Operation Cyclone is the secret name for the CIA program to arm the Afghan mujahideen during the Afghan war. This operation is one of the most expensive and longest covert CIA operations. The financing of the program started with $30 million per year. Due to the efforts of Congressman Charlie Wilson, the CIA agent, Michael J. Vickers, and other lobbyists of Operation Cyclone, America for 10 years has been contributing billions of dollars to the fight against the Soviet expansion. By 1987, the budget of the secret operation reached $630 million a year. Operation Cyclone was perhaps not only the most successful and expensive one in the history of the CIA, but also had the most long-run consequences. Nowadays, the USA pays for these consequences. At that time no one knew that U.S. government had unwittingly helped to create the largest terrorist organization and that their help to Afghanistan would develop into the terrible catastrophe just in a few decades. In any case, when the U.S. then celebrated the victory in the Cold war, they did not know, or rather, for some reasons did not count, that they also were caught in a kind of a trap. On its size the amount of money, which nowadays American taxpayers send to maintain country's contingent in Afghanistan each year, indicates. At that time, the U.S. saw the Soviet Union as the main enemy, and did not think about the dangers of radical Islam. However, the CIA had brilliantly operated in Afghanistan in 1979.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued a decree on the financing of anti-Communist forces in Afghanistan. The national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, argued that the U.S. aid to Afghan mujahideen was preceded by the U.S. efforts to engage the Soviet Union in a costly, and as far as possible distracting, military conflict like the Vietnam War. American government did not push Russia to intervene. However, the nation had intentionally increased the possibility that it would. A covert operation was a great idea. Its result was the enticement of the Soviet Union into the Afghan springe. The day the Soviet Union had officially crossed the border, the national security adviser wrote to President Carter that the nation had a chance to give the Soviet Union the Vietnam War. It turns out, it is not correct to assume that the Americans began to help the mujahedeen after Moscow sent troops to Kabul to rescue the pro-Soviet regime. Rather, the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan was the result of the fact that the Kremlin knew about the American aid to the mujahedeen. The Soviet government fell into the trap, which was finally slammed shut after 12 years. The operation was terminated after the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan in 1989.
July 3, 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order sanctioning the funding of anti-Communist forces in Afghanistan. After the invasion of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and the appointment of pro-Soviet President, Babrak Karmal, Carter declared that the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan was the greatest threat to peace since WW II. In 1980, Congressman Charlie Wilson, speaking in front of the Congress, called to increase costs on the aid of Afghan resistance in a minimum for two times. Mujahedeen movement was doomed to failure without the external support. The technique and quantitative superiority was on the side of the Soviet troops.
Mainly, the program was based on the use of Pakistani intelligence service, as an umpire for the distribution of funding, supply of weapons, and training of the Afghan resistance. In addition to funding from similar programs of the British Special Air Service, Saudi Arabia and China, ISI was engaged in arming and training of over 100,000 insurgents from 1978 to 1992. They were also occupied into the recruiting of volunteers from the Arab States in the ranks of the Afghan resistance against the Soviet troops stationed in Afghanistan. The U.S. provided two tranches of economic aid and military contracts to support Pakistan in its role in the war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The first six-year tranche of 3.2 billion was equally divided between economic assistance and military contracts. In addition to this tranche, Pakistan purchased from the U.S. 40 F-16 aircrafts for 1.2 billion from 1983 to 1987. The size of the second six-year tranche was 4.2 billion. 2.28 billion of that money was allocated for economic assistance in the form of grants or low-interest loans. The rest of money was provided in the form of credit for military purchases. Besides the U.S, Israel sold Pakistan non-American weapons for the war in Afghanistan. Thus, the country received from 3 to 20 billion to train and supply the Afghan mujahedeen groups with various weapons, including portable anti-aircraft missile complexes “Stinger”. From year to year, the funding of the program increased due to the active support of some American politicians and public officials, such as Congressmen Charles Wilson and Gordon Humphrey, CIA Director, William Casey.
