Ahmed Shah Massoud on Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan, circa 1996

In September 1996, Gary Schroen, the CIA station chief in Pakistan, visited Afghanistan to talk with Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Minister of Defense, about Osama bin Laden and his recent movements around the country.

Massoud described the Saudi’s puritanical, intolerant outlook on Islam as abhorrent to Afghans.  Bin Laden’s group was just one dangerous part of a wider movement of armed Islamic radicalism then gathering in Afghanistan around the Taliban, Massoud said.  He described this movement as a poisonous coalition: Pakistani and Arab intelligence agencies; impoverished young students bused to their deaths as volunteer fighters from Pakistani religious schools; exiled Central Asian Islamic radicals trying to establish bases in Afghanistan for their revolutionary movements; and wealthy sheikhs and preachers who jetted in from the Persian Gulf with money, supplies, and inspiration.  Osama bin Laden was only the most ambitious and media-conscious of these outside sheikhs.

This is from page 13 of Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004).


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