Afghanistan’s “Freedom Fighters” Best American Friend Is Dead

Charlie Wilson died today at the age of 76. The Texas Congressman was known in Washington as “good time Charlie” for his appreciation, some time excessive, of beautiful women, booze, cocaine and hot tub. But again who can blame him, this was the “swinging 70’s”.

However, Congressman Wilson had a deadly serious side to him, and the relentless ability, now completely lacking in Washington, to get things done, for better or worse. In 1979, Wilson embraced the cause of helping the Mujahideens in their fight against the Soviet Union. Wilson worked in conjunction with the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI to provide assistance to the Afghan fighters. He went as far as taking numerous trips to the region to show his complete dedication to the cause of what was known at the time as Afghanistan’s “freedom fighters”.

Following the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Wilson’s cause became easier. At the time both Republicans and Democrats were still fully living in the cold war, and Reagan became extremely receptive to Wilson’s goal: Defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan. A massive amount of cash and weapons started flowing to Afghanistan though Pakistan. As Wilson was pleading in Washington on behalf of the Mujahideens, Rambo was doing the same on the silver screen for America’s public opinion.

The Afghan resistance main military challenge was the deadly and undiscriminated attacked conducted by Russian helicopters. Wilson,from his numerous trips to Afghanistan ( see photo), became convinced that if he could provide the “freedom fighters” with a weapon system able to take the Soviet choppers down, the Afghan resistance could prevail. The perfect weapon for this task was the one man shoulder triggered Stinger missile. Wilson worked tirelessly to convince the Reagan administration and his colleagues in Congress that without the Stinger missiles the Afghan resistance will lose.

Wilson, thanks to his support within the CIA, won that battle. Providing the Afghans with the Stingers was the turning point in the war, and the beginning of the end for the Soviet invasion. However, in retrospect helping the Afghan resistance may have been one of the biggest mistake of Charlie Wilson, and of course of the Reagan administration geopolitical calculation. The intentions of “good time Charlie” were probably genuine, but the one of Reagan and Bush Sr. were not. Their goal was to “bleed” the Soviet Union, and to bring  “the evil empire” to its end.

This objective was accomplished: The war in Afghanistan was the final blow to make the USSR, which was already crumbling for economical reasons, fully collapse. However, the part of the Afghan/ Russian equation which was not taken in consideration by Wilson or the Reagan administration was the fact that shortly down the line the very same “freedom fighters” cherished by Wilson and financed and armed by Washington would turned against the West and  become the Taliban of today.

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2 Responses to Afghanistan’s “Freedom Fighters” Best American Friend Is Dead

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  2. Stephen Dufrechou February 10, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Fantastic exposition of Wilson’s historical role in what we are currently reckoning with today, Gilbert!… Great article.

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