It was called Operation Cyclone, and the media called it the most extensive intelligence operation in CIA history. Only eight years after Operation Cyclone, the Soviet withdrawal began. The Taliban occupied Kabul and established an Islamic fundamentalist government in Afghanistan, criticized worldwide for human rights abuses.
Local guerrilla groups of Afghanistan, also known as the Taliban, have been waging war against the Soviet Union for years with the help of the United States of America. The United States helped these guerrilla fighters with American weapons and money to spoil the plans of the Soviet Union. When these Taliban were fighting against the Soviet Union, they were called freedom fighters in the United States.
According to the secret documents, the investigative reports of the journalists, and the interviews with the special people, the United States intentionally set up the Soviet Union in a dilemma in which it experienced losses of life and property similar to those that it suffered many years before.
The Americans may have been involved in this victory, which raises whether it was their effort.
Historical Background of Operation Cyclone?
In 1978, as a result of the so-called solar revolution, a communist government was formed. After the new communist government was formed, Islamic militia groups started opposing them. They called themselves Mujahideen and thought it was jihad according to Islamic tradition.
The Soviet Union was interested that Afghanistan should remain under the communist government, but President Babrak Karmal was continuously facing Mujahideen’s rebellion which was increasing day by day. To support the communist government in Afghanistan, the following year 1979, and more than 30000 soviet troops started moving toward Kabul with the help of tanks and fighter jets.
At Stanford University, Prof Robert Cruz is an expert on Afghan history. According to him, although the USA was competing with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in building the infrastructure development project since 1950. The USA was shocked when they saw increasing success in Mujahideen’s rebellion.
At that time, the United States president was Jimmy Carter. Considering these circumstances, he was suggested by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was his national security council, and other advisers to launch an undercover intelligence operation in Afghanistan, which would provide arms support to the insurgency. Another chapter of the Cold War conflict began at the same time. As a result, the Soviet Union and the United States competed to establish dominance over the world but never met on the battlefield. But they helped each other’s opponents on the battlefields in Third World countries. In English, it is called ‘proxy war.’
The BBC’s jihadist militia expert Murad Sheshani believes the United States was a crucial player in the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.
Operation Cyclone: how was it carried out?
Operation Cyclone insurgents were initially provided with only old Soviet-era weapons. The weapons that were used included the N-47 rifle and were funded through various Arab countries. Robert Cruz says the United States did this in order to deny its involvement in the war. Although Saudi Arabia played a significant role in this, other leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat also supported the Mujahideen.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies need to be involved in the project. There were most of the jihadi groups based. Hub R. Reese, a member of the US Congress, revealed in 1988 that he had supplied 700 mules from Tennessee to a military base in Kentucky to be sent to Pakistan.
With President Reagan in the White House, the US presence in Afghanistan became straightforward and commonplace. The United States was home to a growing lobby that advocated for increased support of the Mujahideen. The lobby said that providing arms alone was not enough to stop the Soviet Union.
The US Congress passed a resolution on Afghanistan in 1984. According to the resolution, “the goal of independence cannot be achieved by simply providing assistance to the freedom fighters in Afghanistan to fight and die.”
Reagan hosted a delegation of Mujahideen leaders in the Oval Office. He addressed Afghan fighters in his 1986 State of the Union address by saying, “Freedom fighters, you are not alone. The United States will support you.” In addition to his statement, President Reagan did something much more important. As a result, Stinger missiles are being supplied to Afghan guerillas. It was a decision that was going to be important in the times to come.
Output of Operation Cyclone
As a result of its assistance, the Mujahideen living in the mountains of Afghanistan began shooting down Soviet helicopters and the proportions on the ground started to change rapidly. Democratic Senator Charles Wilson has been a strong supporter of US activities in Afghanistan. He said Congress members were shocked by the success of the Stinger missile.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader nine years after sending troops to Afghanistan, ordered the withdrawal of the forces in September 1988 (while American withdrawal from Afghanistan took 20 years). The Soviet Union found itself mired in a civil war between the Afghan government and various factions because, without its help, the Afghan government could not have survived.
What was the impact of US aid on the Taliban?
“There is a conspiracy theory that the United States supported the Taliban’s campaign to take advantage of the situation, but this is not true,” says Murad Sheshani. Taliban had never been heard of in Kandahar, an Afghan city in the southern part of the country, until 1994. These were people who were trained in madrassas. They were young Pashtuns who called themselves student fighters and gradually became popular in Kandahar.
“The Soviet Union had collapsed by the time the Taliban rose, but it is true that some of the leaders involved in the formation of the Taliban were among the warlords who received help from the United States in the war with Soviet Russia,” says Murad Sheshani.
Defeating the Soviet Union was America’s most significant goal, and at the time, being referred to as a “jihadist” was not considered harmful or flawed. The notorious relationship with the term began later with the bloodshed of groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Murad Sheshani insisted that “many other nations have provided weapons to Afghanistan just as the United States did.” The Taliban, however, was perceived as a new and clean force when they arrived in Kandahar, says Robert Cruz.
Robert believes that the real Taliban leaders were not among the recipients of American aid and that the Taliban’s success lay in the promise of a system based on traditional Islamic teachings. “The victory over the Soviet Union and US aid made their jihad a matter of pride and the Taliban benefited from that environment,” said Cruz.
What did the United States get?
With the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the script for its dissolution and the end of the Cold War was ready. In the 1990s, the United States realized that there was no one left to challenge it globally, but this idea remained until the challenge of China arose.
Robert Cruz says, “It is better for the United States to remain silent on human rights violations by the Mujahideen groups it supported during the civil war in Afghanistan.”
Robert Cruz compared the situation in Afghanistan to countries with communist governments and armed insurgent movements. He says the American elite only tests people from other countries on the scale of their success.
Those who supported Operation Cyclone never regretted it. President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said in an interview with a French magazine: “What is the most crucial thing in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Union?