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Afghani and Anti-Soviet Intelligence Operations


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) gathers intelligence, which helps in making vital decisions and policy directions in the United States. The intelligence may include terrorism, cyber-attacks, drug trafficking, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and regional conflict. In the Soviet Union, the CIA played the role of collecting and scrutinizing information necessary in making foreign policy directions concerning the nation’s security threats (Immerman 477). In Afghanistan, since the inversion of the homeland in December 1979, the CIA had been gathering information concerning insurgency and terrorism. However, despite the lengthy operations of the CIA in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, security threats have not ended. For example, issues such as the agency’s fight against insurgency in Afghanistan culminated in the September 11 attacks. Hence, the paper argues that although the CIA is instrumental in providing information supporting policy directives in the United States, its operations in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union have been a total failure.

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CIA’s Failed Operations in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union

In May 1979, through the National Assessment Center, the CIA concluded its operations in Afghanistan via a dossier titled “The Afghanistan Ethnic Divergence and Dissidence”. The report argued that tribal insurgency in Afghanistan commenced in 1978 leading to the creation of the pro-Soviet government. The report noted that despite the orientation of the government of Afghanistan in the Soviet Union, the majority of the groups regarded the administration as dominated by Pashtun whose hostility had influenced its running on ethnic grounds. The CIA was concerned that this finding may be a characteristic of the emergence of insurgencies. Although the report was published in 1980, it was not clear whether its findings were available to the US policymakers before the December 1979 inversion for policy direction purposes.

In 1983, the Directorate of Intelligence issued a memorandum indicating the inability to resolve the Afghanistan insurgency question more than three years after the CIA’s intervention in the Soviet Union. Rather, the memorandum noted that instead of the agency weakening the insurgency, it had faced resistance issues. Insurgencies acquired control of the better part of Afghanistan. The CIA’s memorandum continued to assert that despite the insurgency acquiring improved weapons coupled with training, the CIA was confident that the groups would ultimately become weak. The agency argued that the rebellion lacked firepower for defeating various Soviet units. However, up to date, the growing insurgency operations in former Soviet Union nations and Afghanistan suggest that the CIA’s job in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union has failed to yield the expected results of bringing sanity to the corresponding regions. Instead, according to Stork, “CIA-supported insurgents engaged in drugging, torturing, and many Soviet prisoners to live like animals in cages” (12), contrary to the body’s mandate of restoring tranquility in the region.

The CIA has encountered immense failures in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Coll argues, “Before the Soviet invasion in December 1979 and the flow of aid to mujahidin organizations that it provoked, the Afghan resistance was largely spontaneous, and had decentralized organizational forms” (184). The author further notes that financial assistance from foreign nations attracted more crises instead of bringing a solution to the menace. Instead of financial aid helping to reshape the post-invaded Afghanistan and Soviets, it magnified an otherwise small phenomenon (Rubin 184). Did the CIA fail to gather information on the potential implications of the inflow of aid in nations that were experiencing insurgency threats? Hence, the Soviet intervention in response to the CIA’s concern over emerging insurgency was a great failure. The intelligence units needed to have foreseen the implication of humanitarian aid that usually follows any mass-scale interventions. The 2005 CIA release supports the massive failure of the CIA in the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. The unit released a map indicating major areas in Afghanistan where the insurgency had dominated, despite fighting being commonplace across the entire country.

Just like in the case of the 1979 inversion, following the September 11 attacks, the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union came under sharp criticism. The war that began in Afghanistan from 2001 and persisted to present rose following the attacks of September 2001 in the American World Trade Center. The war involved the US, NATO forces, and the allied forces whose agenda was to liberate Afghanistan politically by toppling the Taliban government, which was allied to the al-Qaida, the group that was held responsible for the September 2001 attacks. The then-president of the United States, Gorge Bush, had made a demand for the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Laden in the hands of the American forces. He also demanded the expulsion of all Al-Qaida links, which helped the Taliban government in the war involving the Afghanistan Northern alliance (Gareth 18). However, instead of extraditing Bin Laden, the Taliban group recommended that he should depart from Afghanistan due to the lack of evidence that he was actually the main architect behind the September 11 attacks. The US launched attacks on Afghanistan with the hope it would topple the Taliban government, with minimal expectations that the move would attract further insurgencies. The CIA failed to foresee the possibility of the emergence of a more futile insurgency.

