The Anglo-American support apparatus
behind the Afghani mujahideen
by Adam K. East
Following the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in December 1979, the U.S. administration, first under Carter and then under Reagan, launched a massive support and training campaign for the Afghan freedom fighters, or "mujahideen" (holy warriors), as they came to be known. In addition to overt and covert funding operations by various U.S. governmental agencies for the mujahideen, a plethora of private "aid" agencies, think-tanks, and other odd outfits joined the fray, with the ostensible aim of helping the Afghans to liberate their nation from the clutches of the Soviet invaders.
However, a closer look at the activities of these private agencies reveals that there was much more at stake. As the profiles below show, the source of policy for most of these groups was British intelligence. As such, these groups lobbied the U.S. Congress, set up conferences, launched pro-mujahideen propaganda campaigns, and, in some cases, even provided military training for various mujahideen groups. U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, and the region, was largely determined by the aims of these "committees," which also represented the controlling "mediators" between the mujahideen and British policy.
Some of the members and leaders of the organizations profiled below were also involved with some of the figures in the drugs-for-guns related Iran-Contra networks of then-Vice President George Bush and his sidekick Oliver North.
Afghan Aid U.K./Radio Free Kabul
Afghan Aid U.K. (AIUK), together with Radio Free Kabul of London, were the two most important coordinators of Afghan mujahideen aid efforts internationally throughout the Afghan War.
Afghan Aid U.K. was set up in Peshawar, Pakistan, by Romy Fullerton, in the early stages of the war. She was the wife of the British journalist John Fullerton, who has written extensively on Afghanistan, and the Afghan War. The main sponsor and funder of the group was Viscount Cranbourne, currently Lord Privy Seal (chief of the Queen's Privy Council), and Leader of the House of Lords.
Viscount Cranbourne is a member of the Cecil family, one of the oldest and most powerful oligarchical families in Britain, whose ancestor, Lord Burghley, was the Lord Privy Seal and Lord Treasurer of Queen Elizabeth I. Viscount Cranbourne is the son and heir to the current Sixth Marquis of Salisbury. His grandfather, the Fifth Marquis, had been a British colonial secretary in World War II, and a postwar foreign minister, as well as having been Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords. His great-great-grandfather, the famous Third Marquis of Salisbury, had been the British prime minister and foreign minister from 1878-87, and again 1900-02; he helped lay the basis for World War I. The family motto is, "Late, but seriously."
AIUK's initial refugee aid programs were soon expanded to include numerous other services, including medical and agricultural aid, and it even offered a hostel for British journalists. According to one U.S. journalist, AIUK received "considerable British government funding" in addition to "massive amounts of money" from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In order to solicit U.S. government funds for this British operation, Viscount Cranbourne once appeared before the U.S. Congress Special Joint Task Force on Afghanistan, where he attracted considerable attention by twirling his full-length cape around his chair before seating himself to testify.
AIUK funneled much of its support to Masood in the north of the country, to the Tajiks (as opposed to the Pushtuns in the south). Masood's brother is currently the Afghan "ambassador" to London.
Radio Free Kabul
Radio Free Kabul was formed almost immediately after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, by Lord Nicholas Bethell, a former lord-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II. A career British intelligence official with a specialization in Iranian and Arab affairs, Lord Bethell had served in the Mideast and Soviet sections of official British intelligence, MI6. Lord Bethell had been a decades-long friend and colleague of British intelligence operative Kim Philby, who "defected" to the Soviet Union in 1963.
Radio Free Kabul, which was formed virtually single-handedly by Lord Bethell, was run out of Coutts and Co., the private banker to Queen Elizabeth.
In 1981, Lord Bethell accompanied British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on a tour of the United States dedicated to drumming up support for the mujahideen. Thatcher and Lord Bethell met over 60 congressmen and senators, and aided in organizing the Committee for a Free Afghanistan, the de facto U.S. arm of Radio Free Kabul. In 1983, Radio Free Kabul sponsored the formation of Resistance International, which pulled together various "freedom movements" sponsored by the Thatcher and Reagan-Bush administrations, including the Afghan mujahideen, the Nicaraguan Contras, anti-Castro Cubans, and various anti-communist eastern European and African movements.
Lord Bethell was also the British sponsor of the operations of Jon Speller, a former aide to CIA director Allen Dulles, who played an instrumental role, as did Bethell, in coordinating the operations of the Sikh independence movement (Khalistan), which was allied to the Afghan mujahideen.
Other figures on the board of Radio Free Kabul included:
- Ray Whitney, a former British intelligence official who had for years run the disinformation operations unit of the Foreign Office, the so-called Information Research Department. Whitney's outfit was the model for the Reagan administration's new creation, the National Endowment for Democracy.
- Winston Churchill III, the grandson of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a leader of Britain's Conservative Party, who was reportedly the main financial backer of the group.
- Lord Morrison of Lambeth, the former head of the British Foreign Office when two of his employees, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess of the Philby ring, fled to Moscow.
- Baron Chalfont, the former British foreign secretary and longtime defense correspondent, with a particular expertise in Mideast affairs.
