UI – Part 436 – The Taliban Creation, Afghanistan, Pakistan
Terror Groups – The Beginnings
Call them what you want, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or the Mujahidin, they are all protest groups of an Islamic ideological nature with a call for jihad. Transformation of areas, countries of the world to Islam, is the objective. Hearing the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood would equal the call of these jihadist related groups. How did they begin, where did they begin and who are those responsible, to one extent or another, for their creation? We will try to answer those questions in this article.
The first step in this journey takes us to Afghanistan in the 70’s. Enjoying a long period of cultural reform Afghanistan had progressed since the end of World War I into a modern-style nation. When I say, ‘modern-style,’ I refer to the manner of dress of men and women, abolition of the traditional Muslim veil, access to education for all people, co-ed education, to a minimal amount of Sharia Law, except in tribal areas, and freedoms, freedoms for men and women to walk side-by-side, even holding hands, and discover their potential as individuals in what they think, learn and achieve. This was not accomplished without bumps along the way. Unveiled women were sprayed with acid attempting to force them to cover up. They resisted and continued to live without their faces covered. Bringing this Country into the 20th century was King Amanullah who for 10 years (1919-1929) aggressively pursued change. Not so fast was the reaction of many tribal leaders causing Amanullah to resign. Nadir Shah (assassinated in 1928) was followed by his 19 year old son, Zadir Shah, as King. The Pashtun tribesmen were in accord for a period of time. The new King slowed progress, but continued with modernization. They were benevolent and accommodating to growth and development of a nation that for years, for decades, existed in the past ages and restrictive practices of Muhammadism, or Islam of the 7th century.
Afghanistan has been at the crossroad of East Asia and the Middle East, as well as Russia and Pakistan/India. At one time Afghanistan was described as the center square in the chessboard of that area of the world. But in 1973 the King was overthrown by a relative, his cousin.
Independence Day took place on August 19, 1919. The United Kingdom was no longer the overseer of this colony. The country grew becoming a member of the League of Nations in 1934 and the United Nations in 1946. Modernization continued, while at the same time the Pashtun people were cautious because Muslim traditions and legal restraints were being ignored. In the early 70’s the Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud forced King Zahir Shah into exile. To help in his effort going forward he sought financial and political assistance from the Soviets. The Country was about to experience change and a revision of its progress.
During WWII Afghanistan tried to remain neutral. They were not successful and yielded to pressure from the UK and Russia to expel any representatives of the Axis countries. The Durand Line was an arbitrary separation of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the Pashtuns in the middle. Differences between India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim) engendered a split in 1947. The Pashtuns chose to align with Pakistan. The Line itself has been a contentious issue. Arguments over agreements related to the Durand Line led to the Paki’s refusal to supply needed oil to Afghanistan, crossing the Line. This was 1950. The Afghans turned to Russia entering into a trade agreement, oil and textiles for wool and cotton. The relationship with the Russians was most helpful to the spur of infrastructure and economic growth as Pakistan remained entrenched in refusals over trade.
After WWII Afghanistan became more as a democracy, with political parties, a constitution and free elections. However there were too many political parties. The number was overwhelming and caused more chaos than reform. Liberalism became the victim and student groups, Islam their primary subject, were marginalized in their ability to speak freely. The student groups, the Talib, were distressed by many of the reforms that were counter to Islamic law.
Daoud, Western educated, became PM in 1953. He continued working with the King towards modernization while at the same time furthering relations with the Soviets. An ideological struggle between modernization and Islamization surfaced anew, such as views regarding the veiling of women in public places, creating an abyss between the reformists and the traditionalist Islamists from tribal regions (the Mujahidin). Daoud incarcerated many of the traditionalists. In addition Daoud was balancing a desire for financial support from the USA, relations with the Soviets, and resolving issues with the Pashtuns while hostility towards Pakistan remained. Land-locked and needing a trade route, Pakistan not being cooperative (In 1955 the Afghan-Pakistan border was closed), Daoud turned to the northern Russian neighbor.
In 1963 with the Afghan economy in decline Zahir Shah asked for PM Daoud’s resignation. Zahir continued with a Constitution written in 1964 that enabled a contemporary secular society versus a tribal society. Although Islam was affirmed as the national religion, the supremacy of a secular governmental structure was stressed. Among the many political parties were formed was a Communist Party and the (Marxist) Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). Elections after 1964 altered parliament as socialists became more dominant. Impasses to reform created turmoil. Dissatisfaction with government was apparent.