The efforts of NATO to engage the Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents in the war resulted in the spreading of war into the North-Western parts of Pakistan. In 2004, NATO forces launched attacks to flash and kill Taliban militia and al-Qaida insurgents who were seeking refuge in Pakistan. This plan led to the emergence of the Waziristan insurgency in 2007 (Gareth 18). In May 2011, the US Navy SEALs managed to kill Osama bin Laden, the kingpin of al-Qaida. In three weeks following his killing, NATO began working on a strategy to exit from Afghanistan (Gareth 18). During this time, the UN sought to engage the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents in peace talks. However, this approach did not bear fruits, hence indicating a failure on the part of the CIA.

During the war against terrorism in Afghanistan between 2001 and beyond, various non-governmental organizations, including the UN, played a significant role in providing humanitarian aid to the war victims. The involvement of the UN in the war was initiated by the October 2001 appeal for humanitarian aid by the then secretary-general of the UN, Kofi Annan (Gareth 19). The aid appeal was amounting to $584 million. The aid would enhance the supply of foodstuffs to an excess of 7.5 million Afghans over a period of six months (Gareth 19). However, the role of the UN and non-governmental organizations in ensuring that the conflict between the US forces and the Taliban did not result in the humanitarian crisis was incredibly impaired following the escalation of confrontations, yet the CIA had not foreseen such a possibility.

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In 1984, the CIA noted that resistance had escalated four years following the invasion of Afghanistan. The CIA informed that the insurgency had acquired control of the entire country. Soviets were concerned about the dramatic alteration of policy towards them, a situation that was marked by reduced insurgency assistance. Opposed to its expectations, the CIA noted that 1983 operations were unsuccessful. Amid the efforts of Soviet forces, the CIA failed to overcome the resistance. The Soviets also failed to facilitate the reconstruction of the Afghan forces to facilitate their capacity to overcome the resistance (Girardet 56). Hence, the CIA’s anticipations were not realized. A replica of the same failures is also evident in the aftermath of the September 2001 attack. The US has been postponing its decision to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan, despite the apparent failure to contain insurgency as anticipated by the CIA. This experience is similar to the aftermath of the December 1979 invasion. In January 2012, the US stated its commitment to withdrawing the entire troop from Afghanistan soil by 2014 (Gareth 17). In 2012, President Karzai and his US counterpart accepted to increase the pace of handing over NATO’s operation to the Afghan forces. In other words, the Afghan forces would assume the forefront in the war engagements, with the NATO and the US troops providing the required training and advice. However, Afghanistan and the Soviets’ volatile situation remained uncontained.


The CIA has the mandate of collecting and examining information on any plans or efforts by enemies threatening the territorial integrity of the United States. Although it plays this role effectively, its operations in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union failed terribly. In 1980, it released a report warning the US about the emergence of insurgencies in Afghanistan. It anticipated that the Soviet forces would overcome the uprising. However, even upon interventions, the insurgency proved too hard to overcome. Instead, it continued to gain more control. Several years later, rebellious groups in the Soviet Union and Afghanistan are yet to be defeated. Indeed, the September 2001 attacks proved the incompetence of the CIA and hence the reason why the paper has regarded the agency as a failure, especially with reference to its operations in the Soviet Union and Afghanistan.

Works Cited

Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin Books, 2004.

Gareth, Porter. “U.S.-Afghan Pact Will not End War-Or Special Operations Forces Night Raids.” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, vol. 31, no. 4, 2012, pp. 17-19.

Girardet, Edward. “Report from Afghanistan: The Conflict and Civilian Toll: Worse Than Ever.” Christian Science Monitor, 1984, Web.

Immerman, Richard. “Intelligence and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 131, no. 3, 2016, pp. 477-478.

Rubin, Barnett. Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System. Yale University Press, 2002.

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Stork, Joe. “The CIA in Afghanistan: The Good War.” MERIP Middle East Report, vol. 1, no. 141, 1986, pp. 12-13.

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