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America's DNA profile has been all over Afghanistan since 1973

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In the two years since the publication of our book Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story we have had the chance to address dozens of forums and radio audiences around the United States about Afghanistan. It has been an illuminating exercise, not so much in terms of what Americans understand about the Afghanistan/Pakistan region (which unfortunately isn't very much) but by the way it reveals how Americans are struggling to catch up with a world that seems to have left them behind. A morning-drive-time radio talk show host in Chicago wanted to know whether a nuclear bomb dropped on the Hindu Kush wouldn't solve the problem. When we replied that using a nuclear weapon to kill a few thousand suspected terrorists would kill millions of innocent people, he responded abruptly before cutting us off: The Japanese got the message when we dropped it on them.

Most people are confused about the America they find themselves in, in the 21st century. They wonder where "their" America went. According to the popular mythology, the U.S. started the decade as the world's lone hyper-power, beholden to none. It ends the first decade of the new millennium as a debt-hobbled-capitalist shell, beholden to a rising communist China and a host of oil-rich medieval Middle-East Sheikdoms. Americans are frustrated and resentful, denying any responsibility for the ongoing Afghan fiasco while expressing anger and often disbelief that our leadership has refused to learn the lessons of Vietnam and taken us on yet another mindless ride into a hopeless quagmire.

When we are asked why the U.S. is still in Afghanistan after a decade, we explain that America's DNA profile has been all over that country since 1973. While no one was looking, the CIA's secret mission became entangled with Pakistan's support for Afghanistan's small core of foreign-trained right wing Islamic extremists. Thanks to President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, this entanglement blossomed into a marriage following the 1978 Marxist coup and a full-blown commitment to holy war and the Islamization of Pakistan - long before the Soviet invasion of 1979.

The United States continued to support the right wing extremists all through the 1980s and then (in order to serve the interests of Pakistan's military and Saudi/American oil conglomerates) the CIA helped Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to establish the Taliban. The Taliban's inability to totally conquer Afghanistan and their close relationship with the Arab extremists known as Al Qaeda challenged this American relationship. But it was the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Nairobi and the near sinking of the U.S.S. Cole in Aden harbor in 2000 that strained U.S./Taliban relations to the breaking point.

We then explain that for very much the same reasons that the Soviet Union overreacted to extremist provocations on their southern border in December 1979, the United States invaded Afghanistan following the events of 9/11. The intention was to drive the Taliban out of power and root out, intercept, kill or capture Al Qaeda terrorists and their leader Osama bin Laden, the reputed 9/11 architect.

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Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story and Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice,a novel. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband (more...)
 

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