Did the US promote the creation of the Taliban as some kind of Frankenstein’s monster when President Carter decided through the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to arm the Afghan Mujaheddin movement that fought the Soviet occupation in the 1980ies?
It’s a fair question to ask, though the media may have accepted it as some kind of established non-disputable truth.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the man responsible for this policy in his capacity as National Security Adviser to President Carter (1977-1981) is of another opinion. He denounces the question as ”crazy”. In an interview with the American Interest’s editor Adam Garfinkle Brzezinski insists that he doesn’t regret anything and that he would do exactly the same if he were confronted with the the same challenge once again.
Here are his comments on the historical context of the Cold War and the rise of the Taliban:
“In 1979 and 1980, when the decision was made, we were dealing with a powerful Soviet Union that was on a roll. The Soviet Union maintained terrorist training camps all over their country. If the Soviet Union had prevailed then, I can only imagine what the world would have been like subsequently. I am not at all regretful that the Soviet Union collapsed, and one of the reasons it collapsed was because of what we did in Afghanistan. I would not hesitate to do it again.”
“70 percent of the people in Afghanistan want our troops to stay despite the growing difficulties. That should focus our attention on an important point: namely, that we wouldn’t have that support today in Afghanistan if we hadn’t done what we did beginning in the Carter Administration. The support of the majority of the Afghan people greatly minimizes the threat from Islamist extremists confronting us today. Moreover, the al-Qaeda phenomenon has been much more a Middle Eastern phenomenon than an Afghan one. There are hardly any Afghans among the terrorists responsible for 9/11 and other attacks in Europe and elsewhere.”
“…the Taliban came into the region after ten years of sustained Soviet pulverization of Afghan society, and after at least half a decade of American indifference to Afghanistan after the Soviets left. That’s the backdrop against which to view the Taliban’s rise.”
“The arrival of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan took place, as you say, in the second half of the 1990s, 16 years after we initially decided to prevent the Soviets from prevailing in Afghanistan. So it is a totally ahistorical argument which seems to be premised on the notion, maybe implicitly, that it would be better if the Soviet Union still existed. That way we would not be waging “World War IV”, as some of the crazies among the neocons call it, against Islamofascism.”
Brzezinski is making a caricature of the neocons. As far as I understand they are just saying one should be careful not to ally oneself with the enemy of my enemy, especially if this kind of allies are non-democratic regimes.