- Operation Cyclone
Operation Cyclone Part of Soviet war in Afghanistan Operational scope Operational Location Afghanistan Objective Arm, train, and finance the mujahideen Date 1979—1989 Casualties 2,000
Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm, train, and finance the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, 1979 to 1989. The program leaned heavily towards supporting militant Islamic groups that were favored by neighboring Pakistan, rather than other, less ideological Afghan resistance groups that had also been fighting the Marxist-oriented Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regime since before the Soviet intervention. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken; funding began with $20–30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987.
President Carter reacted with "open-mouthed shock" to the Soviet invasion, and began promptly arming the Afghan insurgents. Vice-President Walter Mondale famously declared: "I cannot understand -- it just baffles me -- why the Soviets these last few years have behaved as they have. Maybe we have made some mistakes with them. Why did they have to build up all these arms? Why did they have to go into Afghanistan? Why can't they relax just a little bit about Eastern Europe? Why do they try every door to see if it is locked?" The Russians, several times shortly before the invasion, had staged conversations with the Afghan leadership suggesting that they had no desire to intervene, even as the Politburo was—with much hesitation—considering such an intervention. They had apparently orchestrated these meetings in a manner that would allow the Americans to easily intercept them. Though some have argued that US financial assistance to Afghan dissidents, including Islamists and other militants, prior to the invasion; along with a Soviet desire to protect the leftist Afghan government, helped convince the Russians to intervene, the Russians brutally murdered the Afghan President and his son, replacing him with a puppet regime, immediately after the invasion for fear that the US had secretly been collaborating with him.
According to the "Progressive South Asia Exchange Net," claiming to cite an article in Le Nouvel Observateur, U.S. policy, unbeknownst even to the Mujahideen, was part of a larger strategy of aiming "to induce a Soviet military intervention." The article includes a brief interview with Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in which he is quoted as saying that the US provided aid to the mujahideen prior to the Soviet invasion in order to delibrately provoke one. Brzezinski himself has denied the accuracy of the interview. According to Brzezinski, an NSC working group on Afghanistan wrote several reports on the deteriorating situation in 1979, but President Carter ignored them until the Soviet intervention destroyed his illusions. Brzezinski has stated that the US provided communications equipment and limited financial aid to the mujahideen prior to the "formal" invasion, but only in response to the Soviet deployment of forces to Afghanistan and the 1978 coup, and with the intention of preventing further Soviet encroachment in the region. Two declassified documents signed by Carter shortly before the invasion do authorize the provision "unilaterally or through third countries as appropriate support to the Afghan insurgents either in the form of cash or non-military supplies" and the "worldwide" distribution of "non-attributable propaganda" to "expose" the leftist Afghan government as "despotic and subservient to the Soviet Union" and to "publicize the efforts of the Afghan insurgents to regain their country's sovereignty," but the records also show that the provision of arms to the rebels did not begin until 1980.
The Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 significantly damaged the already tenuous relationship between Secretary of State Vance and Brzezinski. Vance felt that Brzezinski's linkage of SALT to other Soviet activities and the US's proposed MX ballistic missile system [a $34 billion addition to US's defenses described as the nation's "most important ICBM of the future." "Taking Aim at the MX Missile." 4/07/80, together with the growing domestic criticisms in the United States of the SALT II Accord, convinced Brezhnev to decide on military intervention in Afghanistan. Brzezinski, however, later recounted that he repeatedly advanced proposals on how to maintain Afghanistan's "independence" and deter a Soviet invasion but was frustrated by the Department of State's opposition.
According to Eric Alterman of The Nation, Cyrus Vance's close aide Marshall Shulman "insists that the State Department worked hard to dissuade the Soviets from invading and would never have undertaken a program to encourage it" and President Carter has said it was definitely "not my intention" to inspire a Soviet invasion but to deter one. Robert Gates, in his book From the Shadows, wrote that Pakistan had actually been "pressuring" the United States for arms to aid the rebels for years, but that the Carter administration refused in the hope of finding a diplomatic solution to avoid war. Brzezinski seemed to have been in favor of the provision of arms to the rebels, while Vance's State Department, seeking a peaceful settlement, publicly accused Brzezinski of seeking to "revive" the Cold War. Gates, however, has questioned if the US financial aid did increase the chances of the Soviets intervening, writing that some CIA officers involved assumed that that was President Carter's intention.
