By Madhav Nalapat
When Zbigniew Brezezinski and William Casey implemented a policy of training, funding and equipping Wahabi extremists in order to do battle against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, the international security consequences of that decision were glossed over. Even a cursory reading of the printed material used by the Wahabi cadres were ought to have shown the disconnect between their world-view and that of modern civilization. The literature teemed with references to historical events such as the crusades, and in particular, the re-occupation of Spain by the Christians. Any reference to Jews and Christians was – to put it in a highly diluted form – uncomplimentary. Given the huge staffs that both had at their elbow, Brezezinski and Casey ought to have figured out that the next target of the Wahabi fanatics, once the USSR was sent packing from Afghanistan, would be the western world.
It was not that there were no options to the recruiting of Wahabi jihadists. At that point in time, the Pashtun community in Afghanistan was almost entirely moderate, and nationalists within them would have eagerly accepted a US request to get launched into battle against the colonial forces of Moscow. Instead, the moderate and nationalist Pashtuns were ignored, and help channeled only to the most virulent and extremist of the Pashtun community; elements incompatible with the co-existence of other elements in any society. It speaks for the lack of accountability within the US strategic community that as yet, neither Brezezinski nor Casey have suffered any damage to their reputations as a consequence of their empowering of Wahabi fanatics into becoming the destructive force they now are. Certainly the defeat of the Soviets was a worthwhile objective, but it is assumed by those covering up for Casey and Brezezinski that this could only have been done by the fanatics. The option of using nationalist and moderate Pashtuns was – and has remained – forgotten. The consequence has been the radicalization of the Pashtun community and the empowerment of the Taliban, that “nurturing solution” to Al Qaeda.
Although 9/11 weakened the warm ties between the NATO powers and the countries and entities nurturing Wahabism, the 2003 Iraq war had the unfortunate and unintended consequence of creating an opportunity for the Wahabists to escape from the box into which they had been penned after the WTC and Pentagon attacks. The grounds for this had been prepared earlier, when Vice-President Dick Cheney decided that the US would implement a strategy of outsourcing the war against the Taliban to the Pakistan army, the very force that saw the extremist militia as an auxiliary force. From 2001 permission given to thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to escape from Kunduz, to the funds provided to Taliban elements deliberately identified as “anti-Taliban” by the ISI, to the NATO-assisted removal of Northern Alliance elements from the Afghan government and their replacement with pro-Taliban elements. It is the NATO which has been responsible for the return of the Taliban, and to such an extent that the alliance is now suing for peace with the militia, although aware of the terrible consequences to the Afghan people and to regional security in general of a Taliban takeover.
2011 saw a full-blooded return of the Brezezinski-Casey doctrine of boosting the offensive capabilities of Wahabi extremists. This columnist had warned – at the start of the Libyan intervention – that the so-called “democracy warriors” active against Muammar Gaddafi were largely Wahabi in composition, and cut from the same cloth as the Taliban. That this was so is clear from the literature they have been spewing out for decades, tracts which reek of prejudice against moderates and other faiths, and which faults Gaddafi not for being a dictator, but for allowing women to go about unveiled, and for not implementing a Wahabi version of Sharia Law. To their shame, western media have dropped Libya off the radar after the killing of Gaddafi, thereby allowing the imposition of (a Wahabi version of) Sharia Law in much of Libya, as well as the killings and torture of thousands, to go unreported. The forecast that Libya would become another Taliban-led Afghanistan, a safe haven for extremists, has come true.
Now in Syria, once again NATO is arming and otherwise assisting elements that will turn on the West as soon as they dispose of Bashar Assad. Intervening in the Wahabi battle against the Shia is as future-disastrous for NATO as Ariel Sharon’s 1982 intervention in Lebanon (on the side of the Maronite Christian militias against the Shia) was for Israel.
Civil wars in Arab countries need to take place without external intervention, especially those having a Wahabi-Shia hue. Hopefully, Hillary Clinton will avoid listening to the big donors from the Middle East to her husband’s charities and foundations, and go by common sense. The repeat of the Brezezinski-Casey strategy of arming Wahabi extremists in first Libya and now Syria is a geopolitical error of the first magnitude.