Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Afghanistan: spectral apparitions 

"You know only - A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, - And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, - And the dry stone no sound of water. - Only - There is shadow under this red rock, (Come in under the shadow of this red rock), - And I will show you something different from either - Your shadow at morning striding behind you - Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust." ~ Thomas Stearns Eliot, The Waste Land

The following post contains excerpts from Ghost Wars; The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, by Steve Coll. It's intended as a kind of added accompanyment to Xan's earlier post Once Upon A Time which links to Juan Cole's recent reminder of the Reagan Bush administration's covert holy war, once upon a time, in Afghanistan.

"The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny"
If there is one thing that can be said for the entire contingence that characterized the Reagan administration's support of the insurgency in Afghanistan it might be that we helped sow and nurture and reap, to some considerable extent, the harvest of future wrath. We helped placate, fund, and train a revolution, a careless desolation, cloaked in the pretensions of some mottled divine retribution, for which relegated elements would ultimately return to haunt us. We showed the jihadist that, given the necessary tools and training, patience, ruthlessness and resolve, a small group of rag-tag "freedom fighters" could run a super-power out of town on a rail. We made true believers of the true believers. And now we are the occupation. We are the super-power to be uprooted from the sands. As far as the jihadist holy warriors of today are concerned - we are the new Soviet Union.

The CIA had strong contacts dating back decades among exiled nationalists from the Baltics and Ukraine. It knew far less about Soviet central Asia, the vast and sparsely populated steppe and mountain region to Afghanistan's immediate north. Pushed by Casey, American scholars and CIA analysts had begun in the early 1980s to examine Soviet Central Asia for signs of restiveness. There were reports that ethnic Uzbeks, Turksmen, Yajiks, and Kazakhs chafed under Russian ethnic domination. And there were also reports of rising popular interest in Islam, fueled in part by the smuggling of underground Korans, sermonizing cassette tapes, and Islamic texts by the Muslim Brotherhood and other proseltyizing networks. The CIA reported on a May 1984 lecture in Moscow where the speaker told a public audience that Islam represented a serious internal problem. ['Ghost Wars', pages 103-104]

In order to avoid occupying to much territory here (full post contains additional excerpted material) this post can be found in it's entirety here: spectral apparitions


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