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As the uncertainties of the Afghani campaign gradually play themselves out, this seems like an opportune time to examine the many twists and turns in our relationship with Afghanistan. I am bewildered by the dramatic shifts the Afghani campaign has brought about in the ongoing soapbox of international politics.
In 1979, the Soviet Union placed Karmal as the puppet head of the Afghani government. President Carter reacted quickly by linking the CIA to ongoing aid efforts, thus joining arms and military support with the pre-existing humanitarian aid. Because all weapons came from Warsaw Pact countries, the United States was able to maintain a low profile, denying any direct support of the Mujahideen effort. The introduction of Soviet attack helicopters in the conflict was countered with the arrival of the U.S. "stinger" anti-helicopter missiles to neutralize the Soviet support. This resulted in the withdrawal of Soviet involvement 10 years after the initial mobilization in 1979.
At this point, the United States appears to have repeated the same vital mistakes made after World War I. A severely devastated civilian population left in economic ruin and without adequate central leadership. Sound familiar? Ethic conflict and the disunity of the nation as a whole gave way to civil war, and it was in this environment that Mohammed Mullah Omar and the Taliban seized power.
Ironically, its rapid success even made the United States voice its support with the hopes that political stability would allow the United States to build a pipeline from reserves in Turkmenistan to energy-starved areas of Pakistan. Taliban controlled much of the territory the U.S. would need in this building project. Finally, the United States was forced to concede to sever human rights abuses and American ambitions in the area were curbed.
This brings us to our present situation. The U.S. is now allied with the Soviet Union; the very nation it fought against in Afghanistan for 10 years! Bin Laden has declared war on America; the same nation that supplied him with arms during his stint with the Mujahideen. We are now engaged in the world's largest search for a man the Sudanese government actually offered to hand over in 1995! The U.S. has destroyed the Taliban government it wanted to use to build a pipeline. Mullah Omar declared "jihad" and Bush declared "crusade." Who ever said history repeats itself?