The Great Game -Renewed. Lord Curzon famously stated ” who ever control West Asia controls the world”. In his view this entailed the exercise of a predominant influence over the destinies of Persia and Afghanistan- a role he reserved for British India. Today we have many nations desperate to aquire that role? NATO and ISAF led by the USA, fighting Al-Qaeda and the Pakhtuns (Taliban); Even Russia and China not ignoring their strategic interests in the area ;and of course the traditional rivals India and Pakistan always ready to fight a proxy war in Afghanistan.This article –and a few others to follow- will look at the issues at stake today - primarily from Pakistan’s point of view.But first an over view of the make up and strategic importance of Central Asia.
The Demo-Graphy Of Central Asia. Once upon a time not so long ago the worlds biggest Empire possessed unimaginable land, wealth and potential. However, lacking the vision to manage what it possessed; it chose the wrong friends and made the wrong enemies resulting in an inevitable humiliation at the hands of a ‘despicable band of holy warriors’. China which should have been it’s biggest helper lifted not a finger to assist; and India which should have been it’s biggest friend shed not a single tear -in fact jumped on to the opposing band wagon with glee.
The monolith fell, and instead of the USSR we suddenly had fifteen sovereign states. In this series of articles we are concerned with only six of them now termed as the Central Asian Republics. They literally had independence thrust upon them –for none of them had lifted even a finger in any show of protest against USSR rule, or showed any solidarity with the coup of Boris Yeltsin. Yet after the events of Dec 1991 they had no choice except to be independent!
Central Asia can be termed ‘central’ as well as ‘a single region’ for more reasons then one. First it comprises most -but not all the territory - of what was formerly known as Turkistan, also as ‘inner Asia’, because of it being a land locked part of Asia; Second culturally and politically it lies in between many distinct civilizations –Roman Christianity to the west; Slavic Christianity and Communistic to the North; Chinese to the East and Islamic to the South. Third demographically and economically too it lies some where in the center –all have high rates of fertility and a high percentages of population engaged in agriculture, low per capita incomes and low rates of labor productivity as well as life expectancy. Fourth all of them have experienced Russian colonial rule and therefore have similar inefficient and corrupt post colonial government structures.
The political structures are highly centralized and based on feudally empowered ruling local elites working with the masters; while the economic structures are based on the classic definition of economic exploitation, in that the colonies were producers and suppliers of cheap agricultural as well as mineral raw material –with the additional imposition of the communistic pattern of organization in that the masters fixed what and how much had to be produced by each region. This also resulted in some startling discrepancies; in that some regions despite their primitive base gained remarkably advanced technological infrastructures and equipment–including nuclear and space technology!
Last but not least like the colonial experience every where else; despite Russian attempts to eradicate their Islamic values, in all these regions, Islam remains deeply embedded in their social and political psyche.This gives rise to ideas of regional and global Islamic unity. Although again - like else where in the Muslim world - what exactly this means remains unclear!
Endless border disputes –again like the legacies left by colonial powers else where- are a source of constant internal friction preventing any unity for common welfare and development. All of Uzbekistan’s borders for instance are in dispute with its neighbors!
The Mineral Wealth Of Central Asia. -Azerbaijan situated on the Caucasian Isthmus between Armenia and the Caspian Sea, is a major oil producing country. Turkmenistan (488,000 sq. mi) has enormous oil, gas, coal and other natural resources and directly adjoins Afghanistan to the south. Uzbekistan (172,000 sq. mi) also has vast resources in oil, gas, coal, copper and gold; and is a big cotton producer. It too adjoins Afghanistan. Tajikistan (55,000 sq. mi) also has a frontier with Afghanistan, and, has very rich deposits of oil, gas, coal, lead, zinc, uranium, radium etc. Kyrgyzstan Adjoining Tajikistan has a relatively well-developed industrial and agro-industrial base. It has a border with China to its east. Kazakhstan (1,000 000 sq. mi) has absolutely vast reserves of coal, oil, gas, manganese, copper, bauxite, gold, uranium and many other minerals. It is highly developed both agriculturally as well as industrially. Possessing much of the former Soviet aerospace and defense industries, it also has common borders with both Russia and China.
