|Part of Soviet war in Afghanistan|
|Planned by||Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)|
|Target||Government of Afghanistan and USSR invasion force|
|Executed by||Inter-Services Intelligence and Central Intelligence Agency|
Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to arm and finance the Jihad warriors, mujahideen, in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, prior to and during the military intervention by the USSR in support of its client, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The program leaned heavily towards supporting militant Islamic groups that were favored by the regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in neighboring Pakistan, rather than other, less ideological Afghan resistance groups that had also been fighting the Marxist-oriented Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regime since before the Soviet intervention. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken; funding began with $20–$30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987. Funding continued after 1989 as the mujahideen battled the forces of Mohammad Najibullah's PDPA during the civil war in Afghanistan (1989–1992).
Communists under the leadership of Nur Muhammad Taraki seized power in Afghanistan on April 27, 1978. The new regime—which was divided between Taraki's extremist Khalq faction and the more moderate Parcham—signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in December of that year. Taraki's efforts to improve secular education and redistribute land were accompanied by mass executions (including of many conservative religious leaders) and political oppression unprecedented in Afghan history, igniting a revolt by mujahideen rebels. Following a general uprising in April 1979, Taraki was deposed by Khalq rival Hafizullah Amin in September. Amin was considered a "brutal psychopath" by foreign observers; even the Soviets were alarmed by the brutality of the Afghan communists, and suspected Amin of being an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), although that was not the case. By December, Amin's government had lost control of much of the country, prompting the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan, execute Amin, and install Parcham leader Babrak Karmal as president.
Carter was surprised by the invasion, as the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community during 1978 and 1979—reiterated as late as September 29, 1979—was that "Moscow would not intervene in force even if it appeared likely that the Khalq government was about to collapse." Indeed, Carter's diary entries from November 1979 until the Soviet invasion in late December contain only two short references to Afghanistan, and are instead preoccupied with the ongoing hostage crisis in Iran. In the West, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was considered a threat to global security and the oil supplies of the Persian Gulf. Moreover, the failure to accurately predict Soviet intentions caused American officials to reappraise the Soviet threat to both Iran and Pakistan, although it is now known that those fears were overblown. For example, U.S. intelligence closely followed Soviet exercises for an invasion of Iran throughout 1980, while an earlier warning from Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski that "if the Soviets came to dominate Afghanistan, they could promote a separate Baluchistan ... [thus] dismembering Pakistan and Iran" took on new urgency. These concerns were a major factor in the unrequited efforts of both the Carter and Reagan administrations to improve relations with Iran, and resulted in massive aid to Pakistan's Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Zia's ties with the U.S. had been strained during Carter's presidency due to Pakistan's nuclear program and the execution of Ali Bhutto in April 1979, but Carter told Brzezinski and secretary of state Cyrus Vance as early as January 1979 that it was vital to "repair our relationships with Pakistan" in light of the unrest in Iran. One initiative Carter authorized to achieve this goal was a collaboration between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); through the ISI, the CIA began providing some $500,000 worth of non-lethal assistance to the mujahideen on July 3, 1979—several months prior to the Soviet invasion. The modest scope of this early collaboration was likely influenced by the understanding, later recounted by CIA official Robert Gates, "that a substantial U.S. covert aid program" might have "raise[d] the stakes" thereby causing "the Soviets to intervene more directly and vigorously than otherwise intended."
In the aftermath of the invasion, Carter was determined to respond vigorously to what he considered a dangerous provocation. In a televised speech, he announced sanctions on the Soviet Union, promised renewed aid to Pakistan, and committed the U.S. to the Persian Gulf's defense. Carter also called for a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, which raised a bitter controversy. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher enthusiastically backed Carter's tough stance, although British intelligence believed "the CIA was being too alarmist about the Soviet threat to Pakistan." The thrust of U.S. policy for the duration of the war was determined by Carter in early 1980: Carter initiated a program to arm the mujahideen through Pakistan's ISI and secured a pledge from Saudi Arabia to match U.S. funding for this purpose. U.S. support for the mujahideen accelerated under Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, at a final cost to U.S. taxpayers of some $3 billion. The Soviets were unable to quell the insurgency and withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, precipitating the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. However, the decision to route U.S. aid through Pakistan led to massive fraud, as weapons sent to Karachi were frequently sold on the local market rather than delivered to the Afghan rebels; Karachi soon "became one of the most violent cities in the world." Pakistan also controlled which rebels received assistance: Of the seven mujahideen groups supported by Zia's government, four espoused Islamic fundamentalist beliefs—and these fundamentalists received most of the funding. Despite this, Carter has expressed no regrets over his decision to support what he still considers the "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan.
President Reagan greatly expanded the program as part of the Reagan Doctrine of aiding anti-Soviet resistance movements abroad. To execute this policy, Reagan deployed CIA Special Activities Division paramilitary officers to equip the Mujihadeen forces against the Soviet Army. Although the CIA and Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson have received the most attention for their roles, the key architect of the strategy was Michael G. Vickers, a young CIA paramilitary officer working for Gust Avrakotos, the CIA's regional head who had a close relationship with Wilson. Vicker's strategy was to use a broad mix of weapons, tactics, logistics, along with training programs, to enhance the rebels' ability to fight a guerilla war against the Soviets. Reagan's program assisted in ending the Soviet's occupation in Afghanistan. A Pentagon senior official, Michael Pillsbury, successfully advocated providing Stinger missiles to the Afghan resistance, according to recent books and academic articles.
