from the book
The CIAs Greatest Hits
by Mark Zepezauer
During the Reagan years, the CIA ran nearly
two dozen covert operations against various governments. Of these,
Afghanistan was by far the biggest; it was, in fact, the biggest
CIA operation of all time, both in terms of dollars spent ($5-$6
billion) and personnel involved. Yet it not only generated little
controversy, but enjoyed strong bipartisan support. That's because
its main purpose was to "bleed" the Soviet Union, just
as we had been bled in Vietnam.
Prior to the 1979 Russian invasion, Afghanistan
was ruled by a brutal dictator. Like the neighboring Shah of Iran,
he allowed the CIA to set up radar installations in his country
that were used to monitor the Soviets. In 1979, after several
dozen Soviet advisors were massacred by Afghan tribesmen, the
USSR sent in the Red Army.
The Soviets tried to install a pliable
client regime, without taking local attitudes much into account.
Many of the mullahs who controlled chunks of Afghan territory
objected to Soviet efforts to educate women and to institute land
reform. Others, outraged by the USSR's attempts to suppress the
heroin trade, shifted their operations to Pakistan.
As for the CIA, its aim was simply to
humiliate the Soviets by arming anyone who would fight against
them. The agency funneled cash and weapons to over a dozen guerrilla
groups, many of whom had been staging raids from Pakistan years
before the Soviet invasion. Today, long after the Soviet Union
left Afghanistan (and, in fact, has ceased to exist), most of
these groups are still fighting each other for control of the
Besides tossing billions of dollars into
the conflict, the CIA transferred sensitive weapons technology
to fanatical Muslim extremists, with consequences that will haunt
the US for years to come. One notable veteran of the Afghan operation
is Sheik Abdel Rahman, famous for his role in the World Trade
The CIA succeeded in creating chaos, but
never developed a plan for ending it. When the ten-year war was
over, a million people were dead, and Afghan heroin had captured
60% of the US market.