In recent years, the government, finally, has officially acknowledged that the CIA’s cut-out in Afghanistan was Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). We prosecutors were forbidden to admit as much at the blind shiekh’s 1995 trial, even though U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan contras was probably a better-kept secret. The stipulation read to the jury — after 18 months of sealed litigation — conceded only that the United States had provided economic and military support to the mujahideen “through a third-country intermediary”; it did not identify our abettor. Years later, with the intelligence community feeling intense heat over its dismal pre-9/11 performance, the CIA could no longer afford to be so stingy. The 9/11 Commission thus disclosed that the “United States supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation. This assistance was funneled through Pakistan: the [ISI] helped train the rebels and dis tribute the arms.”
ENDOWING THE JIHADIST HARVARD
Moreover, with not only the intelligence community but our nation under international criticism for having reared the terror network that has now matured into a worldwide threat, the State Department got into the act. In 2005, it issued a press release categorically denying that the U.S. had “created Osama bin Laden.” But this denial — reasserted in May 2009 — answers the wrong question. It’s not whether we “created” bin Laden; it’s whether we materially helped him and his network grow and evolve into what they became.
State tried to do the impossible: hold the CIA blameless but explain what actually happened. It dutifully reprised the story about how Afghans and Arabs despised one another, such that helping the former in no way facilitated the latter. Its impressive array of expert witnesses on this point included Dr. Sageman and Milt Bearden, who, like Devine, had helped run the CIA’s Afghan operation. In offering Bearden’s summation, State relied on an excerpt from Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, by CNN’s terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen:
CIA official Milt Bearden, who ran the Agency’s Afghan operation in the late 1980s, says, “The CIA did not recruit Arabs,” as there was no need to do so. There were hundreds of thousands of Afghans all too willing to fight, and the Arabs who did come for jihad were “very disruptive” . . . The Afghans thought they were a pain in the ass.
Yes, we’ve heard: They couldn’t stand being in the same jihad together. Again, though, the question is not whether the CIA recruited Arabs. In fact, to listen to Dr. Sageman, even al-Qaeda doesn’t recruit Arabs. As terrorism analyst Lorenzo Vidino observes in Al Qaeda in Europe — The New Battleground of International Jihad:
The studies on recruitment for jihad undertaken by Marc Sageman, a former CIA official and an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, have revealed that al-Qaeda carries out no top-down recruitment; instead, spontaneously formed clusters of young radicals naturally team up with recruiters, who select those who have the skills and dedication that can be useful to the cause. “It’s actually very much like applying to Harvard,” says Sageman, pointing out that al-Qaeda’s problem is selection, not recruitment.
Exactly: The issue is not recruitment, but whether the CIA endowed the jihadist Harvard. Was the agency like today’s university donors who contribute huge sums but then disavow any responsibility for what’s being taught in the schools? Did the agency knowingly foster an atmosphere in which these spontaneously arriving clusters of Arab jihadists could easily — and quite foreseeably — find the opportunities, the trainers, and the means to become more effective, more networked terrorists? Did the agency do so knowing virulently anti-Western jihadists were finding each other? The answers to those questions are palpable.
Ironically, it is the State Department that gives up the ghost. In its angst to shift to Pakistan the blame for al-Qaeda’s rise, State inadvertently destroys the CIA’s fairy tale. Again, its expert source is Peter Bergen:
The United States wanted to be able to deny that the CIA was funding the Afghan war, so its support was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI). ISI in turn made the decisions about which Afghan factions to arm and train, tending to favor the most Islamist and pro-Pakistan. The Afghan Arabs generally fought alongside those factions, which is how the charge arose that they were creatures of the CIA.
Put aside State’s remarkable candor in conceding that the CIA went through the ISI precisely in order to maintain deniability. This admission acknowledges that some of those purportedly peaceful Sufi Afghans turn out to have been . . . Islamists. In truth, the CIA well knew that there were Islamist-oriented Afghan factions, and that those factions were favored by the Pakistanis. Armed with this knowledge, the agency passed funding and arms to the Pakistanis, knowing a goodly share of it would go to anti-American Islamists, such as Hekmatyar, who had close ties to the Arabs. Hekmatyar, as Bergen relates, was (and is) an “Islamist zealot,” yet his Hizb party received fully 20 percent of the U.S. contribution — i.e., about about $600 million of the $3 billion total, and that’s without counting the considerable Saudi aid that came his way (the Saudis having matched U.S. aid dollar for dollar).
To be clear, it was not the CIA’s purpose to promote Islamism. Our government wanted to get assistance into the hands of the factions that would be most effective in combating the Soviets (though how effective Hekmatyar’s was in that regard is hotly disputed). It is just preposterous, though, to maintain that the fallout of this effort — the fueling of jihadism — did not happen. It happened in spades, and we did nothing meaningful to account for it.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
After reading this column by Andrew McCarthy in National Review, and the light of Ian Johnson's book A MOSQUE IN MUNICH, about a CIA-funded 1950s mosque, one wonders if there might be some CIA money that has made its way to Cordoba House?