Charlie’s Wilson War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History
by George Crile
Published on April 28th 2004 (first published 2003) by Grove Press | Binding: Paperback | ISBN: 0802141242 (isbn13: 9780802141248) | Pages: 560
If US Congressman Charlie Nesbitt Wilson didn’t watch Nightline that night in Caesar Palace, the history of Cold War will be different. Ted Koppel had opened his Nightline broadcast with a disturbing refrain: “Good evening. Tonight is the two hundred and thirty-seventh night of captivity for the hostages in Tehran. The United States with its $200 billion annual defense budget couldn’t even force a taunting Third World nation to turn over fifty hostages.” That news opened Charlie eyes and his attention over what really happened in US foreign policy in Afghanistan. The news somehow brings back the old trauma over Vietnamese war.
US President Carter signed a presidential finding authorizing funding for anticommunist guerrillas in Afghanistan in July 3, 1979 and soon he said to the world that “The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War”. Operation Cyclone already began at 1979, but they had difficulties to do the covert operation.
So in the hand of Congressman Charlie Wilson, US covert operation’s budget in Afghanistan raise up from $5 million in 1980 (not even enough to shut down a Soviet tank/chopper) to more than $630 million in 1987 with single direction: how to stop Soviet military, especially to shut down Soviet’s Mi-24 helicopter, to kill more people.
Charlie Wilson then meet Gust Avrakotos, the CIA agent who had the same vision. In collaboration with President Zia of Pakistan in the 1980s, Wilson and Arvakotos circumvented most of the barriers to arming the Afghan mujahideen-distance, money, law and internal CIA politics. Their coups included getting Israeli-modified Chinese weapons smuggled into Afghanistan in smart way, with the Pakistanis turning a blind eye, and the cultivation of a genius-level weapons designer and strategist named Michael Vickers, a young CIA paramilitary officer, weapon’s analist and a key architect of the guerrilla campaign that left the Soviet army stymied.
To defeat Soviet, they trained over 100,000 Afghan mujahideen between 1978 and 1992 and smuggled the portable Stinger man-portable air-defense systems, which easily eliminated the Soviet’s Mi-24 helicopter gunships and began the train of events leading to the collapse of the Soviet. The Soviet troops completely pulled out of Afghanistan on February 15, 1989.
George Crile, the producer of 60 minutes, really writes a fascinating book which describes an important event in United States history especially in the dark side of CIA covert operation in Afghanistan. I had so much fun reading it and I think this book get my recommendation.