“By the late Seventies, proxy wars between the United States and the Soviet Union were already being fought in Angola, Somalia, and Ethiopia. That is why the revelation made three years agoÂ—by Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President CarterÂ—that small-scale American aid to the Afghan Islamists based in Pakistan had begun some months before the Soviet army arrived in Afghanistan is not surprising. In July 1979, President Carter signed the first of the directives for the clandestine aid that Brzezinski later said had the effect of drawing the Russians into “the Afghan trap.” “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene,” Brzezinski said, “but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.” This secret operation explains his exultant tone in the letter he claims to have sent to President Carter on December 27, 1979, the day the Soviet army entered Afghanistan. “Now,” he said, “we can give the USSR its Vietnam War.”
The Taliban’s connection with Pakistan went even deeper. Just as Kabul University had in the 1960s supplied the ideologists and activists of the next decades, so the theological schools in Pakistan known as Deobandi madrasas had in the 1990s produced among its refugees many of the young soldiers and leaders of the Taliban.
The name “Deobandi” came from the original madrasa that had been set up in 1867 in a small Indian town near Delhi called Deoband. The madrasa came out of an insular Indian Muslim response to British rule in the nineteenth century: the work of men who feared that Western-style education of the kind proposed by the British, and embraced by the Hindus, was going to uproot and fracture Muslim culture, and who were convinced that training in the fundamentals of the Koran and the sharia would shield Indian Muslims from the corruptions of the modern world. The Deoband madrasa has issued about 250,000 fatwas on various aspects of personal behavior.
In the early twentieth century, the missionaries of Deoband had begun to set up madrasas close to what was then the Indian border with Afghanistan. In the 1980s and 1990s, among the two to three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the poorest had gone to these madrasas. Some of the most senior leaders of the Taliban had been educated at the Darul Uloom Haqqania near Peshawar, which still follows the Koran-oriented curriculum created at Deoband in India a hundred and fifty years ago.”