(SAUDI ARABIA and EXTREMISTS, to 2000 – continued)

home | 1945-21st century

SAUDI ARABIA and EXTREMISTS, to 2000 (2 of 4)

previous | next

War in Afghanistan and the Mujahideen

Between 1953 and '63, Afghanistan's prime minister, Prince Mohammad Daoud, introduced reforms and closer ties with the Soviet Union. In 1973, after having been out of office for ten years, he returned in a coup that overthrew the monarchy and established a republic. Then, in 1978, military officers overthrew him, leaving Daoud and eighteen of his and his brother's family dead.

The new president of Afghanistan was Nur Mohammad Taraki. He claimed that its policies were based on Afghan nationalism, Islamic principles, socioeconomic justice and nonalignment with foreign powers. The new regime announced its reform programs: elimination of usury, equal rights for women, land reforms, and administrative decrees. Many in Afghanistan felt threatened by the reforms. Tensions rose. The Taraki regime began arresting opponents, and it signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union. Uncoordinated rebellions arose across Afghanistan. An Afghan guerrilla movement, the Mujahideen, was born. In 1979, Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union sent 80,000 military personnel into Afghanistan, telling the administration of President Jimmy Carter that he was doing so at the request of Afghanistan's government.

The Saudis, with their abundance of petro-dollars, began aiding the Mujahideen – the Saudis spending from 20 to 25 million dollars a month.  Maybe as many as 2,000 Arab volunteers went to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Mujahideen – some of them released from prisons in Egypt, the Egyptian government happy to be rid of them. Some Wahhabi fundamentalists from Saudi Arabia also joined with the Mujahideen. One of them was a 25-year-old idealist named Osama bin Laden. Rather than pursue pleasure that inherited wealth had made possible for him, bin Laden was interested in advancing the cause of Islam, and, in 1982, while fighting for the Mujahideen, he was wounded in the foot.

In October 1984, the head of the CIA, William Casey, flew to Pakistan to plan strategy for helping in the war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Helicopters lifted Casey to three secret training camps near the Afghan border, where he watched Mujahideen rebels fire heavy weapons and learn to make bombs with CIA-supplied plastic explosives and detonators. During his visit, he proposed to his Pakistani hosts that propaganda materials be sent through Afghanistan to the Soviet Union's predominantly Muslim southern republics. The Pakistanis agreed, and the CIA soon supplied them with thousands of Korans, books on Soviet atrocities in Uzbekistan, and works extolling the heroes of Uzbek nationalism. Casey wanted to strike at what he saw as an overextended and potentially vulnerable Soviet empire. And, in March, 1985, the Reagan administration, acting on its National Security Directive 166, decided to escalate U.S. covert action in Afghanistan and to supply the Afghan rebels with an array of military technology and expertise.

Saudi money, meanwhile, was funding support for Muslim widows created by the war in Afghanistan. Saudi money was spent on the building of orphanages and a field hospital. One who was released from an Egyptian prison in 1984 and left Egypt in 1986 was Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. On the Afghan-Pakistani border he joined the Red Crescent Organization, funded by the Saudis, and he treated the anti-Soviet Muslim wounded. He became an associate of bin Laden, who was there also doing charity work, donating his wealth and labor to the cause of those suffering from the war.

Among those who wished to blame everything on the United States a myth was in the making, to appear full blown among this minority after September 11, 2001. Ignoring the mindset that was a part of what went into the making of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization, and ignoring events in the Middle East outside the policies of the United States, they would claim that bin Laden and others, such as al-Zawahiri, were basically the product of the CIA and the United States.


Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.