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Afghanistan: Hillary's half-truth
WASHINGTON: Two days of continuous congressional hearings on the Obama administration’s foreign policy brought a rare concession from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who acknowledged that the United States too had a share in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today.
In an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Mrs Clinton explained how the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the US-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
‘We can point fingers at the Pakistanis. I did some yesterday frankly. And it’s merited because we are wondering why they just don’t go out there and deal with these people,’ said Mrs Clinton while referring to an earlier hearing in which she said that Pakistan posed a ‘mortal threat’ to the world.
‘But the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it. We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan,’ she said.
‘Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union.’
‘They invaded Afghanistan… and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work… and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea… let’s deal with the ISI [Pakistani intelligence agency] and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahideen.’
‘And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.’
‘And guess what … they (Soviets) retreated … they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.’
‘So there is a very strong argument which is… it wasn’t a bad investment to end the Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we sow… because we will harvest.’
‘So we then left Pakistan … We said okay fine you deal with the Stingers [ground-to-air missiles] that we left all over your country… you deal with the mines that are along the border and… by the way we don’t want to have anything to do with you… in fact we’re sanctioning you… So we stopped dealing with the Pakistani military and with ISI and we now are making up for a lot of lost time.’
In this testimony to the US Congress House Appropriations Committee on 23rd April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clearly indicated that the USA's covert actions in Afghanistan began after the USSR sent its troops to that country.
The Afghan trap
While it was largely ignored in the US and other Western media, news outlets in Pakistan and India have reported Ms Clinton's statement widely; and the Dawn article implied that the testimony of the US Secretary of State was a refreshing breath of honesty:
It was question from Congressman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat that spurred Secretary Clinton to delve into history and come out with an answer that other US politicians have avoided in the past.
The reluctance (until now) of serving US officials to speak about the USA's activities in organising, funding and arming Islamic extremists, recruiting them from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, in order to assist its fight against communism during the Cold War, is quite understandable. Also understandable is the urge to confess the truth- or boast it- which overcomes some officials during periods of retirement from active service.
In the late 1990s, two very senior former operatives of the United States government- Robert Gates, previously the Director of the CIA, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had held the post of US National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter- divulged some facts about the USA's covert activities during the late 1970s and the 1980s. These show that Hillary Clinton's recent testimony conceals as much as it reveals.
After 1993, Robert Gates took a break from his US government responsibilities, and took up senior academic and corporate positions. He also wrote his memoirs, which were published in 1996. In 1998, the French Magazine Le Nouvel Observateur published an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, in which the former US National Security Advisor was asked to comment on a passage in Mr Gates' book:
Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ['From the Shadows'], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And 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.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.
Robert Gates was re-recruited to government service by George W. Bush, and in 2006 took up office as Secretary of Defense. President Obama has retained him in this position. Zbigniew Brzezinski has an informal advisory role in the Obama administration.