MYSTERY WIRE — Nearly all of Afghanistan is now under the control of the Taliban, with the exception of one northern province where warlords are vowing to repel any invasion.
Decades ago, warriors from that province received training in guerilla warfare tactics at an unlikely location — the Nevada desert.
In the 1980s, the U.S. government quietly poured tens of millions of dollars into arming and training Afghan rebels in their fight against Soviet invaders. Some of those who received the aid later joined up with the Taliban, except for some fiercely independent Mujahideen fighters in the north.
A highly decorated, and highly controversial former Green Beret commander named James Bo Gritz, believed by many to be the real-life inspiration for Hollywood’s Rambo, says he was tasked by the State Department with training the Mujahideen fighters, and has hours of film to back up his claims, recorded in Sandy Valley, Nevada, where Gritz taught the Afghans how to kill Russians.
“When we trained the Mujahideen to use this it was with the idea that they could use armor piercing incendiary against any of the soviet VIP armored vehicles,” Gritz said. “There isn’t an armored car for example, like the embassy or VIPs, or even armored personnel carriers that the armor piercing incendiary won’t go through, even tanks.”
The same Afghan tribes coached by Gritz in the mid 80’s now represent the lone holdouts against the Taliban.
Years ago, the U.S. government denied any connection to Gritz and tried – unsuccessfully – to prosecute him. It’s an accusation Gritz fought against ever since people found out about the program.
“The very first thing they brought against me was I trained Mujahideen Afghan freedom fighters right here,” Gritz said. “And I had used these weapons and stingers and explosives. You’ve seen some of the goodies that I gave you, we got it from Fort Sill, Oklahoma and from the government, you don’t buy (a) cannon, 30 millimeter shortened up cannons, down at the 7-Eleven. And how do you get these Afghans over here? I don’t have a travel service to Peshawar.”
A grand jury in Oklahoma declined to pursue charges. A federal prosecutor in California tried again, but FBI officials backed up the story that Gritz was working for the government.
In Las Vegas, the feds accused Gritz of using a false passport during his many trips abroad to find POW. Those charges didn’t stick either. Gritz called it a “weenie charge” and it was something he had done for years working for the government.
Gritz also said he wasn’t being hounded so much for the Afghan training but because of what he learned during his POW missions in Southeast Asia to rescue servicemen left behind during the Vietnam War.
The world’s foremost opium lord General Khun Sa told Gritz that elements of the US government had long relied on the illegal drug trade to fund activities not approved by Congress.
The missions to SE Asia to find POWs were partially funded by Ross Perot.
Gritz saw something similar when commanding Special Forces in Central America, where Ollie North and others allegedly relied on drug profits to fund the Contras without the knowledge of Congress.
Gritz later flirted with the right-wing patriot movement. Gritz ran for President and hosted an ultra-conservative radio show.
When we spoke to Gritz several years ago, he remained proud of what training the Mujahideen and at the time considered them America’s best option in Afghanistan.
“I’m actually glad that I trained these guys,” Gritz said.