The Early Years of
Osama Bin Laden
When Osama bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia, he created a group called Maktab al-Khidamat,
abbreviated as MAK, a precursor to Al-Qaeda.
It is frequently claimed that the CIA directly funded this group, though top CIA officers say that this is not the case.
It has been confirmed, at least, that the MAK did receive funding from the ISI,16 the CIA’s primary conduit
for conducting their covert war against Russia.
CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan Milt Bearden has stated that he was well aware of Bin Laden in the Mujahideen, and welcomed his efforts in funding,
though he never met with him personally.17
Bin Laden also brought in construction equipment from his father’s company Saudi Binladen Group, considered the largest construction firm in the world, to build training camps,
in collaboration with the ISI and CIA.18
In 1986, Osama used his construction assets to build a CIA-financed tunnel complex to serve as a training facility.
It was also a major arms and medical depot for the Mujahideen in the Peshawar mountains near Pakistan
which was later used by Al-Qaeda.19
Fifteen years later,
the Western Media would describe Al-Qaeda
as hiding out in caves,
but the truth is a little more complex:
there were intricate tunnels
connecting hundreds of different caves,
a majority of them man-made,
equipped with irrigation systems,
accommodation for trucks and even tanks,
hotels, mosques, arms depots,
medical and radio centers, and kitchens.20
In short, it is more accurate
to call them mountain fortresses.
Al-Qaeda was formed sometime between 1987-88,
with the radical elements of MAK
joining after their group split.
It is apparent that the CIA had no plan to deal with the tunnel complex after the conclusion of Operation Cyclone, though surely they must have been aware that the cadre of radicals they were instrumental in producing
would not simply disappear or de-radicalize.
Perhaps long term destabilization of the country
was their plan all along.
16 Information taken from GlobalSecurity.org, a respected institution in the intelligence community.
17 David Helms and Norm Dixon, “Behind the US War in Afghanistan.”
18 New York Times, “The Most Wanted Face of Terrorism”, May 2, 2011.
19 The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “How a Holy War Against the Soviets Turned Against the US,” September 23, 2001. Written by respected investigative journalist and Middle-East insider Ahmed Rashid
20 Mir Bahmanyar, “Afghanistan Cave Complexes 1979-2004: Mountain strongholds of the Mujahideen.”