The Taliban has little popular support in Afghanistan. They were not elected to rule the country, but took it over by force of arms - arms in large part paid for or supplied by the US and Pakistan.

In the 1980's, Ronald Reagan continued the age-old American foreign policy summed up best as the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Indeed, Reagan expanded this policy including groups that even the CIA wasn't always inclined to deal with.

One such group was the mujahideen - the Islamic extremists fighting against Russia. Jimmy Carter had placed a grain embargo against Russia following their invasion of Afghanistan. Carter was criticized by many in his own party, but especially by Republicans. American farmers and the American economy were hurt by the embargo -- and who cares about Afghanistan anyways?

Under Reagan, the CIA, in concert with Pakistan's intelligence service (the ISI), funnelled billions of dollars worth of arms and training into Afghanistan to oppose the Russians. They created a system of Islamic schools on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border to train the fanatical fighters.

We even recruited Islamic extremists from other countries to join the Afghan war - among them Osama bin Laden. In effect, we put Osama bin Laden in the middle of an international network of extremists -- which we were recruiting, funding, training and arming.

Today we know this network of extremists as al-Qaeda, and the government they produced as the Taliban. Today we call them terrorists. The Russians have been calling them terrorists for many years, but back then Reagan called them "freedom fighters". That was his justification for supplying these extremists with American weapons, including Stinger missiles. In the 1980's we even honored them:

Proclamation 5034 -- Afghanistan Day, 1983

March 21, 1983

By the President of the United States

of America

A Proclamation

The tragedy of Afghanistan continues as the valiant and courageous Afghan freedom fighters persevere in standing up against the brutal power of the Soviet invasion and occupation. The Afghan people are struggling to reclaim their freedom, which was taken from them when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979.

In this three-year period the Soviet Union has been unable to subjugate Afghanistan. The Soviet forces are pitted against an extraordinary people who, in their determination to preserve the character of their ancient land, have organized an effective and still spreading country-wide resistance. The resistance of the Afghan freedom fighters is an example to all the world of the invincibility of the ideals we in this country hold most dear, the ideals of freedom and independence.

We must also recognize that the sacrifices required to maintain this resistance are very high. Millions have gone into exile as refugees. We will probably never know the numbers of people killed and maimed, poisoned and gased, of the homes that have been destroyed, and of the lives that have been shattered and stricken with grief.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon us as Americans to reflect on the events in Afghanistan, to think about the agony which these brave people bear, and to maintain our condemnation of the continuing Soviet occupation. Our observance again this year of Afghanistan Day on March 21, the Afghan New Year, will recall for all the world America's unflagging sympathy for a determined people, its support for their refugees and commitment to achieving a political settlement for Afghanistan which will free that country from tyranny's yoke.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 65, has designated March 21, 1983 as ``Afghanistan Day'' and has requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of that day.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate March 21, 1983 as Afghanistan Day.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventh.

Ronald Reagan

Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 3:10 p.m., March 24, 1983

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