After the United States helped chase out the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001, it came across a legacy of its earlier intervention in the region. As The Washington Post reported in 2002, the United States had spent millions of dollars beginning in the 1980s to produce and disseminate anti-Soviet textbooks for Afghan schoolchildren. The books encouraged a jihadist outlook, which was useful propaganda at the time for a Washington driven by the imperatives of the Cold War.
"The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum,"The Post reported. "Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code."
Printed both in Pashto and Dari, Afghanistan's two major languages, books such as "The Alphabet for Jihad Literacy" were produced under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development by the University of Nebraska at Omaha and smuggled into Afghanistan through networks built by the CIA and Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the ISI.
What does this mean?
Not much really. The Taliban extremist gained generations of primed kids for full indoctrination just as planned. Doesn't mean they are victims or that the US had no business going in to Afghanistan. To me, it simply means that I want to stop pretending we don't have a piece of this. The Taliban was created out of extremists, and criminals -- because that's who we recruited out of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and other places. The reason that whole area is unstable is because we have made it that way, by twisting, inciting and forcing the region into a political and social environment which only an extremist can survive in.
July 23, 1986 --
CIA Director William Casey meets with Vice President George Bush (himself a former CIA director). Casey is a hardline conservative, nominally at odds with the more traditional, moneyed conservatism of Bush, but Casey has learned to trust Bush’s abilities. “Casey knew there was nobody in government who could keep a secret better,” a former CIA official will observe. “He knew that Bush was someone who could keep his confidence and be trusted. Bush had the same capacity as Casey to receive a briefing and give no hint that he was in the know.” Casey wants Bush to run a secret errand to Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, as part of a scheme Casey has concocted to force the hand of Iran. Specifically, Casey wants Bush to have Hussein step up his bombing of Iranian territory. Bush is already going to the Middle East to, as Bush told reporters, “advance the peace process.” Casey’s idea is to force Iran’s hand by having Hussein escalate his air strikes into the heart of that nation; in return, Iran would have to turn to the US for missiles and other air defense weapons. That would give the US leverage in negotiating with Iran for the release of the US hostages it holds. Two Reagan administration officials later say that Casey is also playing two rival policy factions within the administration. Bush complies with Casey’s request; in doing so, Bush, as reporters Murray Waas and Craig Unger will write in 1992, puts himself “directly in the center of action—in a role at the very point where a series of covert initiatives with Iraq and Iran converge.” [New Yorker, 11/2/1992; Affidavit. United States v. Carlos Cardoen, et al. [Charge that Teledyne Wah Chang Albany illegally provided a proscribed substance, zirconium, to Cardoen Industries and to Iraq], 1/31/1995 ; MSNBC, 8/18/2002]
I'm just suggesting that we stop the bullshit and own it, instead of continuing down the path of falsehoods and deceit we're on.
"Yeah, we did it and did it well. Fuck off."
Since the Taliban's ouster in 2001, American authorities have invested heavily in helping modernize Afghanistan's woeful education system, opening it back up to girls and revamping the backward curriculum put in place during the Taliban rule. But despite moderate gains, many challenges remain. And, according to at least one American scholar, these old anti-Soviet textbooks are still in circulation.
Dana Burde, an assistant professor of international education at New York University, says the Taliban is reprinting and using old U.S.-sponsored jihadist books to influence children in areas where the militants still hold sway. Burde says she found multiple reprinted copies of some of the texts, including a 2011 edition in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.
"There's no data on how widely these books may be in use today," Burde says. "I suspect they are not in wide circulation today--partly because they are simply not very good. I'm also not sure to what extent the Taliban are really using them--they've called for a return to them."
According to Al Jazeera America, the Pashto version includes such chilling entries as "T" is for "topak," or gun. How do you use the word? "My uncle has a gun," the entry reads. "He does jihad with the gun."
Other lessons instruct that Kabul can be ruled only by Muslims and that all Russians and invaders are nonbelievers.
In a recent book, Burde raises the issue of the continued presence of these books as part of her research on the unintended consequences of foreign aid policies in countries riven by conflict.
In an interview with NPR , she explained the calculations made by American Cold War strategists who sponsored these jihadist texts.
Picture yourself in the mid-'80s. Preventing and countering Soviet expansion was a single-minded focus in the United States and across the West. After the balance of power shifted and the shah of Iran was overthrown, there was an enormous amount of suffering among the Afghan people, and an exodus of epic proportions, similar to the Syrian refugee crisis today. There was a lot of outpouring of support on both the right and the left for Afghans struggling against the Soviet occupation.As part of this war effort and consistent with the spirit and goals of the time, the alphabet of jihad literacy tried to solidify the links between violence and religious obligation.
As The Post reported in 2002, UNICEF destroyed at least a half-million of these "militarized" schoolbooks. But the consequences of decades-old American policies in the region still linger, in ways both big and small.