Congressman Charles Wilson played a very important role in Operation Cyclone. He was very sincere. The U.S. government believed him, releasing more and more money on Operation Cyclone. Charlie really believed that he could help the suffering people, and even made up his mind how to help them. MANPADS “Stinger” were the main trump of mujahedeen in the fight with Soviet helicopters. Wilson contended that the U.S. government could not allow barefoot and half-dressed people to continue throwing stones in Russian helicopters. In 1986, he gained his point. With the advent of “Stingers” in Afghanistan, Soviet pilots began to bear heavy losses. According to Congressman Charles Wilson, a time, when “the Afghan sky cleared”, was the happiest of his life. Wilson was one of the great American patriots, who played a key role in the events that changed the whole world - the defeat of the Soviet army in Afghanistan, which led to the collapse of the Soviet empire and the collapse of communism. Charlie Wilson was one of the chief architects of the secret operation Cyclone, which has led to the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan and, as a consequence, to the U.S. victory in the last battle of the Cold War. The assistance that the United States provided the mujahedeen surpassed any understanding. Began with five millionth appropriations, it grew to one billion due to Charlie Wilson. For ten years, hundreds of thousands of weapons were shipped on camels, mules, and donkeys from Pakistan to Afghanistan. At one point, more than 300 thousand Islamic fundamentalists fought with weapons received by a detour from the CIA. Besides the U.S., other countries: Pakistan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, rendered assistance to mujahedeen. However, mostly this international support was initiated by Washington.
In December 1979, when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, it was believed that the Soviet Union tried to extend its southern borders and gain a foothold in the region. It seemed that this extension to the south was preceded by the further progress to the east towards Pakistan and to the west to Iran. American politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, did not know about the participation of the U.S. and feared that the Soviet Union intended to take control over Middle East oil. In the late 70's the officially declared U.S. position was a sincere concern of the USSR aggression against an independent state of Afghanistan. American officials really worried because the Russians could head for the east - Pakistan, or for the west - Iran from Afghanistan. Neither one nor the other variant suited Americans. There was a lot of oil in that area. Others believed that the Soviet Union was trying to prevent the spread of Iran's Islamic revolution and the Afghan Islamization of millions of Muslims in the USSR.
After the invasion Carter made a statement that the U.S. would not allow any foreign power to control the Persian Gulf. It became known as the “Carter Doctrine”. It was a fundamental document that defined the direction of the U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf in the early 80's. This message was largely devoted to the Middle East region in general, and the Gulf, in particular. The doctrine argued the thesis about the aggressiveness of the Soviet Union, which had grown in recent years. The intervention of the Soviet troops into Afghanistan was seen as a move towards the oilfields and as an attempt to establish control over the area. In this regard, Washington, emphasizing the crucial importance of oil resources of the Persian Gulf, proclaimed it the zone of vital interests of the U.S. A specifically designed unit of the armed forces - quick deployment forces - had to protect this area. They were proposed to use if countries, oil suppliers from the Persian Gulf, suffered aggression from outside or became victims of provoked disturbances. President stopped the wheat trade with the Soviet Union, which was intended to establish trade relations between the USSR and the reduction of the Cold War. The export of grain was profitable for American agriculture. Carter by his decision marked the beginning of the hard times for American farmers. He forbade Americans to participate in the Summer Olympic Games in 1980 in Moscow. President also reinstated the registration for military service for young people. The gradual normalization of relationship between the USSR and countries of the Arabian Peninsula was caused by a new stage of improvement of the Soviet-American relations. Only because of this fact on a background of growing crisis tendencies in the Soviet Union historiography of the U.S. mostly recognized outdated anti-Soviet orientation of “Carter Doctrine”. However, the principal provisions of this doctrine concerning the Gulf region, firmly established in the consciousness of American political establishment. The basis of modern attitude of Washington towards the Gulf region was laid just after the proclamation of “Carter Doctrine”.
The U.S. lost interest in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from it. The U.S. funding of the leader of the Afghan resistance, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the Islamic Party of Afghanistan was immediately terminated. The U.S. also reduced its help to Afghan refugees in Pakistan. In October 1990, the U.S. President, George W. Bush, refused to acknowledge that Pakistan had not had nuclear warheads; thus, authorized the imposition of sanctions on Pakistan under the Pressler amendment to the Congress law on the foreign aid. This decision nullified the obligation of 1987 to provide the second tranche and cut off the economic aid and military supplies to Pakistan. The trainings of military specialists were also stopped and some Pakistani officers, who held an internship in the U.S., were withdrawn home.
