In engaging in the Cold War and, ultimately, invading Afghanistan, the United States created its own worst enemy. While the American occupation of Afghanistan was originally intended to stop the spread of communism in Central Asia, the US’ drive to form a passionate, well-trained, deadly army with Pakistan’s ISI provided the first candidate pool for organisations like Al-Qaeda. While the first terrorist groups sprung from the Cold War and modern ISIS groups were formed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the hate, fear, and desperation that fuels terrorism is the direct result of the pseudo-colonialist violence and destruction perpetuated and supported by the American military. Now, with widespread islamophobia and paranoia, our ideological wars have become societal conflicts within our borders. Regardless of the instance or the perpetrator, violence and cruelty only breed resentment and further violence.
LINK TO PART II: A WAR FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Cold War Origins
The Cold War lasted from the end of World War II, in 1945, to 1980, 11 years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The conflict was defined by a power struggle between capitalism, represented by the United States, and communism, sponsored by the Soviets, and it resulted in a global conflict, which saw many entanglements and disasters like Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the construction of the Berlin Wall.
The forty-year standoff was rooted in Pre-World War II American-Russian animosity, which was stifled during the war due to their common enemy, Nazism. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States had thought very little about the threat other nations might pose to them, having had two tumultuous domestic wars already, so, on December 7th, 1941, America experienced the feeling of vulnerability for the first time. Shortly thereafter, the US allied itself with Joseph Stalin, despite his having killed millions of Ukrainians by starvation during the Holodomor, and agreed to supply the Soviets with aid and weapons under the Lend-Lease programme in order to halt the ever-expanding borders of Hitler’s empire.
After the war had ended, however, it proved that America’s determination to help Stalin was the breath of life the Soviet Union needed to expand and essentially conquer half of Europe. The American government, operating under the constant fear of looming Communism, what it perceived as a threat to American democracy and freedom, subsequently founded the modern, military-industrial complex that has been maintained to this day. To rival Stalin’s NKVD and, later, KGB, the United States created a standing army, the CIA, and the NSA. While President Eisenhower famously warned against the investment of wealth and power into secret, compartmentalised institutions in his Farewell Address, in particular, asking the American people to guard against the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite”, the fear that the implementation of covert government agencies may conflict with certain constitutional freedoms was quickly stifled by the “Red Scare” and the issue was not to re-emerge for nearly 40 years.
Though the Cold War is one of the longest conflicts in modern history, the US and the Soviet Union never actually engaged in one-on-one combat, the entire war was fought through “client states”, pro-Communist and anti-Communist nations that served as ideological battlegrounds; this outsourcing led to millions of deaths on both sides but left the Americans and Russians relatively unscathed (until the Vietnam War that is). The use of client states helped the American government and media to frame the Cold War as an issue of “us v. them”; on one side were freedom fighters from the world’s core countries: the USA, Western Europe, and Japan, bringing democracy abroad and, on the other, the oppressive and dictatorial Communist empire. The Cold War quickly became a global divide, which allowed the United States to fortify alliances with other developed nations while simultaneously vilifying much of Eastern Europe, Central America, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia.
Fighting a war through client states is a part of the method of “containment”. Historian James Oakes describes in his book, Freedom National, that containment was originally used by abolitionists during the American Civil War, “The federal government would surround the South with free states, free territories, and free waters, building what they called a ‘cordon of freedom’ around slavery, hemming it in until the system’s own internal weaknesses forced the slave states one by one to abandon slavery.” In the case of the Cold War, the United States and other Western nations were trying to halt the expansion of Communism, that’s supporters, influenced by Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, felt as though they were fighting a perpetual war against capitalism.
With the spread of Communism from Russia through Eastern Europe and to the coast of South-East Asia in Vietnam, the USSR comprised much of Central Asia and in 1978, Communist officers from the Afghan Armed Forces overthrew the President of Afghanistan, Sardar Mohammed Daud. While the new Afghan government promoted modern ideals like public education, gender equality, and land ownership reform, their policies clashed harshly with the autonomous tribal leaders in the region and the USSR’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan fell to internal conflict. The anti-Communist movement was lead by mujahideen, those who followed jihad, the religious duty to spread Islam.
While there is much speculation that the American military began training and funding the mujahideen pre-emptively, even before Daud was ousted, official accounts claim that the United States, lead by President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was sending aid to tribalist and Islamic uprisings within the new republic only as early as July 3, 1979. That same year, the US launched “Operation Cyclone”, which was, according to Fred Halliday, “the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA”. Between 1979 and 1992, the United States allocated three billion dollars to fighting Communist forces in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, which acted as one of the West’s most violent client states during the later half of the Cold War.
By 1986, three actions had been taken that guaranteed the rise of global jihad. First, mujahideen enjoyed American “Stinger” anti-aircraft missiles that gave them an upper hand on the USSR and virtually annihilated the Soviet Air Force presence in the region. Second, MI-6, Britain’s central intelligence agency, and the Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s equivalent, both supported by the US, sent armed forces to Communist-controlled Central Asian territories. Third, the CIA assisted the ISI in recruiting mercenaries and religiously-motivated volunteers on an international scale, with recruitment centres in US cities like New York, Detroit, and Chicago.
Decades before, Osama bin Laden had been hired by Prince Turki, the head of Saudi Intelligence, to lead a number of projects for the ISI, including building infrastructure, managing mujahideen affairs, keeping track of finances, and, later, operating as a military commander. During this time, bin Laden gathered a list of Islamic extremists that would later serve as the first members of al Qaeda after being labelled as political outlaws after the Afghan War.
However, the network of post-war extremists extended much farther than one terrorist organisation. As Ahmed Rashid explains, “With the active encouragement of the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI, who wanted to turn the Afghan jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim states against the Soviet Union, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan’s fight between 1982 and 1992… Eventually, more than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the Afghanjihad.” Therefore, once the war ended, tens of thousands of war-hardened, violent guerrillas were left without purpose.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, the Afghan Communist President Najibullah was ousted and mujahideen coalitions were left to fight, unmonitored, amongst themselves. Without an enemy, these men were left to use Afghan cities as their battleground and minor religious conflicts arose around Central Asia in the aftermath of the Civil War. Over the next decade, through environmental devastation due to climate change and internal political conflicts that led to multi-national economic collapses, independent terrorist organisations, lead by the Communist heroes of the lost war, emerged onto the world stage. In taking advantage of Afghan jihadi soldiers for an ideological, capitalist agenda, the West created its own worst enemy: a global network of highly-trained mercenaries raised in the Cold War era and armed with American guns.
LINK TO PART II: A WAR FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
 Eisenhower, Dwight D. “Eisenhower’s Farewell Address.” Washington, DC. 17 Jan. 1961. History.com. Web.
 Oakes, James. Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States,1861-1865. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. Print.
 Fred Halliday, “The Un-great game: the Country that lost the Cold War, Afghanistan, New Republic (25 March 1996)
 Ahmed Rashid, “The Taliban: Exporting Extremism,” Foreign Affairs 78,6 (November/December 1999: 25-35).