Why the US involved/trained/supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 80’s


There is evidence that proves that in the middle of the 1970’s at approximately the same time troops were deployed to Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, the United States started pursuing its interest in this country. America gave millions of dollars in the form of aid to the Afghan insurgents known as Mujahedeen to help them fight their enemies. They were the Soviet Army in an operation known as Cyclone and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Afghan Arabs who were popular and known Muslim volunteers assisted the Afghan Mujahedeen. In fact, Osama Bin Laden was one of the Afghan Arabs, he was a pious and wealthy Saudi that used his money as well raised money from people in the rich Gulf States. It is even claimed that the CIA helped train Osama Bin Laden in an effort to ensure that the mujahedeen succeeded in their quest (Miniter 1).

Thesis Statement

This paper will seek to give a critical analysis of why the United States supported the Mujahedeen in different ways during the 1980’s in Afghanistan.

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How the Afghanistan War started

It is during the end of the year 1978 that an uprising that was against the communist government of Khalq started. The deeply religious and conservative country did not want the Soviet-style socialism to be imposed on them. After a year, it became clear that Afghanistan could not control this type of government. In turn, the USSR applied their Brezhnev Doctrine that sort to have a Limited Contingent in Afghanistan (Giplin 32). This is what led to the start of the war as well as the rise of the Mujahedeen. The countries that wanted to support Afghanistan were some Arab and European states, China, Iran, Pakistan and most especially the United States. However, at first the Mujahedeen were not successful because of the following reasons;

Afghan village and tribal leaders were undermined by the various religious leaders of the existing factions.

There were constant conflicts among the various factions.

A centralized leadership did not exist.

A chain of command was not followed.

The KGB impersonated the CIA and was able to provoke fighting and flash out rebel groups.

Reasons why the United States choose to support the Afghan Mujahedeen

A Mujahedeen warrior always fought for his religion, tribe and family. He did this because they were volunteers who were not paid, had a sense of duty and loved freedom. The fighters had various family responsibilities were from local tribes. They were part timers and were untrained, and often engaged in uncouth practices (Lester 68). For example, they would sell some of their weapons in Pakistani markets. Later on after some years in the war, the Mujahedeen fighters were a new and improved kind and the Americans decided to invest in them because of the following reasons.

They had a high social status and were educated.

They were committed to their religion and had leadership abilities.

They were led by the force of achieving consensus, moral persuasion and personality.

Some of them who were ex-fighters had exceptional planning and military technical skills.

It was quite easy for the Americans to teach the Mujahedeen on war tactics.

Two theories that relate to the reason as to why the Mujahedeen were supported by the United States.

There are a number of theories that can be used in explaining why the United States involved itself with the Afghans who were fighting the Soviets. In this case the theories that will be referenced to are national value and offensive realism. The United States has been the world’s leading super power and thus often sees the need to engage in the affairs of other countries.

Offensive Realism- This theory seeks to give an explanation as to why the international system is archaic and in turn, this leads to aggressive behavior being expressed in the arena of international politics. Furthermore, great powers most times tend to be the key actors in the international system. In this case, the United States engaged in offensive realism because it believed that it could solve the Soviet and Afghanistan issues based upon its strengths. It is no wonder that it supplied the Mujahedeen with a lot of money, as well as providing them with the required military strength. The CIA was aware that they could easily manipulate the afghan Mujahedeen because they had resources and thus used this to have an influence over them. In fact, according to Robert Gates, a former CIA director, the intelligence services had already started supporting the Mujahedeen as early as six months before the soviet intervention begun. The United States knew that if the soviets defeated the Mujahedeen, they would have a lot of power and thus threaten the power of America. Furthermore, the United States was trying to eliminate any challenges that it would face in the future even if it meant having new rivals (Toft 392).

National Value- This theory claims that nations will always want to ensure that their power as well as value is maintained in order to benefit. America is a country known for its military strength and technology, and thus during the 1980’s it ensured that the world was aware of this issue. The fact that Afghans did not have patriotism or nationhood, which in turn led to political instability, inspired the United States to try and resolve the existing problems (Roy 66). The Mujahedeen needed help in fighting their enemies and could not be able to resist the assistance they were being offered. They were provided with high-tech equipment such as satellites, anti-missile tankers and rifles, among others. The Americans event as far as providing Afghan children with books that had illustrations of how America would help them fight the Soviets (Bergen 90). Schools were built by the Americans so that they offer the Mujahedeen extensive training on how to use weapons so that they could succeed in war. The Americans were only interested in improving their national value as they had to means to do so. It is evident that the United States interests in the Afghanistan and Mujahedeen was hypocritical.


The United States wanted to ensure that it maintained its position as a super power, and by assisting the Mujahedeen it could achieve this goal.

The Soviet Union was fast becoming a powerful nation and if it spread its doctrines to Afghanistan it would undermine the strength of the United States.

Afghanistan has many valuable resources, which would benefit America and through helping and befriending the Mujahedeen it would be possible to benefit.

Work Cited

Lester, W. “The Bear went Over the Mountain”. Washington DC: National Defense University, 1996. Print.

Giplin, Robert. War and Change in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Print.

Toft, Peter. “John J. Mearsheimer: an offensive realist between geopolitics and power.” Journal of International Relations and Development 8 (2005): 381-408.

, Olivier. Globalized Islam: the Search for a New Ummah. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Print.

Miniter, Richard. “Dispelling the CIA-Bin Laden Myth”. International Fox News. 23 Sep. 2003. Web. 12 Nov 2013.

Bergen, Peter. Holy War Inc. New York: Free Press, 2001. Print.

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