End of a Monarchy
Daoud via a military coup took control (1973), became President of the new Republic, the monarchy ended, as well as the Constitution. Relations with Russia were good at the start but declined as Daoud became disenchanted with communism. Daoud turned to the Saudi’s, Iraqi’s and Kuwait for aide, wanting to free the Country from the Soviets. India and Iran were also called upon for military and economic support. Relations with Pakistan had improved by this time with the help of the USA.
Muhammad Zia-ul Haq was President of Pakistan. Despite his efforts conditions for the Afghans was not improving. The PDPA attacked in 1978 and spilled blood, another coup was underway. The melee continued for a few weeks. Troops and tanks moved into Kabul (the airport). Daoud and his family were murdered by the army he formed. The army was sympathetic to the political PDPA. The communist regime took over.
Mosques, Madrassas and Military Training Centers
Students in Kabul and other universities in Afghanistan were upset by the changes and the association with the Soviets. They had been upset with modern changes for years. Many protested, while others moved, as refugees, into the southern Pashtun tribal areas. Referred to as the Mujahidin from the tribal areas and the Talib from the Islamic education centers, they wanted communist rule removed and a more Islamic rule restored. There they found new mosques and madrassas under construction with funding from Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth. They were offered a continuing Islamic education as well as military training, sabotage warfare, on neighboring grounds laid out for exercises and war games, more terrorist activities.
The Saudi’s, awash with the wealth created from the oil resources they were selling to the world (resulting from price increases after the 1973 Oil Crisis), took the opportunity to build centers for Islamic religious education and worship, with curriculums catering to their preferred Wahhabist interpretation of Islam. Zia-ul Haq welcomed the presence of these teaching institutions as well as the Saudi’s money. Although not stated openly Zia’s goal was to Islamize Pakistan, breaking down any secular components of governance. What Zia told the American’s was different, preferring a secular or democratic structure, and no nuclear weapons.
Other nations came to the aide of the Mujahidin and Talibs, to include the USA, India and China. Military equipment and arms were provided by the USA in addition to military training. The CIA wanted the Russians out of Afghanistan also (but for reasons other than the Islamists). So too the Pakistani’s. ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), the CIA of Pakistan, worked closely with our CIA.
The students, the Talib, the Mujahidin were being backed, equipped, taught and trained as warriors to resist the communist soviets and restore Afghanistan. For them it was jihad.
The Red of Russia
The communists revealed a new flag of Afghanistan emblazoned in red, as the green and white standard was retired. Intentions were made clear. Imposition of new rules on the tribal sects and families did not go well. Uniform education for men and women, no more arranged marriages or dowries, a common language, and a raised minimum age required for women to marry, although modern, was not acceptable to the powerful and proud tribal leaders, the Kahns. They also objected to significant land reforms. Coupled with Marxist rules, it was too much.
A Revolutionary Underground
Student protests and tribal attacks began, equipped with weapons as well as their Quran, calling for the restoration of Islam in Afghanistan. The protestors entered Afghanistan where they could and established roadblocks to prevent progress by the invading forces. Learned guerrilla tactics were employed to be as disruptive as possible. It was a violent civil war. The American ambassador got caught in one of the forays and was killed along with his captors (Adolph Dubs – 2/1979). The US withdrew support for the Afghans. The citizens of Afghanistan were without leadership.
A soviet controlled town, Herat, was overrun and more than 100 soldiers were speared, beheaded and slain. The Islamist armed students and tribal mujahidin insurgents were effective. Revolt boiled and the Soviets finally with a full frontal military force invaded. From an invitation to the Soviets for aide, to a subsequent attempt to distance themselves from Marxist rule the Afghanistan people became a mark for Russian advancement. Their Islamic culture and heritage was not to be altered if the mujahidin and Talib had their say in the fashion or the time frame that was being imposed.
Soviet tanks creaked and thundered as the 40th rolled into the Kabul airport in December 1979. President Carter was still in office in Washington, DC, no doubt reeling from the January 1979 Iranian revolution and the taking of embassy employees, still being held, in Tehran.
