Brzezinski on the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan

Zbigniew Brzezinski has always ranked high in leftist demonology for allegedly luring the Soviets into Afghanistan and ‘creating’ the Mujahideen thereby destroying a government which was bringing womens’ rights and education to the benighted, medieval people. Typically, this analysis accords no agency to the Afghans themselves: the natives can only be manipulated, they have no will of their own. It is always the outsider that knows what’s best for the native: for the neoconservatives it is Uncle Sam, for leftists it as Kremlin. As Brzezinski correctly notes here, however, the Soviets were already deeply engaged in Afghanistan long before the invasion. The arms supplies only started after the invasion, and escalated around 1982. The war was a popular liberation struggle. The US support only hastened the Soviet exit, it wasn’t indispensable to it. The Afghans would have fought anyway.

Leaving aside his dubious views in other areas, on Afghanistan Brzezinski is right. And the interviewer’s attempt to impose a teleological narrative on developments in Afghanistan is rather frivolous. There was no inevitability to all that has happened in Afghanistan. Much like the neoconservatives, leftists seem predisposed to accept the Enlightnement belief in the linear progress of history. They fail to appreciate the  contingency of it all.

(The first part of this interview is here)

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

3 thoughts on “Brzezinski on the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan”

  1. m. idrees, did you actually watch the story? It’s clear from ZB in this interview and from Gates book, that arms supplies started before the Russian invasion and the objective was to induce such an invasion. The issue is not whether this was a popular struggle against the Russians, but that there is reason to believe there never would have been such an invasion without US involvement. Certainly that’s what the CIA believed. That’s why they got involved. How does this site work? Who is m. idrees and how can he/she write such a twisted take on the interview?

    1. It must have been my ‘lyin’ eyes’ that heard ZB make a clear distinction between financial support and arms supplies. It must have been my addled mind that heard ZB repeatedly state (a fact well-known to all except conspiracy-buffs) that the Soviets already had a presence in Afghanistan before the formal invasion. Perhaps it did not occur to you that instead of US money inducing a Soviet invasion, the Soviet presence (before the invasion) might have induced US financial support? And then there’s the little matter of history. You probably wouldn’t know who Daud was, or who overthrew him. You probably can’t tell your Parcham from your Khalq, or know who Taraki was and why he was shot by Hafizullah Amin. You probably also don’t know that after the president had been shot by the prime minister, the politburo twice voted unanimously against the invasion. When finally it did invade, the trigger wasn’t Brzezinski’s money but the suspicion that the golpista Amin, the Marxist president, was indeed a CIA agent because he had once studied at Columbia.

      Ideological certainty is no substitute for history, I’m afraid. You’ll have to do better.

      1. Not sure you’re listening. He says that the financial aid to the muhjadeen was “mostly for the acquisition of weapons”. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say- are you trying to say that money going to people who are planning on fighting a war would somehow NOT be used to purchase weapons? Makes no sense.

        Apparently, it was not merely a suspicion that Amin was a CIA agent- admitted it to Rodric Braithewaite in “Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan”. Amin says he “was short of money at the time” and had “merely been stringing the CIA along”. So the answer is that anyone shot by Amin was shot by a CIA agent. So, if that’s the trigger- even more so did CIA intervention in Afghanistan precede the Soviets there. What would the CIA want with him? To cause inner turmoil. Job done.

        What’s more- according to Carter’s memorandum shown here, they funded a full propaganda program inside Afghanistan against the PDPA- prior to invasion.

        Countries often have “special forces” in countries around their borders. This is not a pre-invasion stage of activity. It’s intelligence gathering. As you know, the Soviets were not planning on invading at that time.

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