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Rosie Bsheer


The dominant historical narrative surrounding US policy and actions during the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989) maintains that the US government launched its extensive covert operation in support of the Mujahedin (Arabic for those who wage jihad, or holy war) against the Soviet army in response to the Soviet Union’s December 25, 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

Supposedly, according to such historical accounts, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan blindsided US officials and, in response, the US government began supporting the Mujahedin in order to defend Afghanistan’s sovereignty and religious freedom, and forestall Soviet expansion into the Middle East and South Asia. In reality, however, US aid to the Mujahedin began in July 1979

(six months before the Soviet invasion) and, as former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted in a 1998 interview, this aid increased the probability that the Soviet Union would invade Afghanistan. Using declassified US government documents and memorandums from the 1970s and 1980s, this essay substantiates, corroborates, and develops the admissions made in Brzezinski’s 1998 interview, arguing that Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan was not a catastrophe for US foreign interests, but rather a US provocation that bolstered US Cold War foreign policy objectives. Ultimately, the Soviet-Afghan War launched a cascade of devastating long-term and large-scale consequences, including the solidification of the concept of global violent jihad, the formation of al-Qaeda, and the rise of the Taliban regime. Given these consequences, it is imperative that we take a critical approach to the historical treatment of US foreign policy leading up to and during the Soviet-Afghan War.