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VERIFY: No, the U.S. government did not directly fund the Taliban as claimed online

The CIA did not directly fund the Taliban. They did support mujahedin fighters in the 1980s, some of whom would join Taliban years later.

WASHINGTON — In mid-August the United States withdrew military forces from Afghanistan, fulfilling an agreement Former President Trump made with the Taliban back in February 2020.

With the 20-year war in Afghanistan coming to a close, and with the Taliban seizing power, there are a lot of claims circulating on social media.

Some online suggest that the U.S. government, specifically the Central Intelligence Agency, funded the Taliban. 

THE QUESTION:

Did the U.S. directly fund the Taliban?

OUR SOURCES:

THE ANSWER:

That is false, the CIA did not directly fund the Taliban, which was formed in 1994. The CIA gave money to the anti-Soviet Afghan fighters in the 1980s. Some of those fighters, according to our sources, later joined the Taliban.

WHAT WE FOUND:

Our Verify researchers spoke with Benjamin Hopkins, a history professor at The George Washington University who has been studying Afghanistan history for 20 years; Charles Dunbar, a retired ambassador for Qatar and Yemen who was also the Chargé d’Affaires in Afghanistan in the early 1980s; Mike Lyons, a military analyst and retired Army Major who served in Iraq; and a CRS report from 2009.

In December of 1979, the Soviet Union sent troops to Afghanistan to protect a Communist government run by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Those troops remained in the country for a decade. 

Hopkins said that in response, the CIA began sending money through the Pakistani government to the Mujahedin, a group of Islamic militants that were fighting the Soviets.

"The United States supports the anti-Soviet forces through the the1980s, it really gets going in 1985, with something called Operation Cyclone," Hopkins said.

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Mike Lyon agreed. "Operation cyclone started out very small until finally to the point where it was literally billions and billions of dollars," he said.

Our Verify researchers found a Congressional Research Service report, which backs that up, saying about $3 billion was given to the Mujahedin from 1980 to 1989 according to the State Department. 

"The mujahedin benefited from U.S. weapons and assistance, provided through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in cooperation with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence directorate (ISI)," the report reads.

“It was for that time, a substantial amount of money," Dunbar said.

Dunbar, who served as a high-ranking diplomat in Afghanistan in the early 1980s, later helped develop an anti-Soviet resistance strategy in the country.

“It was the centerpiece of President Reagan's strategy of promoting resistance to the Soviet Union around the world," Dunbar said.

According to our experts, the Mujahedin predated the Taliban, which began to form in 1994, some five years after the majority of the funding of the Mujahedin had stopped.

So the U.S. government didn't directly fund the Taliban.

“There is a story of Americans arming an anti-Soviet insurgency, some of whom then go on to become part of what will be the Taliban, but any sort of direct linkage, U.S. arming the Mujahedin in the 1980s, [which] supports the Taliban in the 2000s is incorrect," 

Both Hopkins and the CRS report said that some Mujahedin fighters later went on to form the Taliban.

"In 1993-1994, Afghan Islamic clerics and students, mostly of rural, Pashtun origin, formed the Taliban movement," the report said. "Many were former mujahedin who had become disillusioned with conflict among mujahedin parties and had moved into Pakistan to study in Islamic seminaries (“madrassas”) mainly of the “Deobandi” school of Islam."

So we can Verify, false, the U.S. government never directly funded the Taliban, but they did support mujahedin fighters in the 1980s.

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