By Bruna C. Pereira:
(First published in London Institute of Peace Research)
Afghanistan, a country in the midst of three world-leading countries that have fought recklessly, and exploited millions of innocents with the aim to achieve global dominion, power, and control. Britain, Russia, and lastly Britain’s upbringing known as, the United States of America. A war where many Afghanis can’t fully comprehend just how long this ingenious war will continue. In this article, we will once again remember the reason why Afghanistan is the way it is today, why “Great” Empires have fought this war, and why today’s problems in Afghanistan are their responsibility.
It all started on New Years’ Eve of 1600 with the signature of Queen Elizabeth the first, which lead to an East Indian Company that would change everything. Afghanistan wasn’t an independent country yet, it still belonged to India, there was a high interest from Europe to dominate all of India during this period. The Dutch, French, Portuguese, and the British all wanted to be the ones conquering the land of spices. In the beginning, the British were more focused on fighting these competitors, but later on, in 1640 they shifted their attention to the Indian Subcontinent where they managed to own a piece of land called Chennai also known as Madras.
As the East Indian Company managed to make more forts and settlements, the British influence soon sprang all over the place, making Britain the leading exporter of spices at the time. This continued so until the Mughal Empire arose. The Mughals owned parts of India, mostly the parts that are today known as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. However, this began to fade pretty quickly, when the Mughals suffered attacks by Persians, Afghans, and Indians in 1739. India had become a place of war, greed for power, and revenge.
In the 18th Century, when the EU had increased its involvement in India, the British leading the way were attacked by Indian great powers like the Mughals and Marathas. The East Indian Company, benefited greatly from the countries imposing Navy which enabled them to ferry more British civilians to India. It was the Laissez-faire policy that won over many local rulers to Britain’s side. (An example of the Laissez-Faire policy is when a citizen, in the country, is allowed to plant in the front yard without having to ask permission. The less the government is involved in the economy, the better the business will be.) The Indians didn’t see the British actions as a risk towards their sovereignty since they noticed that they were benefiting economically.
By 1850 the British managed to overrule the French and by 1857 the Mughal Empire had been destroyed by the British, which allowed the British to rise into power and gain full dominion over India. The wish by the Marathas to create a unified India had been completely crushed. As time passed, the lives of Indians and those living in the continent were exploited to fuel the industrial revolution of Britain (1876), leading to famines, poverty, hunger, deaths, and misery. (1)
The Anglo-Afghan Wars: The Beginning of an Endless war
In the 1830s the British were still the leading forces over India, however, rumors and fear over a possible Russian invasion towards British India were growing. By this time Afghanistan was climbing its steps towards a better independent Future. As of 1837, the British invaded Afghanistan concerned about the Rumors of Russia invading Afghanistan first, in order to steal British India. Promising to Afghanistan an alliance to fight the Russians in a Dost Mohammed Khan, (Emir of Afghanistan at the time), vs Russia battle. Afghanistan agreed with the proposal but in return, Britain had to help them save Peshawar who had been captured by the Sikh Empire in 1834. The British didn’t like the proposal so they ended up refusing it altogether.
In 1838 Russia had also proposed a deal with Afghanistan, which was accepted. This led the Governor-general in India, Lord Auckland, to conclude that Dost Mohammed was anti-British. Russia with the Persians tried to attack Herat, Afghanistan with the intent to increase its territory in Central Asia, betraying Afghanistan.
In the meantime, the plan of the British was to take down Dost Mohammed and install a pro-British ruler. They made their presence in Afghanistan claiming that they were there to protect the Afghan people until the new Emir had been installed. However, many Afghans were suspicious that Britain was trying to find a way to invade Afghanistan by installing a pro-British ruler, in fear of a Russian invasion.
In December 1838, an army of 21000 British/Indian soldiers set out from Panjab, passing through the mountains and conquering Kandahar, Afghanistan in April 1838, and Ghazni in July 1838.
After capturing one of the Ruler sons, Akbar Kahn, Dost Mohammed fled the region and Shah Shoja (pro-British) arose to power in Kabul. Since then, the British brought in more people making Afghans hate the British presence. Mohammed Dost tried to attack but failed, being exiled to India in 1840. By 1841, the Afghan people started supporting Akbar Kahn, which led Macnaghten (British/Indias civil Servant) to negotiate with Kahn by letting the British stay, while planning to kill him behind the scenes. Akbar eventually knew about the threats to kill him, so in a meeting in December Akbar Kahn killed Macnaghten. Soon after Macnaghtens death, the British tried to flee from Afghanistan as soon as possible. They were attacked by Afghans from all sides, lowering the number of evacuees to 40 men. In the end, the only one to reach Jalalabad was Dr. William Bride. As an act of revenge, the British killed Akbar Kahn in 1842 and successfully left Afghanistan, releasing Dost Mohammed who came to power in Kabul once again.
