President Clinton incubated the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for at least three years, despite the fact that it was harboring Osama bin Laden, was responsible for growing 60 percent of the world’s heroin and denied basic human rights to the nation, a U.S. congressman charges.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., says he was belittled, stonewalled and ridiculed for three years for asserting the congressional oversight role in the formulation of foreign policy toward Afghanistan during the last term of the Clinton administration.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif
Using his seat on the House International Affairs Committee, Rohrabacher attempted, he says, for several years to secure communiqu?s, cables and other State Department documents that would reveal what was behind U.S. policy toward Kabul. He says he and his committee were “stonewalled” and “belittled” in all their attempts.
Rohrabacher renewed his requests for those documents in a committee hearing with Secretary of State Colin Powell last week. Powell pledged to look into the matter.
The congressman has some first-hand experience with Afghanistan, having traveled there during the Mujahedin’s war with the Soviet Union invaders just prior to entering the House.
He blames Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for sponsoring the brutal Taliban regime, and U.S. neglect of Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal for its rise to power.
“The U.S. spent $1 billion a year aiding the Mujahedin during the war with the Russians,” Rohrabacher says. “When the war was over, the U.S. walked away, leaving Afghanistan to its own fate after years of death and destruction. We didn’t even help them clear the land mines we gave them to plant. Afghan children by the hundreds were still getting their arms and legs blown off by American land mines long after the war was over, because we did nothing to help them.”
Rohrabacher blames the first Bush administration for this policy of neglect.
But he reserves more passion for criticism of the Clinton administration, which, he says, bailed out the Taliban in its most fateful days.
“In 1997, the Taliban overextended themselves,” he says. “Thousands of troops were captured in the north. Much of their equipment was destroyed by the Northern Alliance. Nothing prevented the opposition from taking Kabul. The Taliban was more vulnerable than it ever was before.”
But instead of seizing the opportunity to support the Northern Alliance, Rohrabacher says the Clinton administration imposed a ceasefire and arms embargo that was supposed to apply to both sides. Instead, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia took the opportunity to resupply and rebuild the Taliban army.
President Clinton, Rohrabacher maintains, knew about this but withheld information from Congress and the Northern Alliance.
Two years ago, Rohrabacher says, a friend very knowledgeable about Afghanistan called him to say he knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan. If the U.S. wanted to take him out, this was the opportunity.
Rohrabacher contacted the Central Intelligence Agency and asked officials to talk to his friend. A week went by and nothing happened, he says. He called again. Another week went by with no contact. Rohrabacher got in touch with Rep. Porter Goss, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who set up a meeting with the Bin Laden Task Force, a group comprised of members of the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency. Rohrabacher met with the task force, which assured him it would get right on the matter.
“It took a month before anyone from the task force ever got in touch with my friend,” he says. By then, bin Laden had moved.
Rohrabacher accuses the U.S. intelligence establishment of gross negligence and incompetence over what he calls the “biggest intelligence failure in the history of the country.”
“Here we were paying hundreds of people to conduct a secret war against bin Laden for years, yet they allowed this attack against these buildings in New York,” he says. “They were evidently more concerned about their own little turf wars than they were about protecting the lives of thousands of Americans.”
Rohrabacher says people should be fired over this failure or Americans will pay an even bigger price in the future.
“I think this is evidence that our CIA and our intelligence apparatus are run by nincompoops and incompetents,” he says. “People should lose their jobs over this.”
Rohrabacher, a major supporter of the Afghan resistance during the Soviet invasion, says, contrary to popular opinion, the U.S. did not support bin Laden and his allies during the war. Bin Laden got his support from Saudi Arabia and the Taliban, which arose “seemingly from nowhere in 1996.” It was a creation of the Pakistan ISI, that nation’s equivalent of the CIA.
He says Pakistan wanted a regime it could control, while Saudi Arabia, which also supported the Taliban, wanted to block the development of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan that would drive down the price of oil. In addition, he says, the Pakistan ISI siphoned off money from the Afghan heroin trade, controlled by the Taliban.
Rohrabacher organized several humanitarian relief efforts on behalf of the Northern Alliance, but, he says, he could never interest the Clinton administration in helping. In fact, he says, the administration threw up roadblocks to his efforts on more than one occasion.
During the Clinton administration, the congressman says, Voice of America became known in Afghanistan as the “Voice of the Taliban.”
“When I tell people that President Clinton supported the Taliban, they go berserk,” he said. “But that is the truth.”