The program relied heavily on the Pakistani President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, who had a close relationship with Wilson. His Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was an intermediary for funds distribution, passing of weapons, military training and financial support to Afghan resistance groups. Along with funding from similar programs from Britain's MI6 and SAS, Saudi Arabia, and the People's Republic of China, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents between 1978 and 1992 . They encouraged the volunteers from the Arab states to join the Afghan resistance in its struggle against the Soviet troops based in Afghanistan. All support to the Sunni Mujahideen was funneled through the government of Pakistan, given that the Shiite Mujahideen had close ties to Iran at the time. Given American-Iranian tensions during the period, the US government aided solely the Sunni Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
According to Peter Bergen, writing in Holy War, Inc., no Americans trained or had direct contact with the mujahideen. The skittish CIA had fewer than 10 operatives in the region because it "feared it would be blamed, like in Guatemala". Civilian personnel from the U.S. Department of State and the CIA frequently visited the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area during this time, and the US contributed generously to aiding Afghan refugees.
The U.S.-built Stinger antiaircraft missile, supplied to the mujahideen in very large numbers beginning in 1986, struck a decisive blow to the Soviet war effort as it allowed the lightly armed Afghans to effectively defend against Soviet helicopter landings in strategic areas. The Stingers were so renowned and deadly that, in the 1990s, the U.S. conducted a "buy-back" program to keep unused missiles from falling into the hands of anti-American terrorists. This program may have been covertly renewed following the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in late 2001, out of fear that remaining Stingers could be used against U.S. forces in the country.
With U.S. and other funding, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents . On 20 July 1987, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country was announced pursuant to the negotiations that led to the Geneva Accords of 1988, with the last Soviets leaving on 15 February 1989. Soviet forces suffered over 14,000 killed and missing, and over 50,000 wounded.
The U.S. offered two packages of economic assistance and military sales to support Pakistan's role in the war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The first six-year assistance package (1981–87) amounted to US$3.2 billion, equally divided between economic assistance and military sales. The U.S. also sold 40 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan during 1983–87 at a cost of $1.2 billion outside the assistance package. The second six-year assistance package (1987–93) amounted to $4.2 billion. Out of this, $2.28 billion were allocated for economic assistance in the form of grants or loan that carried the interest rate of 2–3 per cent. The rest of the allocation ($1.74 billion) was in the form of credit for military purchases. More than $20 billion in U.S. funds were funneled into the country to train and arm the Afghan resistance groups.
The program funding was increased yearly due to lobbying by prominent U.S. politicians and government officials, such as Charles Wilson, Gordon Humphrey, Fred Ikle, and William Casey. Under the Reagan administration, U.S. support for the Afghan mujahideen evolved into a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy, called the Reagan Doctrine, in which the U.S. provided military and other support to anti-communist resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.
The mujahideen benefited from expanded foreign military support from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Muslim nations. Saudi Arabia in particular agreed to match dollar for dollar the money the CIA was sending to the Mujahideen. When Saudi payments were late, Wilson and Avrakotos would fly to Saudi Arabia to persuade the monarchy to fulfill its commitments.
Levels of support to the various Afghan factions varied. The ISI tended to favor vigorous Islamists like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hezb-i-Islami, and Jalaluddin Haqqani. Some Americans agreed. However others favored the relative moderates like Ahmed Shah Massoud. These included two Heritage Foundation foreign policy analysts, Michael Johns and James A. Phillips, both of whom championed Massoud as the Afghan resistance leader most worthy of US support under the Reagan Doctrine.
The U.S. shifted its interest from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops. American funding of Afghan resistance leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezbi Islami party was cut off immediately. The U.S. also reduced its assistance for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
In October 1990, U.S. President George H. W. Bush refused to certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device, triggering the imposition of sanctions against Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment (1985) in the Foreign Assistance Act. This disrupted the second assistance package offered in 1987 and discontinued economic assistance and military sales to Pakistan with the exception of the economic assistance already on its way to Pakistan. Military sales and training programs were abandoned as well and some of the Pakistani military officers under training in the U.S. were asked to return home.
As late as 1991 Charlie Wilson persuaded the House Intelligence Committee to give the Mujahideen $200 million for fiscal year 1992, and the Saudi agreement to match dollar for dollar brought the budget to $400 million.
The U.S. government has been criticized for allowing Pakistan to channel a disproportionate amount of its funding to controversial Afghan resistance leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who Pakistani officials believed was "their man". Hekmatyar has been criticized for killing other mujahideen and attacking civilian populations, including shelling Kabul with American-supplied weapons, causing 2,000 casualties. Hekmatyar was said to be friendly with Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, who was running an operation for assisting "Afghan Arab" volunteers fighting in Afghanistan, called Maktab al-Khadamat. Alarmed by his behavior, Pakistan leader General Zia warned Hekmatyar, "It was Pakistan that made him an Afghan leader and it is Pakistan who can equally destroy him if he continues to misbehave."
