Warm Southern Breeze

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Understanding ISIS Origins: Islamic Extremism & American Middle Eastern Foreign Policy

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gustav "Gust" Lascaris Avrakotos (January 14, 1938 – December 1, 2005) CIA Field Case Officer

Gustav “Gust” Lascaris Avrakotos (January 14, 1938 – December 1, 2005) CIA Case Officer, and Afghan Task Force Chief

After the Paris terrorist attacks of Friday, 13 November 2015, news media is awash in reports of seemingly innumerable variety. There is so much information, it’s almost like sifting sand or searching for a needle in a haystack to understand anything about the whys and wherefores of an evil international effort that has morphed into ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

Charlie Wilson and a group of Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. February 25, 1987. Contact sheet 1 photograph 16.

Charlie Wilson (center) and a group of Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. February 25, 1987. Contact sheet 1 photograph 16.

Unquestionably, what happened is evil, and inexcusable. And just like any other crime, prosecutors search for motivations.

“But why would they!?,” you may ask.

In a nutshell, it’s PsyOps (Psychological Operations) work to understand the basis for motivation, because to prevent further occurrences, one’s mind must be changed.

But without further ado, here’s an easy way to understand what has happened, which will form the foundation, and guide understanding on what is happening.

What would it be like if Christians fought each other like the Hatfields & McCoys?

That’s what’s happening in Islam today.

Sadly, Saudi Arabia long ago gave refuge to radical clerics expelled from other Islamic nations for their violent ideologies.

L-R, US Rep. Charlie Wilson, TX-D, Houston socialite/political activist Joanne Herring, US Sen. John Tower, TX-R, all collaborated toward driving invading Russian forces from Afghanistan. The story is told in the book, "Charlie Wilson's War," which later became a movie.

L-R, US Rep. Charlie Wilson, TX-D, Houston socialite/political activist Joanne Herring, US Sen. John Tower, TX-R, all collaborated toward driving invading Russian forces from Afghanistan. The story is told in the book, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which later became a movie.

Moreover, here’s the heart of the matter:
“The 1970s oil boom changed Saudi society. Two distinct social groups emerged. The first, composed of young, often Western-educated technocrats sought to develop Saudi infrastructure and adapt Saudi administrative, educational, and financial systems to Western standards. The second were ulema, who graduated from newly-established religious schools and universities. They, too, enjoyed the economic boom but feared that rapid modernization could endanger Saudi Arabia’s Muslim identity. These young clerics did not oppose modernization per se like their predecessors but demanded that new technologies be harnessed to promote Islam. They did not oppose television broadcasts, for example, but demanded that any programming be Islamic in nature and free of Western influence. Their approach to modernization was, in fact, more Salafi in nature than Wahhabi. While these two strains of Islamism are often conflated, there are subtle differences. Salafism refers to a school of thought developed in Egypt in the late nineteenth century that called for a return to the origins of Islam yet aimed to harmonize Islam with the scientific and technological aspects of modernity. Wahhabism is a Saudi puritan school which, in its idealization of the time of Muhammad, also rejects scientific and technical aspects of modernity.” (excerpt from A House Built On Sand: A Political Economy of Saudi Arabia, by Helen Lackner)

Representative Charlie Wilson in 1988, holding a British-made Enfield rifle in his Capitol Hill office. Credit Marcy Nighswander/Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, TX-6(D) in 1988, holding a British-made Enfield rifle in his Capitol Hill office. Credit Marcy Nighswander/Associated Press

Key Players:
Charlie Wilson – United States Congressman, D, TX-6, 1st civilian to receive CIA’s Honored Colleague Award
Gust Avrakotos – CIA Afghan Task Force Chief
George H.W. Bush – United States Vice President, then President, formerly Director of Central Intelligence Agency
Ronald Reagan – United States President
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai – de-facto Afghani President 1987-1992, former head of KHAD, brutal Afghan equivalent of Russian KGB, supported by Soviet Union
Ahmad Shah Massoud – Afghan resistance fighter during Russian invasion, political/religious moderate, Sunni sect Muslim, ethnic Tajik
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – Afghani Prime Minister, founder Hezb-e Islami political party, international terrorist
Osama bin Laden – son of billionaire Saudi Arabian family, al-Qaeda founder, Wahabbi sect of Muslim, joined Afghan mujahideen resistance fighting Communist Russian invaders

Russia’s 1980 Afghan invasion solidified Islamic resistance to the West. Interestingly, it was a seminal turning point for United States’ Middle Eastern policy, when a Democratic United States Representative from Texas’ 2d Congressional District managed a “black” budget for what was then the largest covert CIA operation in history, which saw enemies cooperate for Communism’s veritable “last hurrah” and drove out the “infidel” atheist Communist invaders.

