To understand the formation of the Taliban, we must examine Afghanistan’s recent history, the decade-long battle with the Soviet Union, and the USA’s military arms & financial support for warlords and rebels.
In 1978, the Afghan Government (ie; the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, or PDPA), seized control of the country, led by socialist national policies and a vision to modernise the country by promoting state-based atheism, and the abolishment of Sharia Law (A strict Islamic code of conduct). This raised the ire of many, and promoted a growing insurgency movement – often referred to as The Mujahadeen.
Unwilling to have the seat of government seized from them by hardline militia, the PDPA strengthened relations with the USSR, and in 1979 requested military aid in the form of 20 armed military helicopters from their Soviet neighbors. Within two months, the USSR were rolling armoured tanks, amphibious infantry vehicles and soldiers into the capital of Kabul to protect the PDPA from the growing anti-government militia.
Having signed a treaty with the USSR (the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness) upon seizing power, the PDPA were simply requesting support against extremist, non-political factions. Inherently there can be no argument regarding the PDPA’s good judgement as a peaceful nation.
Image: Afghanistan’s General Secretary Babrak Karmal embraces Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev
Fighting ‘The Commies’
Elsewhere, this was a tense few decades for USA/Soviet relations, in the midst of the USA’s irrelevant worldwide war on non-Democratic nations. The Cuban Missile Crisis had American citizens fearing nuclear warfare, The CIA were operating covertly in Chile to overthrow pro-Marxist factions, and the Vietnam war had been an unmitigated disaster which failed to serve it’s intended purpose.
Fearing an alliance between Afghanistan & the USSR, the American Central Intelligence Agency formed the Operation Cyclone program to fund the anti-Government Islamic militant groups in order to overthrow PDPA in a violent & bloody proxy-war. This funding began at $30million in 1980, and increased annually, with an estimated war-chest contribution of $600million in 1987 alone.
Furthermore, Operation Cyclone provided military support for neighboring Pakistan, via the InterServices Intelligence agency known as the ISI, who were actively supporting the Afghan insurgent guerrillas. $7.5billion was allocated to the ISI for the purposes of arming the Mujahadeen, along with the supply of 40 F-16 fighter aircraft. Non-US arms were provided to Pakistan via Israel to be funneled into the Afghani guerrillas, and a further $20billion was spent on training over 100,000 foreign insurgents to fight the PDPA, and subsequently the USSR. Saudi Arabia matched the United States military funding dollar-for-dollar.
Allow me to re-iterate the obvious. The USA were funding militant guerillas, against another country’s government.
Casualties of War
Despite the ability to deploy one of the world’s largest military into the region of Afghanistan, the USA instead fought this anti-Soviet war by proxy, thus avoiding negative public opinion on the loss of American lives. The impact of the USA’s covert involvement was not without casualties, but it was not American casualties. Despite this, over 100,000 deaths were recorded, consisting of 25,000 Soviet soldiers, 18,000 Afghan Army members, and 90,000 guerrillas of the CIA-funded Mujahadeen forces.
The Mujahadeen extremists were so favored by the US administration, that delegates were invited to the White House to be met with President Ronald Regan.
Predicting a public relations goldmine in the fight against Communism, the arrangement was an attempt to show the nation of America that ‘the good guys’ were winning.
Image: President Regan meeting with extremist Mujahadeen in the Oval Office
Incidentally, President Regan offered the following statement praising his international guests:
“These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”
War is Over – 1989
To much embarrassment, international support was not forthcoming, and Operation Cyclone was widely condemned. In the decade-long war, the USA achieved nothing, but were determined to keep sending foreign soldiers to their death. It was only through Soviet withdrawal, under the leadership of USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, that the conflict drew to a close.
Despite this attempt at restoring peace, pro-Mujahadeen forces continued to bombard the withdrawing Soviet Army via air attacks using American F-16 jets, and the white-flag exit was exploited, resulting in another 500 deaths of retreating soldiers. It would be another three years before the pro-Soviet Afghan Government would be overthrown, and the Islamic militant faction seized control. The year was 1992 and the United States of America were directly responsible for their creation of an Islamic Militant movement through their multi-billion dollar funding.