In 1843 the army chaplain in Jalalabad, Reverend G. R. Gleig, wrote a memoir about the
disastrous expedition of which he was one of the few survivors.
He wrote, “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the governmentG. R. Gleig, Afghanistan: The Beleaguered Brigade—An Account of Sale’s Brigade During the First Afghan War (Leonaur, 2008), 182.
which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, has been acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated.”
This was known as the 1st Anglo-Afghan war which humiliated the British, leaving the Russians interested in conquering Afghanistan. As the Russians managed their own techniques to overrule Afghanistan, the British invaded Afghanistan once again in 1878.
After decades of fighting invasions, Amanullah, the Emir of Afghanistan in 1919 declared independence on April 13th and to attack British India.
Saying: “I proclaim to all of you, the truthful subjects of my royal person, that the treacherous and deceitful English government has been, since a long time, practicing with diabolical treachery and fraud, many shameful oppressions upon us. I call upon my pious and brave royal army (..) and upon all my faithful subjects to wage jihad in the path of God with their life and property.”Amanullah Khan, Sykes Percy “ A history of afghanistan Vol. 2” p. 270
Afghans attacked prematurely, managing to occupy water sources near the village of Bagh on May 6th. Until Britain drove them back on May 11th using aircraft Bombs. Destroying Jalalabad, Kabul, and Dacca. After forth and backs between Afghanistan and Britain, both decided to end the war, especially after a Cholera epidemic stroke in Britain. Even though the major conflict was over, the fight continued in the frontier and in the tribal revolts of Waziristan until 1920. (2)
The Beginning of a Subversive War
Just when we thought that the British and the Russians were enough, the Americans too had a
common enemy with the British. The Soviets.
After 1920 an age of Intelligence development was rising, Russian, German, Britain intelligence had figured out various methods of espionage, weaponry, and behavioral manipulation. An age of rising propaganda, aka Fake News, when Humanity figured out a weapon greater than any physical one, the ability to influence the human mind. During this time Afghanistan sought support from Italy and Germany for a possible modernization of Afghanistan, since both Russia and Britain had been known as betrayers for the Afghan people. This too led to misery for the Afghan People, because of World War II the stock market budget had increased up to 300%, forcing many Afghanis to live in poverty and hunger which slowed down Afghanistan’s improvement towards a modernized country. After World War II and the creation of Nuclear Weapons, Russias, Americas and Britains fear was the start of a Nuclear war, which could lead to the end of everything. Since then these three countries have never directly declared war on each other, instead, they have done it so indirectly.
It all began in December 1978, when there existed a treaty between Afghanistan and the USSR relating to economic, political, and military affairs. 5000 Soviet civilians and military advisers were openly in Afghanistan, long before soviet troops had arrived. According to the UN delegate in Afghanistan at the time, the Afghan Government was the one requesting the soviet troops. Due to the fact that a Civil War had been going on for more than a year, where Rebel forces were being aided across the border with Pakistan, damaging Afghanistan and the authority of the U.N. (3)
Even though the U.N had reported it as an Intervention and not an Invasion, the U.S Government started accusing the Soviets of invading Afghanistan. This damaged the relationship between America, Afghanistan, and the Russians more. According to a News article published in 1980 by the New York Times, the journalist stated that every country should have the right to choose their allies and that calling it an invasion would only boil up to a new war.
Intervention: A combination of program elements or strategies designed to produce behavior
changes or improve health status among individuals or an entire population.
Invasion: The movement of an army into a region, usually in a hostile attack
The U.N was aware of these two distinctions, however, the actions of the U.S Government in calling it an invasion led many Americans to believe, that the Russians were attacking America. Which became the reason for the future actions of the U.S Government. (3) Americans started writing News Articles, that the reason for Russias “Invasion”, was to create a Soviet-dominated Marxist regime in Kabul, or because the Russians were interested in Iranian oilfields. (4)
CIAs Training of Afghan Rebels
As we know or should know, the Taliban were reported to be founded in 1994 by Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mohammed Omar, a former Mujahideen. But the question still remains, How did they rise to power? How did the Middle East turn into a continent mostly ruled and threatened by well-equipped and trained Jihads?
