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Bin Laden and the CIA

In response to:

Bush's Amazing Achievement from the June 14, 2007 issue

To the Editors:

More than one reader has raised questions about my description of Osama bin Laden as “the one-time CIA-funded ‘freedom fighter’” [“Bush’s Amazing Achievement,” NYR, June 14]. I was not suggesting that the CIA had a direct relationship with bin Laden: as Chalmers Johnson and others have noted, the CIA and the Saudi government took care to supply money to the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan indirectly through the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), a procedure that Pakistan insisted upon. Some of this CIA money went to a project in which bin Laden was deeply involved. In his book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, the journalist Ahmed Rashid writes that in 1986, bin Laden “helped build the Khost tunnel complex, which the CIA was funding as a major arms storage depot, training facility, and medical center for the Mujaheddin, deep under the mountains close to the Pakistan border. For the first time in Khost he set up his own training camp for Arab Afghans, who now increasingly saw this lanky, wealthy and charismatic Saudi as their leader.”

Jonathan Freedland

London, England

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