Conspiracy theorists have alleged that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were beneficiaries of CIA assistance. This is refuted by experts such as Steve Coll—who notes that declassified CIA records and interviews with CIA officers do not support such claims—and Peter Bergen, who concludes: "The theory that bin Laden was created by the CIA is invariably advanced as an axiom with no supporting evidence." U.S. funding went to the Afghan mujahideen, not the Arab volunteers who arrived to assist them.
- Ahmad Shah Massoud
- Allegations of CIA assistance to Osama bin Laden
- Afghan Civil War
- Afghan training camp
- Badaber Uprising
- Charlie Wilson's War
- Gary Schroen
- Howard Hart
- Jalaluddin Haqqani
- Joanne Herring
- Milton Bearden
- Soviet war in Afghanistan
- Bergen, Peter, Holy War Inc., Free Press, (2001), p.68
- Barlett, Donald L.; Steele, James B. (13 May 2003). "The Oily Americans". Time (magazine). Retrieved 2008-07-08.
- Crile, p 519 & elsewhere
- Kaplan, Robert D. (2008). Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Knopf Doubleday. pp. 115–117. ISBN 9780307546982.
- Kepel, Gilles (2006). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. I.B. Tauris. pp. 138–139, 142–144. ISBN 9781845112578.
- Blight, James G. (2012). Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979-1988. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-1-4422-0830-8.
- Riedel, Bruce (2014). What We Won: America's Secret War in Afghanistan, 1979–1989. Brookings Institution Press. pp. ix–xi, 21–22, 93, 98–99, 105. ISBN 978-0815725954.
- Gates, Bob (2007). From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. Simon and Schuster. pp. 145–147. ISBN 9781416543367. When asked whether he expected that the revelations in his memoir (combined with an apocryphal quote attributed to Brzezinski) would inspire "a mind-bending number of conspiracy theories which adamantly—and wrongly—accuse the Carter Administration of luring the Soviets into Afghanistan," Gates replied: "No, because there was no basis in fact for an allegation the administration tried to draw the Soviets into Afghanistan militarily." See Gates, email communication with John Bernell White, Jr., October 15, 2011, as cited in White, John Bernell (May 2012). "The Strategic Mind Of Zbigniew Brzezinski: How A Native Pole Used Afghanistan To Protect His Homeland" (PDF). pp. 45–46, 82. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
- Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin. pp. 87, 581. ISBN 9781594200076.
Contemporary memos—particularly those written in the first days after the Soviet invasion—make clear that while Brzezinski was determined to confront the Soviets in Afghanistan through covert action, he was also very worried the Soviets would prevail. ... Given this evidence and the enormous political and security costs that the invasion imposed on the Carter administration, any claim that Brzezinski lured the Soviets into Afghanistan warrants deep skepticism.
- Toohey, Kristine (November 8, 2007). The Olympic Games: A Social Science Perspective. CABI. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-84593-355-5.
- Crile, George (2003). Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. Atlantic Monthly Press, page 246, 285 and 302
- "Sorry Charlie this is Michael Vickers's War", Washington Post, 27 December 2007
- Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Paperback) by Peter Schweizer, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994 page 213
- Heymann, Philip (2008). Living the Policy Process. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-533539-2.
- Pakistan's Foreign Policy: an Overview 1974-2004. PILDAT briefing paper for Pakistani parliamentarians by Hasan-Askari Rizvi, 2004. pp19-20.
- Interview with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski-(13/6/97). Part 2. Episode 17. Good Guys, Bad Guys. 13 June 1997.
- Bergen, Peter. Holy War, Inc. New York: Free Press, 2001. Pg. 66
- The New Republic, "TRB FROM WASHINGTON, Back to Front" by Peter Beinart, 8 October 2001.
- "http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1057196.html". External link in
- "United Nations Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan - Background". United Nations. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
- "Cold War (1945-1991): External Course". The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History. Oxford University Press. 8 January 2013. p. 219. ISBN 0199759251.
- Crile, see index
- Edward Girardet, Killing the Cranes, 2010, Chelsea Green
- "Winning the Endgame in Afghanistan," by James A. Phillips, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #181, 18 May 1992.
- "Charlie Wilson's War Was Really America's War," by Michael Johns, 19 January 2008.
- "Think tank fosters bloodshed, terrorism," The Daily Cougar, 25 August 2008.
- Kepel, Jihad, (2002)
- Crile, pg 519
- Bergen, Peter, Holy War Inc., Free Press, (2001), p.67
- Graham Fuller in interview with Peter Bergen, Bergen, Peter, Holy War Inc., Free Press, (2001), p.68
- Henry S. Bradsher, Afghan Communism and Soviet Interventions, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.185
- "The Road to September 11". Evan Thomas. Newsweek. 1 October 2001.
- Bergen, Peter (2006). The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader. Simon and Schuster. pp. 60–61. ISBN 9780743295925.