Originally, there were four parties involved in the Afghan conflict which are mainly responsible for the debacle in the Af-Pak region. Firstly, the former Soviet Union which invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Secondly, Pakistan’s security agencies which nurtured the Afghan jihadists on the behest of Washington.
Thirdly, Saudi Arabia and the rest of oil-rich Gulf states which generously funded the jihadists to promote their Wahhabi-Salafi ideology. And last but not the least, the Western capitals which funded, provided weapons and internationally legitimized the erstwhile "freedom fighters" to use them against a competing ideology, global communism, which posed a threat to the Western corporate interests all over the world.
Regarding the objectives of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, the then American envoy to Kabul, Adolph "Spike" Dubs, was assassinated on Feb. 14, 1979, the same day that Iranian revolutionaries stormed the US embassy in Tehran.
According to recently declassified documents of the White House, CIA and State Department, as reported by Tim Weiner for The Washington Post, the CIA was aiding Afghan jihadists before the Soviets invaded in 1979.
President Jimmy Carter signed the CIA directive to arm the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December the same year. That the CIA was arming the Afghan jihadists six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan has been proven by the State Department’s declassified documents; fact of the matter, however, is that the nexus between the CIA, Pakistan’s security agencies and the Gulf states to train and arm the Afghan jihadists against the former Soviet Union was formed several years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Historically, Pakistan’s military first used the Islamists of Jamaat-e-Islami during the Bangladesh war of liberation in the late 1960s against the Bangladeshi nationalist Mukti Bahini liberation movement of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman – the father of current prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, and the founder of Bangladesh, which was then a province of Pakistan and known as East Pakistan before the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
Jamaat-e-Islami is a far-right Islamist movement in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh – analogous to the Muslim Brotherhood political party in Egypt and Turkey – several of whose leaders have recently been hanged by the Bangladeshi nationalist government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed for committing massacres of Bangladeshi civilians on behalf of Pakistan’s military during the late 1960s.
Then, during the 1970s, Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began aiding the Afghan Islamists against Sardar Daud’s government, who had toppled his first cousin King Zahir Shah in a palace coup in 1973 and had proclaimed himself the president of Afghanistan.
Sardar Daud was a Pashtun nationalist and laid claim to Pakistan’s northwestern Pashtun-majority province. Pakistan’s security establishment was wary of his irredentist claims and used Islamists to weaken his rule in Afghanistan. He was eventually assassinated in 1978 as a result of the Saur Revolution led by the Afghan communists.
Pakistan’s support to the Islamists with the Saudi petrodollars and Washington’s blessings, however, kindled the fires of Islamic insurgencies in the entire region comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Soviet Central Asian States.
The former Soviet Union was wary that its forty-million Muslims were susceptible to radicalism, because Islamic radicalism was infiltrating across the border into the Central Asian States from Afghanistan. Therefore, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 in support of the Afghan communists to forestall the likelihood of Islamic insurgencies spreading to the Central Asian States bordering Afghanistan.
Even the American President Donald Trump recently admitted: "The reason Russia invaded Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia; they were right to be there." Incidentally, Trump also implied the reason why Soviet Union collapsed was due to the economic burden of the Soviet-Afghan War, as he was making a point about the withdrawal of American forces from Syria and Afghanistan.
Notwithstanding, in the Soviet-Afghan War between the capitalist and communist blocs, Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf’s petro-monarchies took the side of the capitalist bloc because the former Soviet Union and Central Asian states produce more energy and consume less. Thus, the Soviet-led bloc was a net exporter of energy whereas the Western capitalist bloc was a net importer.
It suited the economic interests of the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to maintain and strengthen a supplier-consumer relationship with the Western capitalist bloc. Now, the BRICS countries are equally hungry for the Middle East’s energy, but it’s a recent development. During the Cold War, an alliance with the industrialized Western nations suited the economic interests of the Gulf countries.
Regarding the motives of the belligerents involved, the Americans wanted to take revenge for their defeat at the hands of communists in Vietnam, the Gulf countries had forged close economic ties with the Western bloc and Pakistan was dependent on the Western military aid, hence it didn’t have a choice but to toe Washington’s policy in Afghanistan.
In the end, the Soviet-Afghan War proved to be a "bear trap" and the former Soviet Union was eventually defeated and was subsequently dissolved in December 1991. It did not collapse because of the Afghan Jihad but that was an important factor contributing to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Regardless, more than twenty years before the declassification of the State Department documents as mentioned in the aforementioned Washington Post report, in the 1998 interview to the alternative news outlet The CounterPunch Magazine, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confessed that the president signed the directive to provide secret aid to the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan six months later in December 1979.
Here is a poignant excerpt from the interview: The interviewer puts the question: "And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic jihadists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?" Brzezinski replies: "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"
Despite the crass insensitivity, one must give credit to Zbigniew Brzezinski that at least he had the courage to speak the unembellished truth. It’s worth noting, however, that the aforementioned interview was recorded in 1998. After the 9/11 terror attack, no Western policymaker can now dare to be as blunt and forthright as Brzezinski.
Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petro-imperialism.
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