Ghost War: CIA Secret War Essay

Ghost War: CIA Secret WarGhost Wars is an account of chaos and war in  Afghan frontier against the Russians.

The author mentions the role of proxies in Afghan war; where mujahedin, warlords, Pakistani Intelligence and Massoud; all were supported and guided by US administration to beat the Russians. However the main point of the author is the creation of a favorable environment which created Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. The author tries to form the relation between war on terror, 9/11; and how US policy makers created the scenario for 9/11 to take place.The book is divided into three main sections. The first section discusses the Afghan War(with Russia) between 1979 and 1989. The second part explores the aftermath of Soviet War; especially the power struggle among Afghans. The last section of the book reviews situation after the rise of Taliban in 1998 to Sep 10. Coll explains the deals made between CIA and ISI (Pakistani Intelligence), Saudi Arabia Intelligence and different warlords on the scene during Carter and Regan administration.

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He points out that US wanted to remain invisible in the whole scenario; as it feared that open support can escalate the animosity among two superpowers; the repercussions of which would have been catastrophic. Being an invisible puppet master in war; it was Pakistan who stood in the forefront to handle the situation. Such deals reached through money, arms and negotiations; which the author mentions as politics of corruption.

However all wars have some hidden secrets; Afghan War was no exception. By 1989; Russia (the than Soviet Union) realized that Afghanistan war was not worth fighting due to the enormous losses; this decision was basically made possible by the united efforts of US and its proxies to inflict heavy casualties upon their common enemies.However the Kabul government was still led by the USSR based communists; which again allowed the war to continue against the Kabul communist government. Again CIA supplied guns and money to mujahedin as long as Soviet Union provided assistance to its allies. Ironically little effort was paid on rebuilding of the war torn country; the responsibility of which lied on US administration.

The author describes the details; how CIA and ISI removed communist government in Kabul by their common support. During this times; fundamentalist were headed by Hikmatyar and funded by Bin laden, and countless volunteers were turned to suicide bombers. Being  most determined fighters, the campaign took momentum and Osama opened his training camp for Arab volunteers outside Kabul.

It was here that roots of first Islamic fundamentalism were sown by CIA and ISI together in complete unawareness. The battle for power continued; Massoud and Hikmatyar both fought; but Hikmatyar was given more support, as he was believed to be more capable of winning the war.When Cold War ended, US secret service was still supplying money to the region, yet distancing itself form Afghanistan.

Coll mentions that, “Afghanistan was indeed about to purify itself . . .

it was about to disgorge a radical Islamic militia as pure and unbending in its belief system as any in the Muslim world” (Pg. 265). This neglect led to the rise of global network of terrorists (in 1990s) and Afghanistan became a safe heaven for extremists and fundamentalism.He mentions a secret report which pointed out Osama Bin Laden attack on US; especially targeting security system (domestic flights), but warnings were not taken seriously. By 1995; CIA created a permanent counter terrorism unit; while Osama offered unflinching support to Taliban cause.

Thanks to CIA support, Taliban had more than enough weapons to win the war, and even some of this weapon was available in international market for sale. By 1998 Bin Laden was able to foil many CIA attempts to capture him; which soon turned into open animosity; which he launched under the campaign by the name of “International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” signed by many fundamentalist leaders from Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh. The CIA now considered Bin Laden a serious threat; a plan was prepared but CIA director George Tenet opposed it; the result of which was disastrous.

One such act of terrorism took place in August 1998 in Africa; “When the truck detonated, it sheared off the US embassy’s rear façade’, where the US embassy bombing (Pg,403,405) in Tanzania and Kenya showed enough evidence that Bin Laden had planned and funded the attack; but nothing serious was done. Tenet wanted to divert full resources; but the problem was money; hence the dream of fighting against Osama remained an unfulfilled agenda. The attack on USS Cole in Yemen was another attack by Al Qaeda, which according to the analyst was more skilled and damaging.There was a widespread agreement that Al-Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan should be attacked or massive support be given to Massoud to drive out Taliban, none was accepted.

Instead US relied on support from Pakistan to counter the anti-terrorist activities. President Clinton lunched some missiles but it didn’t bring any change in Osama agenda.  Despite being so visible threat, Terrorism has been clearly ignored in 2000 election; and not a single  politician  mentioned anything about terrorism  including President Bush.

In spring 2001, CIA received warning that certain hijackers have entered US determined to cause widespread havoc. CIA prepared a briefing paper for bush administration in July 2001, which it was mentioned that the attack was imminent and would “occur with little or no warning (pg.568). In August 2001, the president briefing contained “Bin Laden Determined to Strike” through hijacking, but nothing was done.The US intelligence community was disappointed at the lack of attention not given to this matter of urgency. Massoud appealed to many nations not to leave Afghanistan alone; as the war of Taliban would become war of the world; but all warnings went unheeded. On Sep 10, 2001, after Massoud death, a meeting was held to step up efforts against Al-Qaeda.

It was agreed that the US administration would step efforts to track the Al-Qaeda through diplomacy with Talibans forcing them to expel Osama and his supporters. Ironically such meetings were done for  years under Clinton administration with no result.The net conclusion of the book is that 9/11 was not as sudden as often mentioned. And by reading the book it becomes clear that all the players involved in the current war are well known to each other. Bin laden was clear and determined years ago to pursue his policy of destruction against US with clear warning and action which were constantly ignored or treated with indifference. No one neither Clinton nor Bush (Sr and Jr) Administration can clear itself from the mistakes they committed.

This book is an effort to understand the covert US foreign policy which in the beginning fascinates but frustrates its readers, when it sees the inability to act when it should have acted. The book is successful in portraying the mistakes committed in US foreign policy which led to the rise of extremism and fundamentalism. And partly the reason for such mistakes seems to be short sightedness among the policy makers who left Afghanistan without any solution in post soviet era.Reference:Steve Coll , (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA.

Penguin Press.


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