Historically too the region has always been valued for it oil potential alone. The two great World War I oil fields were in Texas and the Caspian Sea region of Imperial Russia. In WW II also Adolph Hitler launched Operation Blau to capture the Caspian Sea oil fields.
The Strategic Importance Of Afghanistan/Pakistan. In order to appreciate the strategic importance of Afghanistan /Pakistan, we have to first realize that any power which possess the major route for transit of trade revolving round Central Asia’s vast oil, gas and mineral resources will gain immensely in wealth, power and prestige. With this in mind let us have a look at all the likely routes out of the area:
1.The Routes Through The Caspian Sea. These are the most desirable route from the point of view of the EU.They are also the shortest routes out of the area and some have been operational since WW1.More over they allow for the possibility of the trans-shipment to Africa and SE Asia. This route empowers Europe. The more important sub-routes are:
• Kazakhstan through Russia to Novorossiysk (Route 1) Built in 1997 by the Caspian Sea Consortium this route helps maintain Russian control of oil shipment from the region.
• Old Russian Line from Baku To Novorossiysk (Route 2) .This historic line Chechnya to Novorossiysk was closed because of the Chechens’ continuing struggle. Russia has recently completed a bypass around Chechnya and reactivated the pipeline.
• A Wider Northern By-Pass(Route 3).Russia has proposed exporting oil north to join its existing pipeline system at Novorossiysk .This development would remove the pipeline further from Chechnya and help maintain regular flow of Caspian Sea and Kazakh oil.
• The Tran Caucasus Route. (Route 4). The Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) built an initial line from Baku through Georgia to the Georgian port of Supsa on the Black Sea. It is pumping a limited amount of oil since l999.This is relatively inexpensive option, but the oil still has to move from Supsa by oil tanker through the Black Sea and the Bosporus. Turkey controls the traffic between the Black and Mediterranean Seas and does not want increased oil tanker traffic through the straits because of environmental concerns. Russia objects to this route because none of the pipeline passes through Russia. Further, this pipeline runs through domains of many fractious mountain tribes.
• Pipe Line To Turkish Mediterranean Port Of Ceyhan (Route 5).The AIOC is considering this line. The route runs through Azerbaijan and Armenia, whose war over Nagorno-Karabakh is at a stalemate. Thus, the Baku-Armenia-Ceyhan route is not a near-term option. Should this conflict be settled, the route also passes through the Kurdish part of Turkey where a suppressed insurrection still simmers.
• Clinton Alternative To Route 4.The Clinton administration tried to promote a pipeline route from Baku to Tbilisi to Supsa (Route 4) and then underwater from Supsa to Turkey where it would cut across Kurdish Turkey to Ceyhan. An underwater pipeline from Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Baku would back this pipeline. This expensive option required regional political acceptance and Oil Company backing—neither of which the Clinton administration could obtain.
Since development of any of the above routes empowers Russia and Europe, development seems to be against long term US strategic interests. Even though pipe lines have existed in the area for long, the geopolitical and logistical nightmare involved in constructing and operating Tran Caucasian pipelines through Azerbaijan and Georgia are emphasized as formidable! Turkey (a key U.S. ally in the region) remains determined to restrict any use of the Bosphorus as a route for oil to Europe citing pollution! The possibility of such a route being affected by an outbreak of hostilities between Greece and Turkey is pointed out as a further obstacle.
Finally any European attempts at developing its own sphere of influence in Central Asia have been ruled out by two American initiatives. First, as we shall see later in this series of articles US has instigated Islamic insurgency in Chechnya. Second it engineered the dis -integration of the former Republic of Yugoslavia and carried out bombardment of Belgrade. This effectively established mutually contentious client states in the area, while also preventing the use of small sea/river tankers into Europe via the Danube, at least for the time being.
2.The China Route (Route 9). China itself as well as the Pacific Rim is potentially huge markets. The pipe line would run from western Kazakhstan through China to the Pacific serving Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets (Route 9). It requires an enormous outlay of $10 to $14 billion. The Chinese have signed a memorandum of understanding to build a shorter $3.5-billion pipeline that would stop in China proper. It empowers China.
