Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Some Background on Osama and Afghanistan I did not know

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.

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4th Grade Afghanistan Primer

According to my buddy, Professor Salim Yaqub, Afghanistan was in desperate shape in the mid 1990s in the wake of the 15 year war with the Soviets.  Famine, civil war, and undetonated landmines plagued the country.  War had become a way of life, even for children.

I’m a tutor these days and I have been teaching kids word problems: “Ben was going 15 mph for 3 hours.  How far did Ben go?”  Pretty boring.  But here is what an Afghanistan mathematics textbook for 4th graders said in the 1980s.  You have to admit, it’s quite practical.

1) The Mujahideen are on the path of God in an attack on a convoy of the interventionist Russians and Communists.  After most of the enemy are killed, 500 boxes of shells are siezed as booty.  If in every box there are 820 shells, how many shells are siezed as booty.

2) The speed of a Kalashinikov bullet is 500 meters per second.  If one Russian is at a distance of 3,200 meters from a Mujahid, and the Mujahid aims at the Russian’s forehead, calculate how long it will take for the bullet to hit the Russians forehead.

This primer was in use in parts of the country until 2000.