Letters to the Editor
The New York Times

Ryan Crocker, Obama's nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan, has reportedly told Congress that the U.S. abandonment of Afghanistan in 1989 -- with 'disastrous consequences" led to chaos and the rise of the Taliban, a mistake that should not be repeated today (New York Times, June 8, 2011).

But when President Bush cutback on U.S. aid for the Afghan mujahedin in 1989, the CIA and Pakistani ISI continued for over two years to support their preferred clients Gulbeddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani (Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, 225-34). These two leaders between them were responsible for most of the 1990s Afghan chaos, with Hekmatyar repeatedly shelling Kabul and Haqqani (the patron and protector of Osama bin Laden) eventually becoming a Taliban ally and minister. Both these men today are prominent military opponents to Karzai.

As American troops leave Afghanistan, they should leave neither a vacuum nor further CIA meddling, but U.S. aid to legitimate reconstruction projects. That is the message to be learned from history.

Peter Dale Scott
Professor of English Emeritus, University of California