3.The Iranian Routes (Route 7). Iran’s preferred route is a pipeline south from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf (Route 7). It is the shortest, cheapest and easiest route to an open port. Iran has an extended pipeline system in place, and Turkmenistan opened a gas pipeline into Iran in December 1997. The United States opposes this pipeline and tries to enforce sanctions, but other nations’ oil firms ignore the sanctions and cut oil deals with Iran. US firms continue lobbying in Washington, DC, for improved relations with Iran. It empowers Iran.
4.The Afghanistan-Pakistan Route (Route 8). The pipe line would run from Central Asia through Herat /Kandahar in Afghanistan, on to Quetta and Gwadar/Karachi ports in Pakistan. The pipe line is relatively cheap at $1.9 billion. More over this is the only route supported by a deep water port at Gwadar allowing for bulk transportation of both Oil and minerals through super tankers. Presently the US remains opposed to development of Gwadar because of fears it would provide the Chinese a shorter approach to the Gulf. The US is therefore busy in attempts to establish hegemony in the region through exploitation of Afghanistan –Pakistan friction and China-India rivalry.USA would prefer this route over all others provided it can establish firm grip on the area to prevent any Chinese influence .This is because it is the only exit the US has a chance of controlling; also it is a route which does not empower Europe, USSR, China or Iran.The route empowers Pakistan a nation the US aims at controlling.
Pakistan-Afghanistan Friction. This dates back to 1893 with the British creation of The “Durand line” as a buffer between the Czars and the British Empire. After the British departure Kabul refused to recognize Pakistan, challenging the legitimacy of its borders. India jumped in to encourage Afghan claims - supported by its ally the USSR. Despite the tension in the Frontier Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah had already pulled out troops from the Pashtun areas, confident that Pakistan had the allegiance of the tribes. Subsequent events were to prove him correct.
Even though by 1956-57 Indian and USSR interference had created a full-blown ‘Afghan Problem’ for Pakistan,till as late as the early 70’s no military presence would be needed. Aslam Khattak then first First Secretary and later Ambassador in Kabul started a proposal for a Pakistan-Afghan confederation.The response was encouraging . Following a visit by the President and PM of Pakistan to Kabul,both sides agreed to work for a confederation in which the two regions would be autonomous in all matters , except for defence, foreign policy, foreign trade and communications. The Prime Minister’s office would rotate between the two,while King Zahir Shah would be the constitutional monarch of The Republic. Even the Americans agreed to help in a big way,and actually got into post-confederation details.
But Daud on a return visit to Pakistan was fired at while inspecting a shipyard at Karachi.The bullet ricocheted off a ship to hit Aslam Khattak instead. Ghaffar Khan was released from prison and sent to Kabul, to help remove resultant mis-understanding.He agreed to help provided a referendum was held on the issue of One Unit.Pakistani President Mirza agreed to do so.Even the American Ambassador in Karachi also assured Ghaffar Khan through the American Ambassador in Kabul that the referendum would be held. But it wasn’t. And great chance to change the course of history was thus missed.
Yet Pakistan never faced a threatening military posture from Afghanistan till the mid-70s. This pattern stayed in place even during the two wars with India (1965 and 1971).
The Birth of Militancy Inside Afghanistan/Pakistan. In 1973 Prince Daud staged a Soviet assisted coup to oust King Zahir Shah. The Daud regime not only raised the issue of Pashtunistan (Afghans claims to Pakistan provinces of NWFP and Baluchistan), but also for the first time moved the Afghan army closer to the borders. More importantly KHAD the Afghan Intelligence agency (aided and abetted by the Russian KGB and Indian RAW as all three were allied in those days) used several Pakistani tribal leaders (Sardars) to start as uprising in the tribal areas of Baluchistan and parts of NWFP.
Z.A. Bhutto’s government retaliated by supporting the disenchanted elements within Afghanistan. These included Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ahmad Shah Masud and Gulbadin Hikmatyar. Thus relations in the 1970s began with each country supporting the other’s dissidents on a purely nationalistic agenda on a quid pro quo basis; and till the mid-70’s Pakistan army was busy fighting a bitter insurgency in the province of Baluchistan – with the help of it’s ‘Militants’ within Afghanistan. There was no question of an Islamic Jehadi motivational base for either; as ‘enemies’ of both sides were Muslim. As we shall see this was to come much later when the CIA would conceive the theory of turning ‘Afghan militants’ into ‘Islamic militants’ for use against the ‘USSR’.
