Useful bits from Ahmed Rashid's "Taliban"

Ahmed's Rashid's "Taliban" is an oft-cited history of Afghanistan that chronicles the rise of the Taliban. Along the way, Rashid drops some useful information that he has gathered during his on-the-ground, on-the-scene journalism expeditions:

" 1986, CIA chief William Casey had stepped up the war against the Soviet Union by taking three significant, but at that time highly secret, measures. He had persuaded the U.S. Congress to provide the Mujaheddin with American-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down Soviet planes and provide U.S. advisers to train the guerrillas. Until then no US-made weapons or personnel had been used directly in the war effort. The CIA, Britain's MI6 and the ISI also agreed on a provocative plan to launch guerrilla attacks into the Soviet Socialist Republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the soft Muslim underbelly of the Soviet state from where Soviet troops in Afghanistan received their supplies. The task was given to the ISI's favourite Mujaheddin leader Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. In March 1987, small units crossed the Amu Darya river from bases in northern Afghanistan and launched their first rocket attacks against villages in Tajikistan. Casey was delighted with the news, and on his next secret trip to Pakistan he crossed the border into Afghanistan with President Zia to review the Mujaheddin groups.

Thirdly, Casey committed CIA support to a long-standing ISI initiative to recruit Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan Mujaheddin. The ISI had encouraged this since 1982 and by now all the other players had their reasons for supporting the idea." p.129


"His father backed the Afghan struggle and helped fund it, so when Bin Laden decided to join up, his family responded enthusiastically. He first traveled to Peshawar in 1980 and met the Mujaheddin leaders, returning frequently with Saudi donations for the cause until 1982, when he decided to settle in Peshawar. He brought in his company engineers and heavy construction equipment to help build roads and depots for the Mujaheddin. In 1986, he helped build the Khost tunnel complex, which the CIA was funding as a major arms storage depot, training facility and medical center for the Mujaheddin, deep under the mountains close to the Pakistan border. For the first time in Khost he set up his own training camp for Arab Afghans, who now increasingly saw this lanky, wealthy and charismatic Saudi as their leader.

'To counter these atheist Russians, the Saudis chose me as their representative in Afghanistan,' Bin Laden said later. 'I settled in Pakistan in the Afghan border region. There I received volunteers who came from the Saudi Kingdom and from all over the Arab and Muslim countries. I set up my fist camp where these volunteers were trained by Pakistani and American officers. The weapons were supplied by the Americans, the money by the Saudis." p.132


"Turkey also played a role in turning around Israel's policy in Afghanistan. Turkey and Israel had developed close military and strategic ties after the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Israelis and more significantly some Jewish lobbies in the USA were not initially critical of the Taliban. In line with the US State Department, Isreal saw the Taliban as an anti-Iranian force which could be used to undermine Iranian influence in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Israel's intelligence agency Mossad developed a dialogue with the Taliban through liason officers in the USA and with the oil companies. Pakistan's ISI supported this dialogue. Even though Pakistan did not recognize Israel, the ISI had developed links through the CIA with Mossad during the Afghan jihad...

...As the Unocal project evaporated and Israel realized the aversion its Central Asian allies and Turkey had towards the Taliban, Mossad opened contacts with the anti-Taliban alliance. Israel now had an interest in seeing that the Taliban did not take control of the whole of Afghanistan, even though it remained suspicious of Ahmad Shah Masud's support from Iran. Both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance were to accuse each of other of receiving Israeli support." p.154

CIA--ISI--MI6--Mossad--"al Qaeda"

Hail, hail, the gang's all here.

Page numbers from the 2001 Yale Note Bene paperback reprint.