In a month more than 50,000 troops arrived, another 35,000 one month later, the Afghan President (Amin) was killed. The revolting tribes caused many loyalists in the Afghan army to leave. Jimmy Carter declared the invasion a “threat to World Peace.” Carter decided to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. He announced in 1980 (State of the Union Address) that any invasion of the Persian Gulf, due to vital interests, would result in “use of immediate force.”
Refuges in Pakistan were growing dramatically, well over 100,000 by 1980. These refuges were ripe for religious education and military training as part of the jihadist forces against the soviet invasion. With many years of religious and militant education the refuges were prepared and ready to fight. In time more than 6 million Afghans fled the Country. The US provided financial support for the refuges, trusting Zia (Pakistan) to apply and disperse the funds properly.
The Muslim Brotherhood saw an opportunity to use this situation to their advantage and to help establish more territory for a new Caliphate. Funds to Zia, and from the Saudi’s, were at times diverted unknowingly into the hands of the Brotherhood. Many Wahhabist loyalists and Brotherhood supporters recently involved in the Grand Mosque Attack (Mecca 1979) found an outlet for themselves with an Islamic call for jihad training in the Pashtun area. Afghanistan was an objective. Names like Azzam, Osama bin Laden and Zarwahiri popped up in the madrassas and military training centers as students and leaders of the immediate cause and future objectives for jihadists. Arms continued to be secretly supplied to the Mujahidin by the USA.
In effect between the Saudi’s and United States the financial and functioning foundations of Al Qaeda and the Taliban were being established. The Pakistani’s decided who received the weapons. Demands for withdrawal of the Soviets brought a reply from Brezhnev (1964-1982 as ruler of USSR) that they were there at the invite of the Afghan government. The operations to displace the soviets became more covert. Ronald Reagan was now the President of the United States (1981-1989). Bin Laden saw the opportunity to lead the resistance into a more global advancement of fundamental Islamism with his organization, Al Qaeda.
There were principals in Afghanistan that wanted neither the Soviets nor the Mujahidin, nor the Taliban to take over the Country.
Mujahidin and Taliban terror, sabotage, attacks focused on vital roads and bridges occurring with greater frequency during the 80’s. Everyone was engaged, men, women and children. They were defending Islam. The soviets captured afghan youth, over 40,000, taking them to the soviet union to grow up as Russians, enjoying their way of life. The Soviets were failing.
The aging Russian Politburo had its own problems with dying leaders – Brezhnev – Andropov (1982-1984) – Chernenko (1984-1985) – Gorbachev (1985-1991). Russia blamed the Afghan leadership they controlled for the problems. Gorbachev wanted to withdrawal, gracefully if possible. Reagan remarked at the time, “How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?”
Troops were withdrawn and in February 1989 the Soviets departed Afghanistan. The Soviets lost about 15,000 killed to the Mujahidin’s 1-1.5 million. That was followed by an Afghan civil War. The Taliban now wanted control. 1992 saw the Islamic State of Afghanistan in place in Kabul. The rebel forces met with Bush 41.
“The disorder and chaos that took place for the control of Kabul fostered the rise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.” – The History of Afghanistan,
Pashtun Training Grounds
From the events surrounding Afghanistan’s civil war and war with Russia, a haven for Islamist extremists was created in the Pashtun area just south of the border, the Durand Line, between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The education and military guerrilla tactics training centers spawned well armed and able militant forces capable of frustrating the soviets. Their success led to a return of Islamic Law in Afghanistan. Tribal warriors returned home, the Mujahidin, and the Taliban, radicalized, unified, strengthened and well trained militarily sought political control over Afghanistan after the Russians departed in 1989. They succeeded and were the government from 1996-2000. It was a total reversal of fortunes and freedoms for the residents of this Country as the worst of Islam was imposed on the people.
The significant signs of progress from 1919 into the 70’s was dismantled as the oppressive and punitive laws of sharia were invoked and administered by the Taliban.
In addition to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden’s (OBL) Al Qaeda faction was also birthed in this cradle of jihad. OBL wanted more than Afghanistan. Thinking as the Muslim Brotherhoods’s policies state, OBL wanted the world changed, starting with Muslim countries that were not devout enough, structured sufficiently, nor properly punishing those who violated Islamic Law. Recognition for his objective made the West, where freedoms, anathema to Islam, were rampant, a target, as the Great Satan, so named by Iran’s Ayatollah.
Then there was September 11, 2001.
Grace and Peace