The Birth of Islamic (Wahabi) Radical Militancy. We have noted the birth of Afghan militancy following a pro-Soviet coup in Afghanistan and attempts at destabilization of Baluchistan. A natural consequence should have been the involvement of the USA and CIA on the Pakistani side in a communistic vs. free world conflict as was the norms of the time; more so as both sides were Muslims. Yet two development on the inter –national stage were to give it an irretrievable ‘Wahabi’ lusture which US supported militancy carries to this day. The first was the vast growth in Saudi wealth due to sharp rise in oil prices. The second was the castration of CIA as a result of post Watergate repercussions!
• Saudi Wealth. In 1973, rise in oil prices brought great wealth to Saudi Arabia. Between 1973 to 1979 over $70 billion of this was used for furthering Wahabi Islamist purposes. Private Saudi citizens donated additional billions to private charities such as the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) which built 575 new mosques in Indonesia alone. The King Faisal mosque in Islamabad –and its seminary- was also funded by Saudi money. Alex Alexiev calls this “the largest world wide religious campaign ever mounted”. It was this large scale preaching of Wahabism (an exclusively Saudi brand of mistrust of infidels as unfit to survive, branding of rival Muslim sects as apostates to be killed, and emphasis on a violent exterminative jihad against all others who count as infidels as a means of gaining paradise) which laid the groundwork for the defamation of Islam and the spread of terrorist groups in the name of Islam world wide.
• The Castration Of CIA. It started with FBI, and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward discovering what seemed to be CIA fingerprints in the Watergate burglary. The agency was not involved, but it’s refusal to cooperate in unveiling Nixon’s obstruction of justice led directly to the firing of its director, Richard Helms, who was replaced by William E. Colby. In the preliminary congressional inquiries staffers had stumbled upon a number of domestic operations by the CIA. Colby acquiesced in unmasking these and soon assembled a list of CIA sins which ran into 693 typed pages – these later became famous as the “Family Jewels.”
The crown jewel in the lot was a program known as Operation Chaos involving CIA surveillance of antiwar protesters - the program being disclosed to the New York Times by Colby himself. This marked a turning point in public attitudes toward spying.
Overnight in public eyes the CIA became, a shadowy, sinister organization. President Ford called former CIA Director Helms into the Oval Office for advice. Helms reminded Ford that “The CIA is the president’s creature,” and defended Operation Chaos, to which Ford replied, “I plan no witch hunt, but in this environment I don’t know if I can control it.”
Starting in 1976 a witch hunt lasting five years did ensue! Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho, as chairman of the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence, castrated the free worlds best intelligence agency; famously depicting it as a “rogue elephant.”
The Safari Club- An Alternate Super Intelligence Agency. In September 1 1976, a group of countries got together and established a newly formed secret cabal of intelligence agencies called the Safari Club. It included France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran. The club was a brain child of Alexandre de Marenches, head of the French external intelligence service SDECE.It was likely formed with the connivance of CIA to compensate for it’s paralysis after Watergate - as a means of circumventing US Congress which had tied down the CIA! Acutely conscious of the Soviet threat these countries had decided that if the US could not do anything to counter it, they would!
Millions were spent to create an operational capability. But much more was required to be done to create its financial arm. The group needed a network of banks to help manage and conceal the enormous transactions needed to finance its intelligence operations. Saudi Intelligence Minister Kamal Adham was given the task to create one.
With the blessing of CIA director George Bush Sr, he would transformed the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), a small Pakistani merchant bank, founded in 1972 by a Pakistani partner of Adham (Agha Hasan Abedi); into a world-wide money-laundering machine, buying additional banks around the world to create the biggest clandestine money transfer and whitening network in history.