Afghanistan Relief Commitee
The Afghan Relief Committee was established in 1980 by Wall Street investment banker and spook John Train, who handles the family fortunes of some of the oldest and most powerful U.S. establishment families, such as the Mellons. The organization was housed in Train's investment consultant office. Train was the president of the group, and, according to a 1980 Washington Post article, "its financial whiz." Simultaneous with his founding of ARC, Train was organizing a "media salon" of press prostitutes to launch a massive slander attack on EIR's founder, Lyndon LaRouche.
The stated purpose of the ARC was to raise "seed money" for medical organizations treating casualties among the mujahideen. After receiving the Relief Committee's seed money, the medical organizations were expected to go elsewhere for financing. The ARC was especially fond of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami group (see article, p. 26).
Also operative were Leo Cherne's International Rescue Committee (IRC), whose Peshawar-based office was staffed mostly with Hekmatyar's gang; the National Endowment for Democracy (NED); and the State Department's Agency for International Development. CIA director William Casey was on the IRC's board of directors, and served as its president at one time. Cherne was then vice-director of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), with offices at the White House.
From its inception, the ARC worked closely with Freedom House, which had been chaired by Cherne since the 1940s, and whose treasurer, Walter Schloss, was a longtime business associate of Train. Rosanne Klass, vice president of the ARC, was also the director of Freedom House's Afghanistan Information Center, and had formerly been the founding director of the Afghanistan Council of the Asia Society.
Founders of the ARC, in addition to Train, included four former U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan: Francis L. Kellogg, a decades-long associate of Train from the prominent grain-interest family; Train's cousin Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.); and the ubiquitous professors Louis Dupree and Thomas Gouttierre, both longstanding Afghan hands for U.S. intelligence. Jeane Kirkpatrick, later the Reagan administration ambassador to the U.N., was co-chairman of the group.
The main known financial beneficiaries of the group were:
- Doctors Without Borders, run by Ronny Brauman in Paris. This organization, whose most prominent representative was Danielle Mitterrand, wife of President François Mitterrand of France, also received money from the National Endowment for Democracy.
- Freedom Medical of Washington, D.C.
- Aide Medicale International
- Sainte Sud of Marseilles
Most money to such groups, although not these specifically, originated with the International Rescue Committee or Relief International. The first two listed received almost all of ARC's funds.
ARC on-the-ground operations (like those of many other western organizations) were based in Peshawar, Pakistan, the main Pakistani base of the mujahideen. ARC-funded physicians were smuggled into Afghanistan from this base. Foreign national physicians were preferred for this function.
ARC also worked with the National Endowment for Democracy, the congressionally created funding conduit for Project Democracy, on two NED Afghan projects: the Writers Union of Free Afghanis and Freedom House's Afghan Information Center. The two groups were dedicated to training Afghan mujahideen spokesmen in "communication skills." Additionally, the group received NED grants to operate schools inside Afghanistan.
Honorary co-chairmen of the group drawn from the Congress included: Senators Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, Alfonse D'Amato (R) and Daniel Moynihan (D) of New York, Claiborne Pell, Gordon Humphrey (R) of New Hampshire, Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, and Representatives Charles Rangel (D) of New York and Bill McCollum (R) of Florida.
Committee for a Free Afghanistan
CFA was founded in 1981 in the aftermath of a trip by Prime Minister Thatcher and Radio Free Kabul founder Lord Bethell to the United States, dedicated to building U.S. support for the mujahideen. The founding executive director of CFA, Karen McKay, was reputed to be the mistress of Lord Bethell. From its inception, the CFA acted as the U.S. arm of Bethell's London-based Radio Free Kabul.
McKay, a major in the Rapid Deployment Force reserves, had spent four years in the U.S. Army's Delta Force, studying unconventional warfare in the 1960s. Following active duty, McKay spent nine years in Greece and Israel as a freelance journalist, during which time she also studied for a doctorate in history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She returned from Israel shortly before taking over CFA.
CFA's publicly known funding came largely from the Heritage Foundation, an offshoot of the British Fabian Society, the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation headed by Paul Weyrich, and Accuracy in Media, of which CFA was a formal arm.
CFA also held numerous conferences and other events throughout the early and mid-1980s, which attempted to organize Americans to support the Afghan mujahideen cause, while simultaneously raising funds. It also put out a publication called the Free Afghanistan Report.
The committee actively lobbied Congress. In addition, it managed to gain the sympathy of some high-ranking military officials.
Although the CFA provided funds for almost all of the "Peshawar Seven" groups of mujahideen, the Jamiat-e-Islami, of Burhanudeen Rabbani and his military commander Ahmad Shah Masood, was CFA's favored group. It brought various mujahideen leaders to Washington in order to influence the decision-making regarding aid for the Afghan War.
In late 1981, McKay took part in a conference in Paris organized by Lord Bethell aimed at patching together an alliance of the more traditionalist groups of the mujahideen, under the banner of the Islamic Federation of Mujahideen. The groups included the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan of Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani—the group most patronized by Lord Bethell; the Afghan National Liberation Front of Sebghatullah Mojaddidi; and the Islamic Revolutionary Movement of Mohammed Nabi Mohammedi.
