U.S. Meddling and Awesome Blowback
Many years ago in earlier editions of Defrauding America, one of my key CIA assets, Günter Russbacher, described his many years in Afghanistan, prior, during, and after the Soviet presence. During one of my dozens of conversations he stated something that caused me to question the CIA's role in that country prior to the arrival of Soviet forces.
Russbacher described the role of the CIA while he was in Afghanistan, in undermining the Afghan government leader who was trying to westernize and advance the nation into the 20sth Century. Those actions alienated the religious fanatics, who then conducted an insurrection to overthrow the government. Russbacher described to me how he and other CIA personnel were in Afghanistan about a year before the Soviet military entered. During one question and answer session (September 16, 2002) Russbacher provided the following information in response to my questions:
Stich: Was the CIA furnishing funds, arms, and training to people in Afghanistan seeking to overthrow the king of Afghanistan?
GR: Yes they were. The guy that was running the operation, as far as arms shipments and things like that, was Stan Barker (sp).
Stich: He was CIA, I presume.
GR: No, he was DIA. [Defense Intelligence Agency]
Stich: Do you know how long this was going on before the Soviet military went into Afghanistan?
GR: About 36 months.
Stich: Apparently the CIA was unhappy about the King having ties to the Soviet Union?
GR: Precisely. They were backing one or two factions trying to take over the country.
Brief History of Afghanistan
From 1980 to 1989, the Soviet Union had its military in Afghanistan, asked in by Afghanistan’s leader to stabilize the country. One of the main reasons why the country needed to be stabilized, and why its leader asked for Soviet help, was the destabilization by the United States through the CIA.
In the 1970s, Afghanistan, headed by King Muhammad Zahir Shah, was receiving aid from the United States and the Soviet Union. In July 1973, a group of military officers deposed the King and proclaimed Afghanistan a Republic. The cousin to the deposed King, Lt. Gen. Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, became president and prime minister. He was later deposed by a group led by Noor Mohammed Taraki, who instituted Marxist reforms, aligning the country more closely with the Soviet Union. Afghanistan’s leaders attempted to modernize the country with financial help from the Soviet Union.
This modernization angered a religious group, popularly called mujahidin (“Islamic warriors”), and with funds and weapons provided by the United States through CIA assets, threatened to overthrow the government. At that point, the Soviet Union was asked to send troops to Afghanistan seeking to defend against the CIA-supported insurrection.
Afghanistan was devastated by the CIA-funded war that continued from 1979 to 1989, at which time the Soviets withdrew their troops. The government, now without sufficient military forces and funds to defend against the U.S. supported rebels, was overthrow in 1992. Rebel leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, launched military attacks on the new government, causing other members of the coalition to form their own guerrilla groups, each controlling different zones.
In 1994, a group of Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist students, calling themselves the Taliban, started to take over different zones, and by September had captured Kabul and declared themselves the legitimate government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They then imposed a brutal puritanical form of Islamic law in sections of the country they controlled.
In August 1998, as the Taliban appeared on the verge of taking over the whole country, U.S. missiles destroyed what was described by the Pentagon as an extensive terrorist training complex near Kabul run by Osama bin Laden. He was charged with bombing the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The United Nations brought about a peace agreement in March between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, under Ahmed Shah Massoud. That agreement collapsed in July and fighting again broke out. In September, a suicide bomb attack by assassins posing as Arab journalists killed Massoud.