The Rise Of BCCI.Adham, and other intelligence heads worked with Abedi to contrive “a plan that seemed too good to be true. The bank (BCCI) would solicit the business of every major intelligence – and therefore terrorist, rebel, and underground - organization in the free world. The intelligence collected - and links forged in the process - would be shared with these ‘friends’ of BCCI.” CIA operative Raymond Close worked closely with Adham during the Congressional inquiry years to help identify and tap “into CIA’s hordes of misfits and malcontents to help man a 1,500-strong group of assassins and enforcers.” Soon, BCCI became the fastest growing bank in the world. Time magazine would later describe BCCI as not just a bank, but also “a global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad. Operating primarily out of the bank’s offices in Karachi, Pakistan; the 1,500-employee network has used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. It stops at almost nothing to further the bank’s aims the world over.”
Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal also set up Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt (FIBE) as part of the banking empire. The “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman was one of its founding members. Growth of Islamic banking would directly help the growth of the Islamist movements, and allow the Saudis to pressure poorer Islamic nations, like Egypt, to shift their policies to the right. FIBE worked closely with BCCI. Investigators would later find that BCCI held $589 million in “unrecorded deposits,” $245 million of which were placed with FIBE! BCCI at a later stage was also ‘discovered’ to be deeply implicated in illegal arms and narcotics trade .But all this was to happen way in the future, when CIA wanted to get back into the driving seat!
The Activities Of Safari Club. Thus was the Safari Club established .It funded – off the books - covert operations for a ‘ghost’ CIA made up of fired agents close to ex-CIA Director George Bush Sr. and Theodore Shackley. Shackley would remain at the center of this “private, shadow spy organization within the CIA” until he was fired in 1979; when the Safari Club was exposed due to the Iranian revolution-Iran being one of the members ! It must be noted here that this “Super Spy Club” inevitably gave a front seat to Saudi, Arab and Iranian ‘Islamist’ interests. The club seems to have remained active till about 1982 when de Marenches stepped down from being head of French intelligence .By this time the issue of the witch hunt of CIA within the USA also seems to have been resolved, and the CIA was keen to get back into the driving seat. Yet as we shall see next ;the then junior officers –as they rose in rank- would continue to retain their Islamic imprint ,as they shaped Americas -and the CIA’s- future policies.
During the initial period the Safari Club played a secret role in political dramas of many countries mostly Islamic and in Africa or the Middle East. Its first operation: A rebellion in Zaire was put down by Moroccan and Egyptian troops, using French air support.It then turned to deal with the Soviet infiltrations in Ethopia, Somalia and Djibouti and Peoples republic of Yemen. It also acted to repel Libyan aggression against Chad and Sudan. It also played a role in the US-Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979. Through out 1970-80 huge amounts of Saudi money backed by Safari Club covert activity helped countries like Syria,Jordan,North Yemen, Angola, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Uganda, Mali, Nigeria, Ziare, Guinea, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines –and some reports suggest even South Vietnam; survive Russian backed Libyan or leftist in roads. In most countries Saudi ‘Wahabi Jehadi’ proselytizing inevitably accompanied the cash.
The Safari Club and the ‘rogue CIA’ also played a major role in supporting Pakistani ISI backed Afghani militants.Pakistani operation was remarkably successful and by 1977 the Afghan government of Sardar Daud was willing to settle all outstanding issues in exchange for a lifting of the ban on the National Awami Party and a commitment towards provincial autonomy for Pashtuns.This was also the period in which Moro operations in the Philippines achieved their most outstanding success.
Planning For A Russian Vietnam: 1977-1982. During the period 1977 to 1982 a major re-orientation of US policy is apparent specially in the mid-east and SE Asia.To what extant the Safari Club influenced the shape of things must remain a field of conjecture;yet the circumstantial evidence is pretty clear that the Carter administration had “no clear policy” due to internal divisions and confusion – and also that Saudi(Muslim) influence was considerable through elements of the ‘rouge CIA’ which was beginning to emerge out of the shadows to merge into the main stream re-activated CIA.
