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The American Who Sponsored the "Jihad" - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The passing of former US Congressman Charlie Wilson, otherwise known as the American Father of the Mujahedeen, has breathed new life into a memory that has long been absent from the truth surrounding American’s first intervention in Afghanistan in the eighties and the history of the American people’s money being used to provide the Mujahedeen there with money and arms to fight the Soviet army.

This man lived and died, and he saw with his own eyes how his country entered Afghanistan because, according to his most famous quote “it’s the only place in the world where we are killing Russians.” Charlie Wilson also witnessed how his country once again returned to an Afghanistan that was being ruled by the children of yesterday’s Mujahedeen who had been financed and provided with arms [by the US]. And for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Afghanistan became the only place in the world where they could kill Americans.

Wilson’s death comes at a sensitive time for the US and anyone who is concerned with Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism, because this comes as a reminder of something that the western media does not wish to recall. Although a film was produced about the life of Charlie Wilson, this is a reminder that the Arab media is also not interested in, and “yesterday’s Mujahedeen” have similarly deliberately disregarded him in order to erase their previous relationship with the US. The US media has also handled his death with caution, with some media describing him as the man who funded the Afghan rebellion, which is something that today would be described as terrorism, and this is a clear attempt to selectively portray historical events which we are paying the price for today.

As mentioned above, the death of the former US Congressman revealed the background of the initial moments of US – and Arab – entanglement in Afghanistan, and this was something that was later blamed on the Saudi Arabians and other Arabs, with Americans disproportionately placing the blame on Saudi Arabia.

Just as the death of this man has come to remind generations who do not recall the period of the 1980s of the war in Afghanistan which broke out following the Soviet occupation of the country in 1979, and the US intervention which was led by Charlie Wilson who provided weapons amounting to close to 5 billion dollars [to the Mujahedeen]. It also reminds us of the decisions taken by Washington which the American Father of the Mujahedeen warned against. Wilson warned of the consequences of abandoning Afghanistan following the defeat of the Soviet army, and he [also] warned against the consequences of neglecting to rebuild Afghanistan. However for two decades nobody in Washington listened to him, and now the US is once again present in Afghanistan, pursuing some of those that it previously supported, and confronting their [the mujahedeen’s] children or grandchildren.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the image of the former Congressman riding his horse side by side with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in 1987 is worth far more than this, and is in fact worth more than a thousand books written about the history of Afghanistan prior to and following the events of 11 September 2001, and this is because this [image] corrects the impression surrounding the starting point of US involvement in Afghanistan. Even if this US intervention was justified according to the standards of the time, there is an important lesson [that must be learned] for a mistake that occurred and this was the US neglect of Kabul after the Americans had achieved what they wanted in their struggle with the Russians. This is an important lesson today because after all of these years Washington is once again present in Afghanistan, whilst the US today intents to leave Iraq.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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