The CIA still doesn’t quite get it. During most of the 1980’s, it secretly sent billions of dollars in military assistance to Afghanistan to support the Islamic mujahedeen against the Russian occupation of that country. It provided cash and weapons, secretly trained guerrilla forces, funded propaganda and manipulated politics to ensure the success of their jihad. It was in the midst of this struggle that bin Laden conceived and built his global Islamic terror organization. The CIA thought that it’s sole purpose for being in the region was to expel the Russians from Afghanistan. But it failed to understand the religious nature of the struggle in which the mujahedeen were involved so it never stopped to consider the consequences for America of a successful jihad against the godless Russian infidels. That close-minded approach led to the rise of the Taliban and later the birth of al Qaeda. For the CIA, the mujahedeen (including a certain Saudi by the name of Osama bin Laden) were freedom fighters involved a war against Communist occupation. To the mujahedeen, the war against the Russians was just the opening salvo in a global jihad against the infidels. Their attention would soon shift to America.

This same naiveté characterized CIA actions in training and supporting the Palestinian security services in the mid-90’s. The CIA became deeply involved in it’s own secret clandestine operation with the Palestinians. In a recent article in FrontPageMagazine (October 18, 2005), Patrick Devenny describes an NBC interview that took place in September with a veteran Palestinian terrorist (Jihad Jaara) who now lives in Ireland. Jaara had been a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – a terrorist group tied to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party and had supervised and planned dozens of assassinations and bombings against a wide-range of American and Israeli targets.

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What distinguished Jaara from many of his fellow Palestinian terrorist leaders was that he committed these acts while simultaneously serving as an officer in the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, the body assigned with combating terrorists. Devenny notes: “His official status gave (him) the ability to travel freely throughout the territories, enabling him to plan his attacks while enjoying the protection afforded to Palestinian officials by the Israelis. While his position gave him some advantages, Jaara was unhesitant when asked what single factor had most contributed to his transformation into a successful terrorist – “small-arms training supervised by officers of the Central Intelligence Agency,” he said emphatically.

For almost ten years, the American government had been engaged in a series of “hopelessly misguided endeavors” designed to train and fund the Palestinian security services – an initiative that, at best, was a political blunder. Tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars disappeared into the covert bank accounts of corrupt Palestinian officials, while CIA-trainers “recklessly lent their considerable combat expertise to fanatics such as Jaara.”

Beginning in 1996 and secretly authorized by President Clinton, the CIA led a misguided effort to begin training the Palestinian authorities in anti-terror tactics and sanctioned the expansion of the program to include chaperoned tours of the CIA and FBI headquarters buildings for Palestinian security chiefs. The public knew nothing of this. Clinton ignored the warnings of several veteran Israeli counter-terrorism officials who advised him repeatedly that he was putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

Within months of the Wye River Agreements, the first Palestinian trainees arrived in America aboard U.S. government aircraft and were ferried to various military installations, where they were given advanced small-arms training on firing ranges normally used by the U.S. Army and Special Forces units. They were taught how to protect high-value targets and “motorcade operations,” skills they later transferred into protecting terrorist leaders from Israeli capture, and they were given interrogation training, which, in the hands of those who work in the espionage services of groups such as Fatah, has proven extremely valuable.

While American officials reasoned that these newly empowered Palestinian authorities would crack down on terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they discovered only later (as in Afghanistan) that they had made a grievous error in not doing their homework. Palestinian security personnel were actually observed transferring arms and lending their American training to indigenous terrorist groups.

Devenney notes: “Indicative of the Clinton administration’s staggering ignorance over this issue was a class of 18 Palestinians brought to a top-secret location near CIA headquarters in 1998 for a course in “anti-terrorist techniques.” American officials failed to realize that most of the police personnel they chose for “special training” came from cities where terrorist infiltration of the police forces was acute, such as Nablus. Not surprisingly, as detailed in the San Francisco Chronicle, several of the students went on to become some of the most dangerous terrorists in the Palestinian territories, including the infamous Khaled Abu Nijmeh, who used his CIA training to supervise multiple suicide bombings in 2001 and 2002 in Bethlehem. “More than half of the original class of 18 went on to become fighters in the Al-Aqsa brigades,” Devenney said.

Only when the Palestinian intifada broke out in 2000 and demonstrated beyond any doubt that large numbers of Palestinian police had joined terrorist groups in both Gaza and the West Bank did the program cease. The sight of Palestinian police stripping off their uniforms and engaging in street battles with Israeli forces became commonplace as did the failure of these “specially trained” Palestinian authorities to curtail the actions of terrorist organizations who operated with total impunity inside the territories.

The CIA program was also an unqualified financial disaster. A July 2005 report compiled for the U.S. government by the consulting firm Strategic Assessments Initiative (SAI) stated that, even with millions of American dollars and years of CIA training, the Palestinian Authority police were “wholly ineffective, wracked with divided loyalties and inferior equipment. Many of its officers were active or complicit in terrorist attacks or organized crime rings.”

This strategic error by the CIA has now resulted in the ongoing chaos in Gaza and the current inability of the Palestinian Authority to enforce its own disarmament provisions with regard to Hamas. The Palestinian security apparatus is beyond reform.

Yet, the Bush administration seems as determined as ever to follow a path similar to the Clinton administration. Training the Palestinian security services remains a high priority on President Bush’s efforts to keep the Palestinians involved in the negotiation process. Earlier this year, while visiting London, Secretary of State Rice suggested, “There will need to be some international effort, and the United States is prepared to play a major role in that, to help in the training of the Palestinian security forces and in making sure that the security forces that are part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Echoing the Secretary of State’s words was President Bush who has now pledged to “reform” the Palestinian security services through a further infusion of $50M. In September, American officials in Ramallah proudly announced the transfer of $3M to the Palestinian security services for the “enhancement of their capabilities” and another CIA effort is designed to give the Palestinians a supplementary $300M for security operations.

Without a credible Palestinian government or judicial system in place in the territories, throwing millions of dollars at a corrupt, doomed enterprise cannot succeed. One would think that the CIA and the American government would have come to understand by now that there are some problems that money alone cannot solve.