• Setting The Stage. In the year 1977-79 a number of remarkable events (mentioned below) took place affecting our region. An analysis of these helps us to understand how the original concept of a defensive and deterrent Islamic Jehad was shaped into one of Americas most potent intelligence assets – global Islamic(Wahabi) militancy or Islamic Terrorism:
In The USA Zbigniew Brzezinski took over as President Carter’s National Security Adviser. He established the Nationalities Working Group (NWG) for weakening the Soviet Union through Islamic militancy .By December 1978; he formalized his theory around the idea of turning the Muslim world into ‘an arc of crises. It was based on the ideas of British expert Dr. Bernard Lewis, who advocated the balkanization of the entire Muslim near East along tribal and religious lines. The chaos would spread in what he also calls an “arc of crisis” and ultimately destabilize the Muslim regions of the Soviet Union.
BCCI Even Buys The CIA’s Bank! The same year The Safari Club made a bid to buy CIA’s bank! A group fronted by Kamal Adham, bought First American Bank shares. It was the biggest bank in the Washington, D.C. - and since long the CIA’s principal banker. In 1981, the Federal Reserve after asking CIA for the mandatory clearance allows the sale! The CIA held back what it knew, including the fact that Adham was Saudi intelligence minister. But Adhami and his group were acting on behalf of BCCI.Thus by 1982 BCCI becomes (illegally) the owner of CIA’s bank. The CIA did not inform the Treasury Department about this link till as late as 1985.In fact CIA continued using both BCCI and First American. The Safari Club and its financial arm the BCCI were fully in place –even within USA by 1982!
Brzezinski’s Islamic Militant Policy Implemented In Pakistan. In Pakistan on 5 July 1977 Pakistan’s socialist minded Prime Minister Z.A.Bhutto - an advocate of the policy of independence from US domination through a combination of ‘Islamic socialism’ and a pro-China foreign policy ; as well as the architect of Muslim unity(held first Islamic summit at Lahore) and Pakistan’s nuclear program - was eliminated in a coup by General Zia –ul-Haq .Zia had already proved his worth as an American ally in Jordan , where he massacred the PLA to save the Jordanian throne for the Americans.
Apparently the US stopped all economic and military aid to Pakistan as a result of the coup .But in actual fact aid continued flowing in a big way for the militants and their Islamisation process through the Safari club and the rouge CIA; and planning was soon expedited to draw in and kill the Russian bear in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan Daud suspected of having gone ‘soft’ on Pakistan was removed through a pro-Soviet coup on April 1978.This served as the ideal start point for implementing Brzezinski’s policy. Aid to Pakistan was resumed .The CIA commenced beaming of radio propaganda into Afghanistan, and a program and started for turning the Afghan mujahideen into radical Wahabi Islamic fighters. Zia proved invaluable at this stage.
He allowed a free hand to the CIA approved Wahabi Islamic doctrine to gain a firm foothold in Pakistan. Passing pro-Islamic legislation, he allowed FIB (Faisal Islamic bank) to start Islamic banking systems, and created Islamic courts. Most importantly, he imposed a new religious tax which was used to create tens of thousands of madrassas, or religious boarding schools, where “Islamic text books’ printed in USA and approved by CIA were taught. These schools would be used to train and indoctrinate a large portion of future Islamic militants using courses developed in the USA.
“Radical Islamist ideology began to permeate the military and the influence of the most extreme groups crept into the army,” writes journalist Kathy Gannon in her book I is for Infidel. The BBC later commented that Zia’s “Islamization” policies created a “culture of jihad” within Pakistan that continues until present day. Mean ISI took over to continue the field work and launched a massive campaign of terrorism, assassinating hundreds of teachers and civil servants in Afghanistan.”
For Iran, in November 1978 former Under Secretary of State George Ball was appointed as advisor to President Carter! This is most amazing for he was known to hold the view that the US should drop support for the Shah of Iran in favor of the radical Islamist opposition of Ayatollah Khomeini. Later during his exile The Shah would note with bitter hind sight,”It should have been clear to me that the Americans wanted me out. What else was I to make of the Administration’s sudden decision to call George Ball as advisor on Iran?”
For Al-Qaeda around 1978-79(the details are fuzzy) Osama Bin Laden visited the US and Britain -or both -ostensibly for the treatment of his son Abdul Rahman born with hydrocephalus. However the required treatment-an operation - was never carried out. More likely he went there to get his final briefs first hand!
