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Taliban is a 'monster hatched by the US'
By Peter Popham in Islamabad
17 September 2001
If the United States follows through with the rhetoric and commits ground troops to Afghanistan, one day soon, American
troops will come face to face with the Taliban the monster they helped to create.
This may, as we are told, be a war between civilisation and fanaticism. But in a quiet corner of the brains of those busy
committing the United States to another world war, one hopes there will be a recognition of the fact that the Taliban is, in
an important sense, the creation of America's foreign policy.
Without America's hubristic determination to rule the world without having to pay the price that all prior empires paid in
human life, this enemy would not have sprung up to challenge it now.
The story goes back 22 years, to 1979. America had decided, post-Vietnam war, that American deaths were an
unacceptable price to pay for victory (let alone defeat) in far away countries of which they knew little. But in 1979, this
was still a bipolar world. The Soviet Union was already ailing, in far worse shape than anyone imagined, but around the
world,the proxy struggles between the superpowers went on; in the Middle East, in Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen.
In Afghanistan, a Communist government was in power, propped up by the Soviets. But Moscow's trusted puppet,
Muhammad Daoud, cousin of the ousted King Zahir Shah and sometimes called the "Red Prince", had gone, murdered
with most of his family in a military coup. Moscow was much less sure about Daoud's replacement, President Nur
Muhammad Taraki. Because Afghanistan was at best a very rum sort of Communist state. In Kabul, the apparatchiks wore
suits and their wives wore skirts and heels and even went to work. But the secular, atheistical fabric of the state was
flimsy and fragile. A little way out in the rugged countryside, it remained rigidly tribal; women wore the burqa, Islamic
piety was universal, and the Soviet Union was Satan.
Nudged and funded by the CIA, Iran and Pakistan, the tribal leaders began to cause their overlords some trouble.
Moscow under Leonid Brezhnev, fat and autocratic and often drunk, decided enough was enough and sent in the army.
The Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was under way.
It was a rash adventure from the start, and the anti-Soviet hawk in President Jimmy Carter's cabinet, his National Security
Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, persuaded Mr Carter that it offered the perfect opportunity to give the Soviets far more
trouble than they had bargained for. Building on a modest programme of assistance that had started six months before the
Soviet invasion, Mr Brzezinski got the President to sign a secret directive to send covert aid to the Mujahedeen, the tribal
Islamic warriors who were then in the earliest stages of giving the Soviets hell.
The Afghan civil war was under way, and America was in it from the start or even before the start, if Mr Brzezinski is to
be believed. "We didn't push the Russians to intervene," he told an interviewer in 1998, "but we consciously increased the
probability that they would do so. This secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the
Afghan trap. You want me to regret that?" The long-term effect of the American intervention from the cold-warrior Mr
Brzezinski's perspective was 10 years later to bring the Soviet Union to its knees. But there were other effects, too.
To keep the war going, the CIA, in cahoots with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan's military intelligence agency ISI (InterServices Intelligence Directorate), funnelled millions and millions of dollars to the Mujahedeen. It was the remotest and
the safest form of warfare: the US (and Saudi Arabia) provided funds, and America also a very limited amount of training.