The Soviet invasion and occupation killed up to 2 million Afghans. Brzezinski defended the arming of the rebels in response, saying that it "was quite important in hastening the end of the conflict," thereby saving the lives of thousands of Afghans, but "not in deciding the conflict, because actually the fact is that even though we helped the mujaheddin, they would have continued fighting without our help, because they were also getting a lot of money from the Persian Gulf and the Arab states, and they weren't going to quit. They didn't decide to fight because we urged them to. They're fighters, and they prefer to be independent. They just happen to have a curious complex: they don't like foreigners with guns in their country. And they were going to fight the Soviets. Giving them weapons was a very important forward step in defeating the Soviets, and that's all to the good as far as I'm concerned." When he was asked if he thought it was the right decision in retrospect (given the Taliban's subsequent rise to power), he said: "Which decision? For the Soviets to go in? The decision was the Soviets', and they went in. The Afghans would have resisted anyway, and they were resisting. I just told you: in my view, the Afghans would have prevailed in the end anyway, 'cause they had access to money, they had access to weapons, and they had the will to fight." The interviewer then asked: "So US support for the mujaheddin only begins after the Russians invade, not before?" Brzezinski replied: "With arms? Absolutely afterwards. No question about it. Show me some documents to the contrary." Likewise; Charlie Wilson said: "The U.S. had nothing whatsoever to do with these people's decision to fight ... but we'll be damned by history if we let them fight with stones." The 2007 movie Charlie Wilson's War celebrated Charlie Wilson's and the CIA's involvement in the repulsion of the USSR troops from Afghanistan. Representative Wilson was awarded the Honored Colleague Award by the CIA for his involvement.
A 2002 study found that, in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, the United States had sought rapprochement with the Afghan government—a prospect that the USSR found unacceptable (especially as its own leverage over the regime was wearing thin). Thus, the Soviets intervened to preserve their influence in the country.
The early foundations of al-Qaida were built in part on relationships and weaponry that came from the billions of dollars in U.S. support for the Afghan mujahadin during the war to expel Soviet forces from that country, although this view has been disputed.
On July 3, 1979, U.S. President Carter signed a presidential finding authorizing funding for anticommunist guerrillas in Afghanistan. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December Operation Storm-333 and installation of a more pro-Soviet president, Babrak Karmal, Carter announced, "The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War".
To execute this policy, President Reagan deployed CIA Special Activities Division paramilitary officers to train and equip the Mujihadeen forces against the Red Army. Although the CIA and Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson have received the most attention for their roles, the key architect of the strategy was Michael G. Vickers, a young CIA paramilitary officer working for Gust Avrakotos, the CIA's regional head. Reagan's Covert Action program assisted in ending the Soviet's occupation in Afghanistan. A Pentagon senior official, Michael Pillsbury, successfully advocated providing Stinger missiles to the Afghan resistance, according to recent books and academic articles.
The program relied heavily on using the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as an intermediary for funds distribution, passing of weapons, military training and financial support to Afghan resistance groups. Along with funding from similar programs from Britain's MI6 and SAS, Saudi Arabia, and the People's Republic of China, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents between 1978 and 1992. They encouraged the volunteers from the Arab states to join the Afghan resistance in its struggle against the Soviet troops based in Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, despite its heavy reliance on the Pakistanis, the U.S. also sent its own military trainers and advisors to mujaheddin bases in Pakistan, where they instructed Afghan fighters in the use of U.S.-supplied equipment as well as guerilla warfare in general. Civilian personnel from the U.S. Department of State and the CIA also frequently visited the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area during this time.
The U.S.-built Stinger antiaircraft missile, supplied to the mujahideen in very large numbers, struck a decisive blow to the Soviet war effort as it allowed the lightly armed Afghans to effectively defend against Soviet helicopter landings in strategic areas. The Stingers were so renowned and deadly that, in the 1990s, the U.S. conducted a "buy-back" program to keep unused missiles from falling into the hands of anti-American terrorists. This program may have been covertly renewed following the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in late 2001, out of fear that remaining Stingers could be used against U.S. forces in the country.
Soviet troops completely pulled out of Afghanistan on February 15, 1989, having suffered over 14,000 killed and missing and over 50,000 wounded.
