During World War II, the British and the French trusted the Libyans from the two regions that encompass Benghazi and Cerenecia (sp). I add here that the Libyans in Tripoli and its surrounds remained with the Fascist Italian regime. The Sanusi Army that struck the deal with Britain kept to their side of the bargain, and Britain did the same immediately after the war, helping the Libyans to free themselves from Italian colonial rule. As a result Libya introduced a monarchial system with Idris installed as king. The Sanusi Army are the followers of a separate branch of Islam. This is indeed the background to the help that was again given to the Libyans from Benghazi and elsewhere who were opposed to Moammar Gadhafi. It was something that was mutual from the beginning. King Idris of Libya had proved to be a somewhat mild ruler. He was more or less pro-West, and he did not have ill-feeling against Israel. When Idris was deposed by Gadhafi it was a very different tale.
It is hard for me to write any kind of historical background on Egypt, because I simply do not know enough about the rise of the Ba’ath Party with its Marxist leanings, or the fight against them that eventually saw Muburrak assume the leadership in Egypt. The West had an uneasy alliance with Muburrak but one thing is certain, and that is he kept the Salafists and other Islamists under control. Removing Muburrak has let the genie out of the bottle.
However, this essay is not about either Libya or Egypt but it is about Afghanistan and Syria. A strange link? Not really when you consider the background story about Afghanistan. During my period of employment I had as a supervisor a woman who was an Afghan. Her family fled to India prior to their move to Australia. Her father had been a governor of one of the provinces. She was a child at the time, did not remember much about her time in Aghanistan, except that they used to have lots of parties. What changed in Afghanistan that caused a dramatic shift in a society that had been quite modern? Well, the answer is the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians.
The USA became involved in Afghanistan via the CIA. It was the CIA that trained the Mujahadeen to fight against the Russians. This is, I believe, how it came about that Osama bin Laden had links with the CIA. At the same time the CIA would have had links to some Libyans, and at least two of these Libyans who had fought with the Mujahdeen were the subject of rendition. One of those men became a leading figure in the fight against Gadhafi. He was never interested in jihad per se, but he was interested in freedom fighting. I believe that this particular man went to Syria to help train the opposition forces when the civil war began in Syria.
Now why do I bring up the story that the CIA gave weapons and training to the Mujahdeen? It is because the Taliban was formed out of the first Mujahdeen, and the Taliban won control over Afghanistan, bringing with them murder and mayhem to the population. It was a situation that spiralled out of control until the point when the Taliban was sheltering Osama bin Laden – which was the reason for the invasion of Afghanistan in the first place.
Now look what is happening in Syria. Can you see the same things happening again? Once again the CIA are being given a covert role. Once again the CIA are training Muslims to be fighters. Once again the CIA are giving weapons to people who are not to be trusted.
If there were any lessons to be learned from Afghanistan, then it should have been that the CIA should have been kept out of the situation. This has the potential to get extremely nasty. What is worse, is that Russia is supporting Assad. It seems that we are moving backwards into the cold war situation.