George H.W. Bush (b.June 12, 1924), United States President 1989-1993, was previously Vice President under Ronald Reagan, and CIA Director January 30, 1976 – January 20, 1977

George H.W. Bush (b.June 12, 1924), United States President 1989-1993, Vice President to Ronald Reagan (January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989), and CIA Director January 30, 1976 – January 20, 1977

Because nature abhors a vacuum, after armed conflict had ended with Russian Communists exited in defeat, American opportunity was significantly lost when the Appropriations Committee approved $1M to rebuild some schools for Afghani children, which Reagan vetoed. It was then that the madrassas were populated by radicalized Islamists.

Terms To Understand:
Mujahideen – plural of mujahid, refers to one whom is engaged in Jihad, most often used in reference to Soviet-Afghan war.
Jihad – from Arabic meaning “to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere,” as applied to Islam, refers to religious duty of Muslims to maintain their religion
Jihadi – a person who practices Jihad
Islam – monotheistic religion based upon the Koran/Quran, believed by adherents to be the verbatim word of God/Allah,
Islamist – one who practices Islam, see also Muslim/Moslem
Muslim – also spelled Moslem, a person who follows and practices Islam, a monotheistic religion founded by Mohammad, which uses the Koran (also spelled Quran) as a principle religious text
Muhammad – (c. 570–632) CE, Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh (also spelled Mohammad, Mohammed, etc.), the founder of Islam, and prophet, believed by Muslims to be the last prophet sent by Allah, whose mission was to restore Islam
Allah – Arabic, meaning God
Qur’an – also Koran/Qu’ran, Arabic meaning “the recitation,” a book of religious text believed to be the verbatim word of God/Allah as given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel, and interpreted by adherents known as Moslems/Muslims

Ahmad Shah Massoud,

Ahmad Shah Massoud, center holding rifle, (September 2, 1953 – September 9, 2001)

Bush I (George H.W. Bush, aka “Papa Bush”) wanted the CIA to oust the remnant Communist-installed Afghan government of President Najibullah and install a leader from among the Mujahideen. Kabul, however, came under the control of a relatively moderate rebel force led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Mujahideen Islamist though not a fanatic, who was also a member of the Tajik minority.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Pakistani Prime Minister

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (b.26 June 1947), former Prime Minister of Afghanistan (26 June 1996–27 September 1996), then Prime Minister of the Northern Alliance (27 September 1996–11 August 1997). Most recently (July 2015) instructed supporters to assist ISIS, writing “If the Taliban of the Emirate fight with those who have quit the Taliban and declared allegiance to the Islamic State, help these militants, because the Taliban are sworn enemies of Hizb-e-Islami.” He also asked them to stand with the Taliban if they are involved in fighting the Communists and remnants of Shoora-e-Nazar, a group once led by Ahmad Shah Masood, who was killed by al-Qaeda September 2001.

Though he received almost no American funds channeled through the ISI (Pakistani Intelligence Agency), Massoud fended off advances from numerous more radical Islamist warlords like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who, according to one source, received, 40% of U.S. covert assistance.

As war and chaos dragged on, many of the well-educated Afghan moderates who would have been crucial to bringing stability to the nation were killed.

And in September, 1996, well-disciplined Islamic fundamentalists called the Taliban – which recruited from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and trained in Islamic madrassas – offered the Pakistani government a route to its ultimate goal in Afghanistan, an Islamic fundamentalist government closely allied with Pakistan. In turn, they drove Massoud out of Kabul, and Northward, as ousted Communist leader Najibullah, who remained in Kabul, sought shelter in the United Nations compound, but was captured by the Taliban, who then tortured, castrated and killed him, and hung his mutilated body from a light pole… just as CIA hardliners had wanted more than half a decade earlier.

Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai February 1947 – 28 September 1996

Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai, February 1947 – 28 September 1996

The Taliban then imposed harsh Islamic law in Afghanistan, and essentially sought to transform the country into a Medieval version of a Pashtun village.

Taliban rule was especially devastating to women who had made gains toward equal rights under the Communists, but were forced by the Taliban to live under highly restrictive rules, to cover themselves when in public, and to forgo schooling.

Al-queda founder Osama bin Laden in his Tora Bora compound, image from United States Department of Justice, Southern District of New York

Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden (March 10, 1957-May 2, 2011) in his Tora Bora compound, image from United States Department of Justice, Southern District of New York

In the late 1990s, the Taliban also granted Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization protection when they were on the run from the United States and its allies who were angered over bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa and other terrorist attacks.

Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda extremists were welcomed back to Afghanistan because they had fought in the war to drive the Soviet army out of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

A final note, aside from Texas, the effort had a definite Southern tie-in with Tennessee, which supplied mules for the mountainous operations.

For more information, read: “A House Built on Sand: A Political Economy of Saudi Arabia” (London: Ithaca Press, 1978), by Helen Lackner

Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History” (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003), by George Crile III

(also sold as “Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times,” by George Crile)

Islamic Religious Schools, Madrasas: Background, CRS Report for Congress by Christopher M. Blanchard, Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division (Order Code RS21654, Updated January 23, 2008) – https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS21654.pdf

 

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