In December 1980 the Soviets came out in Newspapers such as Izvestia, Krasnaza, Pravda saying that the U.S Central Intelligence agency was directly involved in training Afghan Rebels, Counterrevolutionaries, Reactionaries (aka “Freedom fighters”, “Guerrillas”) in Camps located in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Paper stated that the CIA Agents were undercover by the Antidrug board (DEA: Drug Enforcement Administration) and the American Asian Fund, which operated in the frontier of Afghanistan and Pakistan. (5)
The DEA has officers attached to the US embassies in both Kabul and Islamabad Pakistan, many of who have been charged with helping to curb the flow of Opium within these countries. An example would be that of, Haji Juma Khan, who was an informant to the CIA and other agencies including the DEA and even having ties with the Taliban. He is today known as “the Biggest Drug Kingpin” who was charged with trafficking opium and negotiating with the Taliban, who was released from prison for unknown reasons. (6)
Many Western sources back in the 1980s were rejecting the Soviet Charges about CIA training Afghan Rebels, many claiming, “They’re just resorting to the big lie” or “They don’t have any other justification as to why they are in Afghanistan.” and even: “These articles represent particularly blatant attacks on the US which portray the Guerrillas themselves more as unsophisticated victims of international Intrigue than as committed soldiers with a cause-… this fits in with the propaganda line that the roots of the afghan problem lie more around the country than in it. Such attacks also provide a handy lead into soviet claims of moral superiority on the Eve of the next Round of U.N sponsored Geneva talks on Afghanistan” (5) (7)
Izvestia also claimed that 12 Refugee camps in Afghanistan were being used to train Afghan
rebels. They listed Pakistan, The United States, Britain, China, and Egypt for trying to subvert
the Pro-Moscow Government in Afghanistan. According to them, the motive for the intervention
of the US was linked to the loss of the United States’ dominant influence in Iran. (8)
According to a file written in 1986 by the Directorate of Intelligence of the CIA, the CIA has shown that its main concern from the soviet “invasion” was indeed the fear of losing Iran oilfields and their ally, Pakistan.
They wrote: “Soviet military forces would have to undertake extensive preparations before they could conduct a general invasion of Iran or Pakistan. We believe that Soviet motives for invading either country are presently small. Even if Moscow’s incentives increased concern over possible US reactions and apprehensions about becoming bogged down in far larger guerrilla wars than the Afghan one would be likely to deter Moscow from attacking Iran or Pakistan.” (9)
Even though the U.S did its best to keep this involvement a secret, this soon came to an end when it officially came out to be true. The U.S was indeed training Rebels who became known as the Mujahideen.
According to Konrad Ege, Editor of the CounterSpy Magazine, the CIA had begun a program of armed intervention in Afghanistan at least one year before the Soviet Troops arrived. He stated with the Daily World, in 1980, that his research showed that for over a year a special Taskforce under the command of the CIA Agent, Robert P Lessard, had been conducting counterrevolutionary activities against Afghanistan. His charges cast light on President Carters’ drive to establish a new anti-Soviet, anti-national liberation war alliance, in the Persian Gulf with the US, China, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan supplying weapons to the Afghan Rebels.
Ege said that the Carter administration was lying when it said that it was a response to the “Invasion” of soviet troops since they were already there before the soviets. He further stated that it was important to note that the CIA operations were in favor of the Afghan violent opposition towards progressive improvement for their fellow citizens such as the needed land reform and equality for women. (10)
Once the fact that the U.S Government was training Afghan Rebels with Saudi Arabia was known to be true, they still avoided any direct contact with the Rebels.
The Afghan Rebels and Corruption
In 1983, problems surged that there existed corruption in the transportation of U.S paid arms in Pakistan. There were seven main rebel groups at the time, three groups could be considered moderate in their politics and pro-western. The remaining four which were favored by the Saudis were conservative groups, anti-western, and seeking to make Afghanistan an Islamic State. These seven Rebel groups were once known as the Mujahideen, and the original goal was to have them united against a pro-Russian Afghanistan, even though both the Saudis and the U.S knew that this wouldn’t happen. Instead, they knew that, in the end, this would only divide the Middle East even more. (11)
Whether the Afghan Rebels stayed divided or united, didn’t necessarily matter for the U.S, since that served as a reminder to Russia that they would have difficulties with more Rebels if they tried to conquer Iranian oilfields. (9) In fact, both American and British Intelligence sources admitted that they doubted that the Afghan rebels could unite. That Religious and tribal antagonism ran too deep to permit the establishment of a command that would oversee all insurgent operations. (12)
By 1987, the CIA had spent 3 Billion dollars on weapons for Afghan Rebels half of it paid by U.S Taxpayers, yet not a single American had the ability to decide who got the Weapons. Under Reagans Doctrine, as the policy is generically known, the American people were paying U.S-backed Rebel armies fighting in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, and Nicaragua.
Reagans Rebels included: 150 000 Afghan Mujaheddin, 25 000 Angolan Guerrilheiros, 20 000 Cambodian maquisards, and 15 000 Nicaraguan Contras.
