ABSTRACT

This chapter aims to understand how and why US policy towards Afghanistan developed from the Soviet invasion of 1979 until the end of 1989. The Carter and Reagan administrations strategic social construction of the ‘freedom fighters’ played an important role in the evolution of US policy towards Afghanistan during this period. The conflict brought some unity to otherwise fractious presidential-congressional relations and became America’s perceived ‘success story’ in the developing world. From the outset of the Soviet intervention, Washington argued that the act was a breach of Afghan sovereignty, which clearly violated international norms and law. As the 1980s unfolded, the United States continually made the case for Afghan ‘independence’ and the benevolence of the ‘freedom fighters’. In the process, Washington provided increasing rhetorical and financial support to the Mujahideen via Pakistan’s ISI. As the chapter also shows, in order to effectively challenge and eventually defeat the Soviet 40th Army, the United States largely subcontracted its Afghan policy to Pakistan whilst encouraging Saudi Arabian funding; this bolstered radical Islamists and had negative (but unforeseen) consequences in the post-Cold War context, as the following chapter explores.