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Lecture 23: Afghanistan 2

In the Korean war too, American had managed to garner NATO and UN support. However, in order
to gte NATo troops to enter even Afghnistan with UN sanction wasn’t really possible. The reason was
that sending Nato troops would also mean sending their own troops – which meant going directly
against the soviets. This was something USA did not want to do. Hence, this war would be played by
proxy, via the Mujahideen.

The mujahideen had several factions to it – there were many different tribals and groups. They had
made a party called The United Mujahideen Council. This had rules. 1. Fight the soviets. 2. Anybody

It went from being Afghans V/s Soviets to Anybody who wants to fight the soviets v/s soviets. One
such group which took part in the Afghan struggle was Osama’s AlQuaeda. This organisation also
followed the policy of anybody can join. His recruits came from Uganda to Chechnya. Age no bar – all
races allowed. What Osama’s soldiers had, but the Mujahideen did not was a cult of death. They
were the most defective. They had suicide bombers. This was unstoppable. Fighting is one thing, but
blowing yourself up to kill the other side, is very different. The proposition itself is scary.

Russia’s most formidable fighter plane for the Mig 29 with which India has had a long colourful
history with. South Korea had a counter – Mig 21. Mig 29 was superior. Yet, in the war of NK v/s SK
– NK Lost despite more superior plans. This happened because the only one disadvantage of using
the mig 29 was extremely low fuel capacity. If you increase the mileage, the polit would just escape
form the soviet union. The fuel capacity is low so that the pilots had to keep coming back.

Chechnya also posed an interesting problem. Stalin had mass migrated them to Kazakhistan.
Chechnyans would run out of the Societ union, and the USSR would let it. These people were
anyway problematic. These chechnyans would go to bin laden. He would use these people to attack.
One nation they hated above everything else was the soviet union. They could not attack directly,
hence they chose to attach via Afghanistan. They would also get regular food water equipment and
your weapons would be paid for. You would be able to fight the nation you hate the most.

The US budget went up. 1979 – half a million. 1980 – I Million. 1981 – 100 Million. Then comes 200
million. Jimmy carter goes out, Ronald Regal comes in. Then – 300 million. In 1984, he ups the whole
scenario to 1 billion dollars a year. This growth is exponential. In 1 billion dollars, you can also look at
an air force, but the Mujahidin can’t fly. When Russian helicopters would be shot down, mujahidins
would fights for these, to take out the comfortable seats from them. The US pioneered joke. How do
you stop a mujahidin tank? You shoot the guy pushing it.

Nobody however thought that at some point in the future Russia will have to pull out. Then what?
While they are there you can keep the supply on. Once they pull out, will the weapons just lie
around? Wouldn’t this cause immense chaos? It would be weapon infested!

The two major factions fighting the soviets were – In North Afghanistan a faction of mujahidin
fighters called the northern alliance. This was popular throughout the region and is currently in
power. It was lead by Ahmad Shah Massuod. He was a darling of the masses. He believed in women
equality, absolute freedom of expression etc. He had a very loyal following, and he was not an
extremist. Because of this, his group wasn’t getting enough funding because Pakistan was supplying
extremists majorly with USA weapons. Pakistan did not want a moderate leader. They were thinking
long term.

ASM’s forces just get 8 missiles. His opponent - Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a hardliner, an extremist
gets 80 rockets a day. All the main forces were extremists. Some of these factions ultimately became
Taliban. The US did not know that the radical and not the moderate people were being armed. The
US’s extravagance of money spending caused them stupid losses. The pakistani’s were getting SO
MUCH weapon supply that they actually started selling these weapons back to the US for profit – 30
million. The levels of apathy were appalling, as long as Afghanistan was getting weapons and Russia
was bleeding, all was well. The US called this the Russia’s Vietnam Syndrome.

Savaged were fighting in Afghanistan. The Societ causalities begin mounting, hence they take to the
air. Because Afghanistan couldtn go underground, US supplied them with the stinger. This would
make it very clear as to who would be supporting the Mujahidin.

The CIA had warned RR that Islamic extremism could come out of this. However, at that point of
time, their main focus was to destroy communism which was the most evil force. This was absolute


Multiple groups were fighting - the common enemy was the soviet union.


After the stinger neutralizes the USSR air force, USSR realizes they cannot afford to loose more
helicopters. Hence they deploy specia forces called the specinards. They are from all across USSR.
They are hardened criminals, all of whose crimes are going to be forgiven if they launch complete
terror against Afghan citizens. In Vietnam also – The Project Phoenix was the same.