CFA was also engaged in raising funds for Radio Free Kabul, International Medical Aid, and Doctors Without Borders.
Some of CFA's key figures included:
- Maj. Gen J. Milnor Roberts, chairman of the CFA board of directors, a member of the board of the U.S. branch of World Anti-Communist League (WACL) during the 1980s, and executive director of the Reserve Officers Association. In 1984, Roberts expressed satisfaction over the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which he stated benefited the Afghan War against the Soviets. He also later told a journalist that the 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi would help western interests in the region.
- Charles Moser, professor of Slavic Studies at George Washington University.
- David Isby, author of a book for Jane's Defense Weekly of Britain, which analyzed Soviet weaponry. Isby was working for Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Calif.) when he joined the CFA. He later became a contributing editor and Soviet analyst for Soldier of Fortune magazine.
- Brig. Gen. Theodore Mataxis, who served as a "military adviser" to the mujahideen, and also paid regular visits to the Salvadoran-based Contras, and the Cambodian rebels in Thailand. From 1986-70, Mataxis was a senior officer with the Army's Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Iran.
The list of CFA's Council of Advisers also included Gen. John Singlaub, the former international president of WACL who was deeply involved in various Iran-Contra operations; former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency head Gen. Daniel Graham; former Reagan-Bush administration National Security Adviser Richard V. Allen; Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Claiborne Pell, Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.), and Paul Simon (D-Ill.); and Representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.), Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.), and Charles Wilson (D-Tex.).
Other members of its advisory council included Washington Times editor Arnaud de Borchgrave, whose cousin Alexander de Marenches was then running French intelligence; and two known CIA operatives, Louis Dupree and Thomas Goutierre. A Peace Corps veteran of Afghanistan, Goutierre is now the director of the Center for Afghan Studies at the University of Nebraska. Dupree, formerly with the U.S. Military Academy, has written a book on Afghanistan and also authored many articles for Soldier of Fortune during the Afghan War.
Fundraisers for the CFA included the Bush-linked televangelist Pat Robertson, former Ambassador Angier Biddle Duke, and former U.S. Attorney General Eliot Richardson.
Federation for American Afghan Action
The FAAA was founded in 1983, with the help of Paul Weyrich and his Coalition for America, the Heritage Foundation, and the Committee for a Free Afghanistan, of which it was a de facto arm. The first executive director of the Federation for American Afghan Action, which was based at the Heritage Foundation, was Andrew Eiva. Eiva's career started at West Point; upon graduation in 1972, he went on to command paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina. While with the 82nd, Eiva also led a detachment of Green Berets which specialized in Soviet weapons, tactics, and languages.
Eiva officially gave up his West Point commission in 1980, and went to Afghanistan and other places in order to train the mujahideen. He reportedly trained Afghan guerrillas in bases in West Germany and the United States. Later that year, Eiva came to know Louis Dupree of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan, and soon became president of the Free Afghanistan Alliance in Massachusetts. In that capacity, he came in contact with the CFA's Charles Moser, who brought him to Washington, D.C.
A few notable figures who were on the FAAA board of directors include:
- Louis Dupree of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan.
- Don Weidenweber, who founded American Aid for Afghans (AAA) in 1980, which organized the delivery of combat supplies to the Afghan mujahideen, and which worked closely with Lord Bethell's Radio Free Kabul.
- Matthew D. Erulkar, formerly with the Peace Corps in Zaire, who worked as the legislative director of FAAA, and executive director of its American Afghan Education Fund. In 1985, he formed an organization called the Afghan Support Team in Washington, D.C. That same year he claims to have covertly penetrated the Soviet Union with the Afghan mujahideen, "carrying Korans and other Islamic texts."
In cooperation with Senator Tsongas and others, FAAA introduced legislation in Congress to provide funds for the mujahideen in 1984-85. Its May 1985 International Conference on Afghanistan, held in Virginia, was attended, among others, by:
- Louis Dupree, FAAA board member.
- Edward Luttwak, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
- Col. Robert Downs (USAF, ret.), an expert in "clandestine air resupply operations," according to Karen McKay.
- Anthony Arnold, a former CIA officer and author of Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Perspective, whose overseas service included two years in Afghanistan.
- Ralph Magnus, a former United States Information Service (USIS) official in Kabul (1962-65). From 1983-84, Magnus served as the original project director of "Americares For Afghans," a project of the Americares Foundation, with responsibility for establishing ties between Americares and the Peshawar offices of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, and the Belgian group Solidarité Afghanistan. Americares was created by George Bush's career-long associate, Robert C. Macauley, and included the president's brother, Prescott Bush, on its board.
- Angelo Codevilla, legislative assistant to Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.).
- Mike Utter, executive director of the International Medical Corps. IMC worked closely with the American Aid for Afghans and was also contracted by the USAID to help resupply the Nicaraguan Contras. IMC was instrumental in the effort to send Stinger missiles to the Afghan mujahideen, and also helped to force CIA Deputy Director John McMahon out of office. McMahon had reportedly displayed hesitancy in sending Stingers to the Afghans.