasion. The ideological differences between this foreign element and the native Pashtun and Tajik resistance were quickly apparent as the former embraced a nihilistic visage while the latter entailed a partisan effort. In short the Afghan muj were fighting what they saw as the tyranny of both Soviet and native communists. In contrast the Arab muj were waging the jihad of martyrdom.

Bin Laden broke ranks with the SO in 1987 as he slipped from financier to that of "holy" combatant, apparently taken with the kinetic aspect of waging what he saw to be Jihad. And so was founded a small base of Arab muj who coined their collective "al Masada," or , the Lions Den. It is here that we see the nadir of al Qaeda with bin Laden operating very much outside both the SO's mandate (much to the dissatisfaction of Azzam) and the essence of the Afghani resistance. And it's here we see the vision of bin Laden begin to extend beyond that of Afghanistan and indeed take on global proportions. But AQ as we know it now remained a mere glimmer and a meeting in Peshawar with a certain Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri would (compounded by past fellow Egyptian muj) bring AQ to fruition in the late 1980's.

The point here, beyond a badly presented history lesson, is that the CIA was somewhat myopic (though remember the time and the global struggle) and seemingly careless tossing of both cash and weapons at the ISI (a plausible deniability tactic, no doubt) and allowing them free reign in distribution. This led to Pakistan backing the most favorable resistance, one that would establish a friendly and Islamic rule, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Which led to, after the Soviet retreat, a civil war, which led finally (and I'm skipping a great deal of history here for the sake of "brevity") to the rise of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance under the brilliant Tajik, Ahmad Shah Massoud. The former of which is likely where the misconception that the US "funded" al Qaeda stems from.

The CIA not only didn't fund AQ (or Osama bin Laden) it quite simply couldn't have, given that AQ, even in the later stages of the Soviet Afghan war, simply didn't yet exist.

Further reading:

Robert Kaplan: Soldiers of God

Peter Bergen: The Osama bin Laden I Know


Unknown said...

Awesome post Soob. I've heard this same misconception time and again from so many different people. Each time, I explained that AQ and OBL could not have been funded for the reasons you specify, as well as the fact that even back then, OBL already hated the United States.

Still this notion has taken a life of its own and will no doubt continue to propagate regardless of what the truth actually is.

Jay@Soob said...

Thanks, ny! Any further blogging in your future?

Unknown said...

Yes. I'm afraid that my non-digital life keeps interfering with my online persona. :)

However, unless I can get through most of the projects I'm working on before the end of next week, it is likely that I won't return to blogging until mid-January.

Jay@Soob said...

Yes, I hear you there. Thankfully I'm enjoying a bit of a lull as of late. Looking forward to mid-January (or whenever!)