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Many Americans may not be aware of the role their government played in supporting the mujahadeen rebels who fought the Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Many of these men went on to join the Taliban that the US cited as one of their main targets in the recent invasion of the county to "liberate" the citizens from Islamic extremist warlords. It is widely acknowledged that Islamic resistance to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was encouraged by the US government during the Cold War. The following interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, former president Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser demonstrates the American role in the Soviet/Afghan conflict:

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: 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?

A translation of this interview can be found here and Brzezinski's comments are also reported here.

This period of geopolitical intrigue may best be viewed through the lens of the Cold War. The US supplied the anti-Soviet resistance with $10 billion in weapons during this period to help destablise the Soviet Union. During this period Osama bin Laden also provided support to the Afghan mujahadeen. This page attempts to provide a short history of the US intrigue in Afghanistan during the Cold War and will not focus on bin Laden specifically or his relationship with the United States.

These historical events act as a backdrop to the more recent attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by a coalition of international forces led by the United States. It would be short sighted to ignore the geopolitical context within which the current conflict is occurring.

The petrochemical energy reserves of the former soviet republics of Central Asia are another factor contributing to US interest in Afghanistan. A decent rebuttal of the argument that the energy reserves of this region were one of the motivations for the war in Afghanistan can be found here. By contrast the article I have mirrored here (with the kind permission of the authors) provides a different perspective.

Associated links:
George Washington University 1 | 2
Salon articles on bin Laden
Robert Fisk interviews with bin Laden 1 | 2
US abuses in Afghanistan
Spin control
Unocal presentation on Central Asian energy reserves
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan
History of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan
Tim Wise on the hypocrisy of the most recent conflict in Afghanistan
Dismissing silly conspiracy theories in 9/11
Angry Americans voice their hate
Asian oil and gas reserves are significant
Oil and the Bush administration
Energy and power
The proposed gas pipeline