Even the active participation of Pakistan in the Persian Gulf War in 1991 could not soften Washington's stance in the point of sanctions. Pakistani expeditionary force numbering 11.000 soldiers took part in the military operations against Iraq. However, in the same year, the United States blocked the delivery to Islamabad of already built and paid the fighter-bombers F-16 in the amount of 658 million dollars. This clearly demonstrated that the confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was over. In the US-Pakistan relations other issues became very significant, primarily related to the prospect of the so-called “Islamic bomb”. For example, the so-called “Pressler Amendment” was adopted in the U.S. in 1985. According to this amendment, the U.S. companies were not allowed to sell weapons to any state that was suspected to develop its own nuclear bomb. However, with respect to Pakistan, it was used only in 1990, after it became clear that the strategic objectives of the U.S. in Afghanistan were implemented.
The U.S. government was criticized for the fact that it allowed Pakistan to send the leader of Afghan resistance, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the Pakistani leadership considered an ally, a disproportionate amount of their funds. Hekmatyar was criticized for killing other mujahedeen and attacking the civilians, including shelling of Kabul by the U.S. arms, which led to 2000 victims. It was said that he was on the friendly terms with Osama bin Laden, a founder of al-Qaeda, who led the program with “Afghan Arabs volunteers” Maktab al-Hadamat for the war in Afghanistan. In late 1980, the Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, concerned about the growing power of Islamist movement, told President George W. Bush that they were creating a Frankenstein. There is an evidence of Osama bin Laden's cooperation with the United States, as a part of the aid of Afghan mujahedeen. According to various estimates, about 35 000 foreign Muslims from 43 Islamic countries took part in the war. Many of them were later involved in the terrorist activities of al-Qaeda. However, the U.S. authorities claimed that all funding went to local Afghan insurgents. The U.S. government denied that any of the funds were used to support Osama bin Laden or foreign Arab mujahedeen.
Deployed in 80 years, the U.S. military infrastructure was characterized by large mobility and flexibility. It is difficult to say whether it was prepared to wage the war against the Soviet Union or not. However, in the view of subsequent events, such as “Desert Storm” in 1991, it became apparent that the effort to consolidate the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf in 80s was mainly local and created conditions for the prevention of threats to the stability of the major countries in the region, such as Iraq and Iran. At the same time, the role of catalyst of regional conflicts that prevent the establishment of cooperation between the United States and conservative Arab monarchies of the Gulf continued to play the Arab-Israeli conflict. Analysis of the U.S. Middle East strategy in 80s shows that the U.S. policy toward the countries of the Persian Gulf came to a standstill, because one agreement has not been achieved in the negotiations, and one of the many American diplomatic initiative was not successful.
In the late 80's - early 90's of the last century, the Soviet troops were ignominiously withdrawn from Afghanistan. The USSR collapsed and the U.S. interest to Mujahideen has dropped significantly. Afghanistan, torn by the civil war, became a plaything in hands of different political and religious forces that had certain interests in the region - from neighboring Pakistan to Western countries. Then, on the Afghan scene appeared the movement “Taliban”, whose members were trained in the special religious schools in the late 1970s - early 1980s. They were not burdened with cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Ironically, Americans themselves laid the foundation for the emergence of international terrorist organizations.
The question of the possible link between Operation Cyclone and occurred later al-Qaeda is still quite controversial. Once the Soviet Union withdrew its troops, the U.S. lost all interest in Afghanistan. The country healed its life, continuing to accumulate coming manpower and weapons from Pakistan. At some point, the Pakistani government also became agitated over this; however, nothing could have been done. Those Afghan leaders, who at first seemed controllable, soon went out of control. The Taliban occupied an empty niche of the destroyed state. Many people argue that due to this operation radical Muslims from many countries met in Afghanistan, and later created the international terrorist organization. They affirm that the origins of al-Qaeda refer to the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, and more precisely, to the U.S. response to the Soviet invasion of this Middle Eastern country.
Some critics consider Operation Cyclone to be answerable for setting in motion the terrible events that became the cause of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. This term is commonly known as blowback. The foundations of al-Qaida were allegedly formed in part on weaponry and relationships that came from the billions of dollars in the U.S. support for the mujahedeen from Afghanistan during the war to get rid of the Soviet forces from the country. Many people think that the operation was just the waste of money and time.
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