According to the United States; “ The way to hurt Moscow is through the colonies, not in a frontal war which could end the world.” said one official to the Miami Herald in 1986. (13)
According to the Washington Post, their investigation into the Agency’s effort to fund and train Anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan suggests that the Afghan military supply program was the latest Chapter in an over 150-year-old sideshow dubbed as “The Great Game” also known as The Anglo-Afghan Wars. (14) According to Journalists of the Washington Post who had been to Pakistan, the CIA’s secret arms Pipeline to the Mujahideen was riddled with opportunities for corruption.
They described the smuggling of Pakistani Pipeline Arms:
- First, the CIA purchases Soviet-designed weapons primarily from Egypt and China (This was so to avoid any connection between the Rebels and the U.S)
- There customs Agents looked the other way as the shipments labeled as food, engineering parts…etc are loaded on trucks and trains headed to Peshawar and Quetta.
- No CIA official was to have any direct form of Contact with the Mujaheddin except to train them on U.S Stinger antiaircraft missiles.
- Because the Pakistanis risked revenge from the Soviet Union, the CIA left the Pakistanis to decide which Rebels got Weapons.
There were claims that at the time because of all this smuggling, millions of weapons were later sold on the dark market, making millions of dollars from Taxpayers the source of fortune for many corrupted Pakistan officials. (15)
Even some Rebel group leaders weren’t happy about it, Abdul Hap, a guerrilla leader who commanded 4`500 fighters around Kabul, back in 1983, stated that the Mujahideen badly needed U.S surface to air missiles, but lamented that “the U.S has a big mouth, but doesn’t do much.” (16)
Abdul Haq was the same leader that tried to convince the U.S to start a revolt against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan, (after the 9/11 attack), he, however, wanted to do this with the help of the former Afghan King Zahir Shah, whom the U.S does not support. (17) Zahir Shah was said by many Afghans to have sought for a United Afghanistan back when he was King.
Abdul Haq’s request was refused, so he went ahead with his plans without the support of the U.S Government. After entering Afghanistan, Abdul was spotted by the Taliban and surrounded, he tried contacting the CIA for help. But the CIA refused to help, which led to Abdul’s execution by the Taliban. (17)
What we can learn from all of this, is that Afghanistan, among other Eastern countries, has been the victim of a war that never belonged to them. It was never about Afghanistan, but about those beyond the borders. Unlike most wars that are fought to conquer a country thanks to its resources, for the U.S, the British, and the Russian Government, Afghanistan is and has nothing valuable besides its geological position. It simply is entitled to suffer because it lies in the way of countries seen as of greater value, and even if it ends up deserted, none of these countries will feel as if they had lost anything. We didn’t just help to support the rebels that were already
causing a civil war inside Afghanistan, we helped them create more, consciously knowing that their differences both in politics and belief would lead to a never-ending war inside Afghanistan.
These countries were one of the main reasons why Afghanistan, (along with other Middle Eastern countries), has become the way it is today and it is our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and genuinely help/support them in correcting the suffering we have created.
- How did Britain Conquer India? | Animated History (https://youtu.be/DzDwz18ng7w)
- 1st Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42) Documentary (https://youtu.be/gtk7d7hUACo)
- The Truth About the Afghanistan Crisis, New York Times 10/8/1980
- CIA’s Memorandum: Oil Field Invasion 14/5/1980
- Soviets Say CIA Trained Afghan Rebels in Pakistan, The Washington Post, 2/1/1980
- THE U.S. QUIETLY RELEASED AFGHANISTAN’S “BIGGEST DRUG KINGPIN” FROM
PRISON. DID HE CUT A DEAL? 2/5/2018
- Soviet Press Hits CIA for Mujahideen Support 14/12/1985 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96R01136R002605120001-3.pdf)
- Kremlin Steps Up Anti-US Campaign, Charges CIA is Training Afghan Rebels – Los
Angeles Times 2/1/80 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP90-00806R000100150002-2.pdf)
- Memorandum from the CIA 9/4/1984 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP86B00269R001100100003-5.pdf)
- Name CIA Men in Afghanistan, Daily World, 22/2/1980
- CIA Afghan Aid Tilted by Saudi Priorities, Washington Post 11/5/1987 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP90-00965R000100110016-5.pdf)
- Afghan Rebels are Said to Remain divided, New York Times 4/12/1983 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP90-00552R000605720002-1.pdf)
- U.S backing rebels in 4 countries, Miami Herald 12/5/1986
- Sideshow at the CIA, Washington Post 10/5/1987 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP91-00901R000700060001-7.pdf)
- Afghan Rebel Aid Enriches Generals, Washington Post 8/5/1987 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP90-00965R000100110017-4.pdf)
- The Afghan Connection, Newsweek 10/10/1983 (https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP90-00552R000201240004-0.pdf)
- History Commons (http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=abdul_haq)