These specnards started killing entire Afghan villages, only leaving enough alive to go to the next
village to spread the news. These hardened criminals are given full military freedom. They didn’t
have any conscience. Thereby giving the onus of these killings to the Mujahidin – aren’t these the
people you are protecting? Its because of you that we are now killing them.

On the Soviet front, there is a series of curious coincident that are taking pace. In 1982, after almost
20 years in power, Brehznez dies of a heart attack. The head of Russian intelligence is a man by the
name Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov. He too died within 1 year of a heart attack. They then
make Yuri’s deputy – Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenkothe deputy. 2 years after this,
cheriyenko dies of heart attack. The only option after this disturbing series of events seems
to be a 40 year old politician not liked by the communist party - Mikhail Gorbachev. He
speaks of having better ties with the west and extreme censorship needs to go. He comes to
power in 1986.

His first statement was of investment from the western word in Russia. McD opened in
Russia – the symbol of capitalism. Gorbachev also launches two policies. Glasnost i.e.
investment and collaborations like McD. and Perestroika i.e. free and honest media. Media
would be allowed to vote what is actually happening.
By 19986 – Russians had developed an analysis policy. Believe the exact opposite of what
the Russian media is trying to tell you, and that will be true. It was given no credibility at all.
The least important things would be the most important. MG was a reformer. Afghanistan for
him was a bleeding wound and it needed to be stopped.


Russia having pulled out from the Afghanistan war, The Americans did not stop supplying weapons.
Instead, they felt they should re-adjust their policies to supplying all the groups, and not just the
extremists. This amount of firepower – without a war to be fought? Washington justified this spend
as that the Russians have left leaving behind a lot of Russian weapons. We are just supplying
weapons to that he odds are balanced out. The balance of power needs to be restored.


The new president George Bush kept the CIA in the Afghan game. News starts coming that very very
radical groups had started coming out of Afghanistan, is it time to stop supplying weapons yet?
Because we are supplying these weapons and causing this problem. GB says – Afghanistan needs to
be self dependent and solve its own problems. They can’t depend on us stopping supplying
weapons. This was absolute lunacy.

Russian parents were not allowed to bury their children with tombstones saying died in Afghanistan.
Because people in Russia started wondering why are our people dying? In 1985 – the nuclear power
plant at Chernobyl has a blast. It is an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. A lot of people (sovits from
Afghanistan) were rushed here to handle this. They were however not allowed to disclose that they
had been in Afghanistan. Hence evidently, the war wasn’t popular. With MG coming out and saying
that everybody can now speak their minds, the protests began. And Russia in such a situation had to
pull out.


The country was exposed to extreme apathy and chaos. One group came up to say – we will solve
this problem. They were obviously going to be trusted. The Taliban came up with claims to bring
about a sense of order.


When Osama comes back t Afghanistan, he doesn’t really recognize it. The Mujahidin aren’t there
and almost everything is in the hands of the Taliban. His only contact was the moderate leader
Ahmad Shah Moussoud. He however would not back up Osama’s extreme policies. Hence, Osama
reaches out to Mullah Omar – head of Taliban and tells him that he can assure your victory over
Kabul, and the one army always defeating you – northern alliance can also be defeated.

Osama has a large amount of money. He begins to bribe and buy off the northern alliance and
people less loyal to Mossoud. In the final assault on Kabul in 1996 – taliban’s victory is possible just
due to bin laden. Osama also has suicide bombers. Bin laden’s al Qaeda are also better equipped and
better trained, and this combination helps them to beat the northern alliance.
After Bin Laden’s arrival in Afghanistan, he starts targeting US bases. He targets a US ship in the
Arabian peninsular. Al Qaueda starts also targeting US majorly. US panics and tells the Taliban to
throw this man – Osama out.

Bin Laden was doing all this because he hated capitalists, and all gulf countries were moving away
from their way of life to capitalism. He blamed the US for the same hence attacked them.


2 days before 9/11 – Bin laden before the attack has to ensure that the US cannot find any allies in
Afghanistan. The only alliance would the The Northern Alliance. Al Qaeda agents went to the
northern alliance as journalists, as suicide bombers, and killed ASM troops, and assassinated him. 2
days later, Al Qaeda struck again – 9/11. The Al Qaeda became the deciding force of Afghanistan.


2000 marked the seeming end of Taliban, and the first democratic government came under Hamid
Karzai came up in Afghanistan in related with the northern alliance. At least elections were made
possible. A lot of old people and women came to vote in large numbers which was refreshing.

This entire cycle of violence has come from the cold war, and could have been avoided. A country for
no fault of its own suffered for 30 years.

It was a completely flawed phase of human history.