So when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the Americans needed a way to supply the Mujahideen in landlocked Afghanistan. So they stopped applying pressure on Pakistan for their human rights abuses and instead gave them several hundred million dollars in aid. Eventually, under Reagan, Pakistan would be the 3rd largest recipient of aid, trailing Israel and Egypt.
Pakistan recieved some discretion regarding which groups fighting the Soviets received American money and supplies. They tended to pick conservative islamists.
America in the meantime worked to swell the ranks of the Mujahadeen. The CIA helped recruit tens of thousands from across the middle eastern world asking them to come to Pakistan, be trained, given arms, and fight the Soviets. From 1982-1992, about 35,000 fighters were recruited from over 40 Islamic countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Why were so many willing to come and risk their lives? Of those who responded, the great appeal was to take part in Jihad. “Mujahideen” comes from the word Jihad. As you know, “jihad” means religious struggle, and it can mean either internal struggle against personal selfishness and unforgiveness, or external struggle against infidels. This is a debate that has been going on within Islam for centuries.
In the 1980s, the United States took a strong position in this internal debate, saying yes, you should definitely fight the godless soviets. In fact, Holy War, and most specifically the plight of the Mujahideen was something somewhat romanticized in American pop culture, in movies like Rambo 3 and in reporting by people like Dan Rather.
One of the CIA’s recruits was a Saudi named Osama Bin Laden. He was the 17th son of a wealthy and prominent Saudi and was sent not to fight as much as to be an emissary and prove Saudi Arabia’s support for the Mujahideen. Some say he was on the CIA’s payroll at the time. Maybe, maybe not, but he certainly worked with and for agencies that the CIA also funded. After the Soviets gave up, he started to build his al Qaeda network from the connections he had developed in fighting the Soviets. Eventually, the Taliban took over Afghanistan and brought some measure of order at the price of social and political oppression.
I have no conclusions for all of this. I have no synthesis, except that we should try not to supply and encourage crazy behavior.
All of these posts on American chicanery in the Middle East might make one think that I condemn America for it. I don’t really. I think the Soviets were really bad guys. Maybe I’ll post a blog that will prove it to everyone, but that doesn’t sound very interesting at the moment.
I’m really learning alot from this Salim Yaqub guy.