The Mujadideen were entirely independent of the government, fighting under the command of tribal leaders who also headed Islamic political parties, both radical and moderate. According to Geraint Hughes, “estimates of Mujahideen strength vary between 90,000 and 500,000 – a fluctuation explained by the seasonal natural of resistance in certain regions” (2008).
The Mujahideen were not seeking to expand their ideologies beyond national borders, they were strictly fighting a nationalist war against Soviet occupiers. Ironically, the group was considered “terrorists” by their Soviet enemies, but according to the Carter and Reagan Administrations in the United States, they were “freedom fighters.”
According to President Carter, Soviet intervention in Afghanistan presented a “grave threat to world peace” (Hughes 2008). Following the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981, the antagonistic interpretation of Soviet intentions prevailed with the root being that Moscow’s objective was regional hegemony (Hughes 2008). According to Geraint Hughes, “one of President Carter’s final foreign policy decisions was to announce that ‘an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary including military force’” (2008). Fearing the spread of communist influence in to its allies in Pakistan, Iran , and the Gulf states, the United States immediately offered assistance to the Mujahideen (Dixon 2002).
Even before 1979, the Carter Administration provided aid to Mujahideen forces. After the introduction of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, “a plan was devised that allowed US aid to be transferred to Pakistan’s ISI and from there funneled to the Mujahideen” (Stahl 2008). According to Stahl, at this time, the amount of aid was petty and wholly indirect (2008). Over the next five years, there was an enormous increase in US aid with final numbers tallying at least $6 billion
(some estimates ranging up to $20 billion) between 1978-1992 (Dixon 2002).
The Mujahideen not only received money from the US but also “weapons which were Western in origin, such as the American Stinger antiaircraft missile,” which enabled Afghan guerillas to shoot down the aircraft and helicopter gunships that had preyed upon them (Hughes 2008). Throughout the 1980s, Washington was split between those who simply wanted to keep the Mujahideen fighting and others, such as the CIA Director, William Casey, who wanted the Soviets militarily defeated by Afghan forces. In April 1985, Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive 166 titled “Expanded US Aid to Afghan Guerillas.” NSD 166 introduced long-range sniper rifles, wire-guided antitank missiles, and the previously mentioned Stinger missile (Stahl 2008). As…