The U.S. offered two packages of economic assistance and military sales to support Pakistan's role in the war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The first six-year assistance package (1981–87) amounted to US$3.2 billion, equally divided between economic assistance and military sales. The U.S. also sold 40 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan during 1983–87 at a cost of $1.2 billion outside the assistance package. The second six-year assistance package (1987–93) amounted to $4.2 billion. Out of this, $2.28 billion were allocated for economic assistance in the form of grants or loan that carried the interest rate of 2–3 per cent. The rest of the allocation ($1.74 billion) was in the form of credit for military purchases. Sale of non-U.S. arms to Pakistan for destination to Afghanistan was facilitated by Israel. Somewhere between $3–$20 billion in U.S. funds were funneled into the country to train and equip Afghan resistance groups with weapons, including Stinger man-portable air-defense systems.
The program funding was increased yearly due to lobbying by prominent U.S. politicians and government officials, such as Charles Wilson, Gordon Humphrey, Fred Ikle, and William Casey. Under the Reagan administration, U.S. support for the Afghan mujahideen evolved into a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy, called the Reagan Doctrine, in which the U.S. provided military and other support to anti-communist resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.
The mujahideen benefited from expanded foreign military support from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Muslim nations. The U.S. tended to favor the Afghan resistance forces led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, and U.S. support for Massoud's forces increased considerably in the 1980s. Primary advocates for supporting Massoud included two Heritage Foundation foreign policy analysts, Michael Johns and James A. Phillips, both of whom championed Massoud as the Afghan resistance leader most worthy of US support under the Reagan Doctrine.
When the Soviet forces crossed into Afghanistan in December 1979, some believed the Soviets were attempting to expand their borders southward in order to gain a foothold in the region. The Soviet Union had long lacked a warm water port, and their movement south seemed to position them for further expansion toward Pakistan in the East, and Iran to the West. American politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, feared the Soviets were positioning themselves for a takeover of Middle Eastern oil. Others believed that the Soviet Union was afraid Iran's Islamic Revolution and Afghanistan's Islamization would spread to the millions of Muslims in the USSR.
After the invasion, Carter announced what became known as the Carter Doctrine: that the U.S. would not allow any other outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf. He terminated the Russian Wheat Deal, which was intended to establish trade with USSR and lessen Cold War tensions. He also prohibited Americans from participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and reinstated registration for the draft for young males.
The U.S. shifted its interest from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops. American funding of Afghan resistance leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezbi Islami party was cut off immediately. The U.S. also reduced its assistance for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
In October 1990, U.S. President George H. W. Bush refused to certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device, triggering the imposition of sanctions against Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment (1985) in the Foreign Assistance Act. This disrupted the second assistance package offered in 1987 and discontinued economic assistance and military sales to Pakistan with the exception of the economic assistance already on its way to Pakistan. Military sales and training programs were abandoned as well and some of the Pakistani military officers under training in the U.S. were asked to return home.
The U.S. government has been criticized for allowing Pakistan to channel a disproportionate amount of its funding to controversial Afghan resistance leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who Pakistani officials believed was "their man". Hekmatyar has been criticized for killing other mujahideen and attacking civilian populations, including shelling Kabul with American-supplied weapons, causing 2,000 casualties. Hekmatyar was said to be friendly with Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, who was running an operation for assisting "Afghan Arab" volunteers fighting in Afghanistan, called Maktab al-Khadamat. Alarmed by his behavior, Pakistan leader General Zia warned Hekmatyar, "It was Pakistan that made him an Afghan leader and it is Pakistan who can equally destroy him if he continues to misbehave."
The U.S. says that all of its funds went to native Afghan rebels and denies that any of its funds were used to supply Osama bin Laden or foreign Arab mujahideen. Nonetheless, U.S. support for the native Afghan mujahideen contributed to the radical Islamization of Afghanistan as well as the weakening and near-disintegration of the Afghan state, which ultimately led to the Taliban takeover of most of the country in 1996.
Moreover, U.S. support for the mujahideen enabled and prolonged their resistance to the Soviet presence, ultimately resulting in thousands of battle-hardened, radicalized, non-Afghan veterans returning to their home countries and forming the core of what is now referred to as Al Qaeda or "The Base". (It is estimated that 35,000 foreign Muslims from 43 Islamic countries participated in the war). Additionally, the close relationships and cooperation established during the 1980s between the mujahideen and Pakistan's intelligence and military services, as well as the presence of mujahideen training bases on Pakistani soil, ultimately led to the infiltration of the Pakistani security services by militant Islamic elements as well as the de facto takeover of northwest Pakistan by pro-Taliban rebels.
