13 September 2003

How we trained al-Qa�eda

Yet America's role in backing the mujahedin a second time in the early and mid-1990s is seldom mentioned - largely because very few people know about it, and those who do find it prudent to pretend that it never happened. Following the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the collapse of their puppet regime in 1992, the Afghan mujahedin became less important to the United States; many Arabs, in the words of the journalist James Buchan, were left stranded in Afghanistan 'with a taste for fighting but no cause'. It was not long before some were provided with a new cause. From 1992 to 1995, the Pentagon assisted with the movement of thousands of mujahedin and other Islamic elements from Central Asia into Europe, to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs.

The Bosnia venture appears to have been very important to the rise of mujahedin forces, to the emergence of today%u2019s cross-border Islamic terrorists who think nothing of moving from state to state in the search of outlets for their jihadist mission. In moving to Bosnia, Islamic fighters were transported from the ghettos of Afghanistan and the Middle East into Europe; from an outdated battleground of the Cold War to the major world conflict of the day; from being yesterday%u2019s men to fighting alongside the West%u2019s favoured side in the clash of the Balkans. If Western intervention in Afghanistan created the mujahedin, Western intervention in Bosnia appears to have globalised it.

As part of the Dutch government%u2019s inquiry into the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, Professor Cees Wiebes of Amsterdam University compiled a report entitled %u2018Intelligence and the War in Bosnia%u2019, published in April 2002. In it he details the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamic groups from the Middle East, and their efforts to assist Bosnia%u2019s Muslims. By 1993, there was a vast amount of weapons- smuggling through Croatia to the Muslims, organised by 'clandestine agencies' of the USA, Turkey and Iran, in association with a range of Islamic groups that included Afghan mujahedin and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Arms bought by Iran and Turkey with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia were airlifted from the Middle East to Bosnia - airlifts with which, Wiebes points out, the USA was 'very closely involved'.

I think the blowback theory is sufficiently established for this report, in a conservative UK journal, to be very interesting.

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