During the Cold War, the United States cultivated and promoted Islamic extremism to counter leftist and communist forces in the region that threatened its business interests.
After Afghanistan overthrew its king and established a republic in 1973, the United States, threatened by the presence of communists in the Afghan Parliament, began funding, equipping and training Islamic extremists. The money and arms flow increased dramatically following the 1978 Afghan coup and the revolutionary government’s friendship treaty with the Soviet Union. The United States now sought to foment an Islamic uprising in Afghanistan to provoke the Soviet Union into intervening to drain them of their resources. The objective was to “give the Soviets their Vietnam War,” as Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter, put it. Jihadists, recruited and trained by the United States, began pouring into Afghanistan from all over the world. They coalesced around the mujahideen (meaning holy warriors) and wreaked havoc across the country, murdering teachers, doctors, caretakers and targeting every sign of government benevolence.
As the country descended into chaos, the Kabul government implored the Soviet Union to send military assistance. But the Soviets were wise to the United States and were thus very reluctant to accede to Kabul’s requests. But as the mujahideen gained strength, the potential of the Islamic uprising spilling over into the predominately Muslim Central Asian Soviet republics and destabilizing the Soviet Union became too great to ignore. So when the Soviets finally relented and began rolling into Afghanistan to shore up the embattled Kabul government, they proved right when their actions were portrayed by the West as an invasion by an evil empire intent on ruling the world. Though such a portrayal was largely more of a projection than reality.
Not only was the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan a strategic imperative but a moral one. The 1978 revolutionary Afghanistan government made tremendous strides towards modernity and equality in the country. It implemented a sweeping land reform program, cancelled peasant debts, abolished usury, set price controls, legalized trade unions and enacted the separation of religion and state. It also built hundreds of schools and health clinics, initiated a widespread literacy campaign and committed itself to the complete liberation of women. If the government had prevailed, Afghanistan would be a democratic, secular, and progressive country rather than the backwards reactionary nightmare it is today.