Critics of U.S. foreign policy consider Operation Cyclone to be substantially responsible for setting in motion the events that led to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. It is also probable that some Taliban presently fighting the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan were in fact trained, equipped, or funded by the U.S. or its allies during the 1980s, at which time they were more commonly referred to as "freedom fighters".
- Ahmad Shah Massoud
- Allegations of CIA assistance to Osama bin Laden
- Afghan Civil War
- Afghan training camp
- Badaber Uprising
- CIA activity in Afghanistan under William J. Casey 1981-1987
- CIA Activities by Region: Near East, North Africa, South and Southwest Asia (see: Afghanistan 1978)
- Celebratory gunfire
- Charlie Wilson's War
- Gary Schroen
- Howard Hart
- Joanne Herring
- Milton Bearden
- Soviet war in Afghanistan
- ^ Eduardo Real: ‘’Zbigniew Brzezinski, Defeated by his Success’’
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- ^ a b http://www.zcommunications.org/the-rise-and-rise-of-robert-gates-by-roger-morris
- ^ The interview has been republished by Alexander Cockburn's CounterPunch website, but was first posted online here: http://www.proxsa.org/resources/9-11/Brzezinski-980115-interview.htm The link includes the following citation: "There are at least two editions of this magazine; with the perhaps sole exception of the Library of Congress, the version sent to the United States is shorter than the French version, and the Brzezinski interview was not included in the shorter version. The above has been translated from the French by Bill Blum, author of the indispensible "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II" and "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower."
- ^ a b “”. "Brzezinski and the Afghan War Pt2". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGjAsQJh7OM&feature=channel. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
- ^ http://www.activistmagazine.com/images/stories/government/carter_79-1581.jpg
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- ^ Crile, 259–62.
- ^ "During book signing, Wilson recalls efforts to arm Afghans," Lufkin Daily News, November 11, 2003.
- ^ Rubin, Michael, "Who is Responsible for the Taliban," Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 6, No. 1 (March 2002). http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2002/issue1/mrubin.pdf
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- ^ Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda (Penguin, 2003), p59.
- ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World (Penguin, 2006), p579n48.
- ^ Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden (Penguin, 2004), p87.
- ^ Peter Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know (Free Press, 2006), pp60-1.
- ^ Mark Urban, War in Afghanistan, Macmillan, 1988, p.56
- ^ Crile, George (2003). Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. Atlantic Monthly Press, page 246, 285 and 302
- ^ "Sorry Charlie this is Michael Vickers's War", Washington Post, 27 December 2007
- ^ http://www.globalissues.org/article/258/anatomy-of-a-victory-cias-covert-afghan-war
- ^ Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Paperback) by Peter Schweizer, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994 page 213
- ^ Heymann, Philip (2008). Living the Policy Process. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195335392.
- ^ a b c d Pakistan's Foreign Policy: an Overview 1974-2004. PILDAT briefing paper for Pakistani parliamentarians by Hasan-Askari Rizvi, 2004. pp19-20.
- ^ Interview with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski-(13/6/97). Part 2. Episode 17. Good Guys, Bad Guys. 13 June 1997.
- ^ "http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1057196.html".
- ^ Profile: Charlie Wilson
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- ^ "Charlie Wilson's War Was Really America's War," by Michael Johns, January 19, 2008.
- ^ "Think tank fosters bloodshed, terrorism," The Daily Cougar, August 25, 2008.
- ^ Kepel, Jihad, (2002)
- ^ Bergen, Peter, Holy War Inc., Free Press, (2001), p.67
- ^ Graham Fuller in interview with Peter Bergen, Bergen, Peter, Holy War Inc., Free Press, (2001), p.68
- ^ Henry S. Bradsher, Afghan Communism and Soviet Interventions, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.185
- ^ "The Road to September 11". Evan Thomas. Newsweek. 1 October 2001.
- ^ "1986-1992: CIA and British Recruit and Train Militants Worldwide to Help Fight Afghan War". Cooperative Research History Commons. http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/context.jsp?item=a86operationcyclone. Retrieved 2007-01-11.
- ^ "CIA worked with Pak to create Taliban". India Abroad News Service. 2001-03-06. http://www.rawa.org/cia-talib.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-11.
- ^ "CIA bin Laden". October 2001. http://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2001/oct01/cover6.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-10.
- ^ "Did the U.S. "Create" Osama bin Laden?". US Department of State. 2005-01-14. http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2005/Jan/24-318760.html. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
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