1979-The Bear Trap Is Sprung. Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in France on January 16, 1979.By February Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is deposed and Ayatollah Khomeini took over as Iran’s new leader. At first the US was taken aback by the new fundamentalist Islamic government, and Brzezinski contemplated a military coup to stop Khomeini.
In March, there was a major revolt in Herat province. Russian Intelligence noted that it had support from outside-particularly Iran. This convinced Brzezinski that Khomeini was fiercely anti-communist, and he soon decided that Iran’s new government can become part of his “arc of crises. The US embassy remained open, and more US officials come to Iran to begin tentative talks. The CIA started working (re-working) with Iranian intelligence to destabilize the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan.
By April 1979, US officials start having their first meetings in Pakistan with opponents of the Afghan government. Robert Gates –a junior officer then , but later to become CIA Director - recalls that in one such meeting on March 30, 1979, Under Secretary of Defense Walter Slocumbe wondered aloud whether there is “value in keeping the Afghan insurgency going, ‘sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire.’”
In May a CIA special envoy also meets these Afghan mujaheddin leaders at Peshawar. All of them have been carefully selected by the Pakistani ISI. One of them is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a drug dealer, and brutal warlord. His extreme ruthlessness is considered a plus. Over the next 10 years over half of all US aid to the mujaheddin will go to his faction. In June /August there are further large scale army mutinies within Afghanistan.
According to the official US version CIA aid to the Mujaheddin began after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. How ever President Carter had formally approved covert aid in July. And as Brzezinski’s confessed later on: “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”. Charles Cogan, who later headed the CIA covert aid program to Afghanistan, will call Carter’s approval on 6th July a “very modest beginning to US involvement.” In fact, this is not correct because the’ Safari Club’ along with the ‘rouge CIA’ had been aiding the rebels since well before 1978.
Haizullah Amin over throws Daud in a military coup in October 1979, and invites the Soviets.
In early November 1979, Brzezinski had secretly met with Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, as well as Iran’s foreign minister and defense minister, in Algiers. But shortly before the meeting, the US agrees to allow the Shah, dying with cancer, to come to the US for medical treatment. Khomeini is enraged, and on November 4, just three days after the Algeria meeting begins, students take over the US embassy in Teheran. Brzezinski’s (Safari Club’s?) attempts to create an alliance with Khomeni’s Iran collapse.
On December 8 1979 The Soviets invaded Afghanistan; surprisingly on December 26 Russian troops turn against the invitee and kill him! Later declassified high-level Russian documents show that the Russian leadership believed Amin to have had secret contacts with the US embassy and was probably a US agent; and that because of this “the right wing Muslim opposition” has “practically established their control in many provinces… using foreign support.” They therefore installed a communist regime led by Babrak Karmal which was openly hostile to Pakistan. The Russians will later be proved correct when in a 1998 interview, Brzezinski, revealed that earlier in the year Carter authorized the CIA to destabilize the government, provoking the Russians to invade and later topple Amin’s government! It seems Russia had been invited into Afghanistan by a Khomeini cultivated US agent – even though Iran was no more a part of the team!
Brzezinski wrote a memo to President Jimmy Carter after the Soviet invasion suggesting that success in Afghanistan could give the Soviets access to the Indian Ocean. He advised that US should continue aid to the Afghan Mujaheddin. He also added, “This means more money as well as arms shipments to the rebels and some technical advice.” He concludes the memo with, “[W]e must both reassure Pakistan and encourage it to help the rebels. This will require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, more arms aid, and alas, a decision that our security problem toward Pakistan cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.” Carter accepted Brzezinski’s advice. Pakistan would be rewarded to become a nuclear power in exchange for help in implementing Brzezinski doctrine of Islamic Militancy!
Over the next decade CIA and Saudi Arabia would channel a huge amount of money through ISI, (estimates range up to $40 billion total for the war) to support the Mujaheddin guerrilla fighters opposing the Russians, forcing the USSR into a decade-long war which it could ill afford. It was as Brzezinski insisted, a war that brought about “The demoralization and finally the collapse of the Soviet Empire”. In my next article I shall show how this covert operation involving ‘radical Islamist militants’ was developed and implemented by CIA.