Operation Cyclone

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Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to arm and finance the mujahideen (Afghan anti-Soviet militants) in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, prior to and during the military intervention by the USSR in support of its ally, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The mujahideen were also supported by Britain's MI6, who conducted separate covert actions. The program leaned heavily towards supporting militant Islamic groups, including groups with jihadist ties, that were favored by the regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in neighboring Pakistan, rather than other, less ideological Afghan resistance groups that had also been fighting the Soviet-oriented Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regime since before the Soviet intervention.[1]

Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken.[2] Funding officially began with $695,000 in 1979,[3][4] was increased dramatically to $20–$30 million per year in 1980, and rose to $630 million per year in 1987,[1][5][6] described as the "biggest bequest to any Third World insurgency".[7] Funding continued (albeit reduced) after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal as the mujahideen continued to battle the forces of President Mohammad Najibullah's army during the Afghan Civil War (1989–1992).[8]

Similar Operations

Similar covert activities have continued into the 21st century, specifically with the CIA's arming of islamists in Syria in operation Timber Sycamore[9][10], and the usage of islamist proxies in Xinjiang, China, which have led to the Xinjiang conflict and the Chinese government's response with vocational training centers to de-radicalize extremists and train workers to have productive skills.[11][12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bergen, Peter, Holy War Inc., Free Press, (2001), p.68
  2. Barlett, Donald L.; Steele, James B. (13 May 2003). "The Oily Americans". Time. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
  3. "Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting". history.state.gov. 23 October 1979. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  4. Gates, Robert (2007). From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. Simon & Schuster. pp. 142, 144–145.
  5. Riedel, Bruce (2014). What We Won: America's Secret War in Afghanistan, 1979–1989. Brookings Institution Press. pp. ix–xi, 21–22, 93, 98–99, 105.
  6. Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin Group. pp. 46, 581. cf. Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1979-12-26). "Reflections on Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  7. https://elibrary.law.psu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=psilr
  8. Crile, p 519 & elsewhere
  9. Sputnik News https://sputniknews.com/politics/201607221043483385-us-cia-pentagon-syria/
  10. Mintpress News https://www.mintpressnews.com/operation-timber-sycamore-washingtons-secret-war-syria/222692/
  11. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-01-28/Xinjiang-workers-benefit-from-skills-learnt-in-vocational-centers-XpPv1xXii4/index.html
  12. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-08-25/Lies-and-truth-Vocational-education-and-training-in-Xinjiang-TeSMTJq2gU/index.html