My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
--Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley
Pride goeth before destruction,
and an haughty spirit before a fall
-- Proverbs 16:18
I remember reading that scientists once believed
the universe was made of hydrogen,
because it was the most plentiful ingredient found.
If that theory holds any truth,
then I believe it to be made of stupidity
Ranger is only now getting around to Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004) is a tour de force of Afghanistan, one war removed.
For anyone still four-square behind this little dust up, Mr. Coll will disabuse you from any patriotic notions of victory in that nation of shifting alliances and canny self-sufficiency. It is not an easy read, but once done the idea of a nation-state in our image is forever gone, and the ability of the Afghans to look out for the Afghans in the face of any intervention is firmly established.
Take one Mr. President Hamid Karzai and family, he of the sweeping silk cape, yak cap and Western business suit, rolled out the American people as an exotic but friendly ally:
- The Karzai family backed the Taliban in 1994
- Two Karzai brother operate Afghani restaurants in the U.S.
- In 1994, Hamid Karzai is reported to be working with Pakistani intelligenc
- Karzai contributed $50,000 of his personal funds to the Taliban
- Trucking overlords rather than Pakistan financed the first Taliban military success
- Pakistan ISI was implicated with the extremist elements of Afghanistan throughout the Russo-Afghanistan war
- Kandahar was not only a Taliban center of power but also an Arab-financed boom-town
The comments on Karzai show an opportunistic man constantly shifting alliances like the desert sand to consolidate power; as in 1994, so in 2011. His true loyalty and beliefs are safe under his yak cap, but they probably do not parallel U.S. interests. Not only are Mr. Karzai's actions wily as well as those of his Afghani brothers, but Pakistan's ISI plays U.S. operatives like a fiddle.
U.S. clandestine operations in the Russo-Afghan war were completely orchestrated through the Pakistani ISI. At no time did U.S. agents directly coordinate or recruit agents at a meaningful level. In effect, the allies of the ISI were funded and equipped by U.S. taxpayers. The ISI and Afghan resistance co-opted the entire war by transforming the effort into a religious endeavor, relegating the nationalists (as such) and monarchists to untenable positions.
U.S. policy became entwined with ISI policy, and U.S. agencies never questioned the empowerment of the Islamic fundamentalists. In fact, the anti-aircraft shoulder-fired weapon buy-back following the withdrawal of the USSR is accepted as the financial basis of the early Taliban successes in the post-war era (post-war may be a redundancy as more of Afghanistan's history has been in that state than not.)
The Central Intelligence agency bought back weapons which we had freely delivered to the Afghan resistance through the ISI. The Afghanis then funded themselves by selling them back, the Arab goniff reminiscent of the cartoon characters who would drop a coin into the vending machine, tied to a string, getting both the goody and the coin.
Large weapons caches and tunnel systems were also funded by the U.S. and built by Arabs like UBL throughout this era. These caves were later (and still) used by the groups opposing the current government and subsequent U.S. occupation -- in counterinsurgency terms, the perfect self-licking ice-cream cone.
As an old saying goes, an Arab can steal the yolk from egg without cracking it. We are just accepting that there are different kinds of intelligence. The U.S. may have the baddest technology on the block, but they sure seem to play their cards more ably than any we try to place on the table.