By Scott Taylor
On Tuesday, September 4, it was reported that Jalaluddin Haqqani had died in Afghanistan. His claim to fame was the founding of a militant network that is considered to be the most effective fighting element of the Taliban. Believed to be in his early 70’s, Haqqani’s passing will in no way affect the combat capability of his network, as he relinquished command of his fanatical fighters to his son Sirajuddin a decade ago.
The western media coverage of Haqqani’s death serves as a perfect example of just how delusional we are when it comes to judging how we are perceived by others, and in turn how we perceive them, when perspectives change.
As the old saying goes, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist – in Haqqani’s case, the man was both.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, it did so at the request of the Afghan communist regime of President Mohammad Najibullah. The Soviets conscripted, trained and equipped hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops to support them in quelling an insurgency led by Islamic extremists.
A young Jalaluddin Haqqani was one of those Mujahadeen fighters and he earned a reputation for his fierce engagement of Soviet and Afghan security forces. The evil communists wanted to educate the Afghan population – including the women - build roads, hospitals etc, and Haqqani and the Islamic extremists were fighting to the death to make sure that did not happen.
Through Pakistan, the U.S. covertly armed and equipped these Afghan mujahedeen with sophisticated weaponry such as the Stinger ground-to-air anti-aircraft missiles. The U.S. even facilitated the deployment of Islamic extremist foreign fighters into Afghanistan, the most notorious of them being Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden.
As they were both fighting together in the same Jihad – Holy War, to oust the evil communists, Haqqani and bin Laden became friends.
This was the height of the Cold War and in America’s eyes, anyone inflicting damage on the Soviet Union was to be heralded as a friend. In1988, Hollywood gave us the blockbuster Rambo III in which the hero deploys to Kandahar to help locals kill evil Soviets.
The final credits in that film dedicate the movie to “The Brave Mujahadeen of Afghanistan”.
President Ronald Reagan singled out Haqqani for personal praise as a ‘freedom fighter’ and U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson, the single most influential American securing aid and weapons for the Afghan mujahedeen, called Haqqani “goodness personified”.
Then came the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.
In response to that attack against Americans by bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. The Americans were not invited in by the Taliban regime. The Taliban were instead to be toppled instead for having provided bin Laden with a safe haven. Fair enough.
Then the parameters shifted and the U.S. decided to lead an international effort to ‘rebuild’ Afghanistan into country that it never was.
The west installed a puppet regime under President Hamid Karzai which included a number of former anti-Taliban warlords.
Under the guise of propping up this corrupt cabal, the U.S. mirrored the Soviets by recruiting, training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers to help them battle a stubborn insurgency waged by those Islamic extremists still loyal to the ousted Taliban.
Haqqani and his network were the most effective unit battling the U.S. led coalition that included, of course, thousands of our very own Canadian troops.
In 2012, Haqqani was considered to be ‘public enemy number one’ and his Taliban-allied unit was responsible for killing the most NATO soldiers.
We knew from the get –go that the Karzai government was the most corrupt on the planet, but we also felt that our intentions were rooted in good. We wanted to educate the Afghan population – including women - build roads, hospitals etc.
When Haqqani fought the Soviets to prevent such progress, we hailed him as a hero; when he fought us to prevent the exact same development, we labelled him a terrorist.
Haqqani fought his entire life for freedom from foreign occupiers. He didn’t change sides, we did. We became the occupiers.