Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor,congratulated himself on his brilliant strategy to create the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam” by bogging it down militarily in Afghanistan with the creation of an international corps of right-wing Islamists ready to fight the godless Soviets. Like all colonialist calculations, the Pentagon thought that these elements could be weaponized to do the bidding of U.S. and Western imperialism. They mistakenly believed that once the mission was completed that they could conveniently toss them aside like the Hmong in Vietnam, the Gurkhas from Nepal, the black Buffalo soldiers in the West of the U.S. – the list goes on. With direct logistical support from the Pakistani ISI, the Mujahedeen performed marvelously, destroying a secular nationalist government with Marxist leanings and plunging the nation into the chaos that led to the establishment of the Taliban who created their 8th century version of an Islamic state.
When Brzezinski formulated his plan, critics of this strategy, including some elements of the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, warned that the U.S. was playing a dangerous game by empowering what had always been the lunatic fringe of Islam, but colonial hubris inoculated those decision makers in 1979 and in both the Bush and Obama administrations from those more critical reassessments. They operated instead from a historic perspective in which the use of right-wing Islamists had yielded positive results not only in Afghanistan in the 1980’s but before that during the immediate post world-war years to undercut support for left and left nationalist forces in the so-called Middle-East.
These kinds of cynical calculations have always been a cornerstone of colonial “divide and rule” politics. However, what Brzezinski and others didn’t understand was the subjective factor that they were dealing with. Unlike the slimy comprador and mercenary types traditionally used to advance Western interests in various parts of the world, the religious fervor and commitment of these Islamic elements could not be turned on and off.
By concentrating these forces in Afghanistan, U.S. policy gave them an opportunity to gain valuable training, fighting experience, and some degree of prestige along with more effective post-conflict networking among themselves. They created a force in which the tail would eventually wag the dog, with the al-Qaeda network was just one of the networks of radical Islamists that emerged from that period.To read the full text, please, click here.