I come not to praise Zbigniew Brzezinski, but to bury him beneath a damning fact omitted from his New York Times and Washington Post obituaries: He bears enormous responsibility for the rise of the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS.
In 1979, serving as national security advisor, Brzezinski convinced President Jimmy Carter to approve a plan to provide covert CIA aid to opponents of the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan.
Carter signed the secret and deeply fateful directive on July 3 of that year. In launching the effort, "we knowingly increased the probability" of a Soviet invasion, said Brzezinski in a 1998 interview.
When that invasion occurred months later, Brzezinski told Carter, "We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War."
To accomplish that goal, the Carter and Reagan administrations, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, funded, organized, transported, armed and trained Salafist extremists to fight the Red Army in a holy war on behalf of Islam. Among those who joined the cause were future al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.
The enduring global impact of this 10-year program bears emphasis: The CIA and Saudi GID recruited jihadists from all around the Muslim world, creating relationships and networks that would evolve into not only into al Qaeda, but also ISIS and many other Salafist terrorist groups across several continents.
An Afghanistan Museum Depicts Civilian Casualties from the Soviet Invasion
In 1998, Brzezinski was asked if had any regrets about launching the program. He replied, "Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it?"
By some estimates, one million Afghan civilians were killed in the conflict.