The dirty relation between US foreign policy and ‘jihadism’

US Senator John McCain meeting 'rebels' on a visit to Syria

Even before the recent horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali, the purpose of the U.S. “war on terror” as stated in words was to fight “Islamic terrorism” and “jihadism.” But facts show each time the U.S. and its allies have launched a war in the Middle East it has been followed by a great strengthening and not weakening of “jihadism.” Taking events in order:

Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 Al Qaeda/ISIS type forces were marginal and powerless in that country – today ISIS controls large parts of Iraq.

Before the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, ISIS and Al Qaeda forces were totally powerless in Libya, now they control large parts of Libya.

Not merely do jihadists dominate much of Libya but they are able to use that control to supply weapons to, thereby reinforcing, jihadist forces such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Mourabitounin Mali.

Under the previous regime of Assad, jihadists were powerless in Syria, today there is ample evidence that U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have been actively supporting and supplying ISIS, while jihadist organizations control large parts of Syria.

When the factual results of a policy, that is the great strengthening of jihadists, differ so entirely and repeatedly from the stated U.S. aim, to fight jihadists, it is necessary to examine this pattern carefully to see what is really going on. As the wise saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words. What therefore is the reality as opposed to the myth of the US “war on terror?”


The logical starting point is with origin of modern jihadism in Afghanistan. In an interview Zbigniew Brzezinski, the U.S. National Security Adviser at beginning of the Afghan war, explained clearly U.S. policy. This allows the date of the origin of modern jihadism to be established precisely – July 3, 1979 in a secret directive by President Carter. Given the importance of this, and Brzezinski’s direct role, it is worth quoting at length – the interview was in Le Nouvel Observateur, January 15-21, 1998.

“Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [From the Shadows] that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

“Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

“Question: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

“Brzezinski: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

“Question: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?

“Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, in substance: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Brzezinski then outlined the U.S. attitude to “jihadism.”

“Question: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

“Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

Note the clear explicit logic of Brzezinski’s analysis. It was preferable for the U.S. to have Islamic jihadist terrorists, “Taliban” and “some stirred-up Moslems,” than to have a state opposed to the U.S. This realpolitik logic applies not only to the Soviet Union but also to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Gadaffi’s Libya, or Assad’s Syria, and explains clearly the real events which have unfolded – the “actions that speak louder than words.”

The Iraq state was destroyed by the 2003 invasion resulting in a situation when prior to the invasion ISIS and Al Qaeada were powerless and now they are powerful. In Libya the state was destroyed by the NATO bombings – prior to this ISIS was powerless, now it is powerful. In Syria prior to the war against Assad ISIS was powerless, now it is powerful. The “stirred up Moslems” that resulted, ISIS and similar forces, have no power through terrorism to seriously threaten U.S. interests – unlike the states which had existed previously.

The population who died in terrorist attacks in Paris, Mali or Russian planes over Sinai of course pay for Brzezinski’s logic with their lives. Because civilian populations don’t like to be killed to serve this logic, it has to be concealed. That is why there must be verbal rhetoric of a “war on terror” – but a reality of continual U.S. actions that result in strengthening jihadism.

The same logic would of course be followed elsewhere – for example in “double standards” on terrorism in Xinjiang.

There is, in short, no contradiction between U.S. words of the “war on terror” and its real results in strengthening jihadism – they are merely two sides of the same coin.

*   *   *

This article by John Ross, analysing the relationship between US foreign policy and ‘jihadism’, was originally published on