Osama bin Laden is a multi-millionaire of Saudi origin who sponsored and led Arabs fighting in Afghanistan against the USSR in the 1980’s. Ronald Reagan who supported “the valiant freedom fighters”, recruited bin Laden and other Muslim rebels to overthrow the Soviet backed secular government in Kabul. The covert U.S. funding was funneled largely through Pakistan’s maverick Inter-Services Intelligence. Millions of dollars in money and arms were provided to the mujahideen rebels to fight the Soviet occupation. bin Laden made it clear that both the U.S. and Russia were considered enemies.
In the mid-1980’s Osama bin Ladin and the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdallah Azzam co-founded the Maktab alKhidamat, an organization to help supply the Afghan resistance in Peshawar with fighters and money. The MAK enlisted, sheltered and transported thousands of people from over 50 countries to fight the Soviets. Over 10,000 Arabs received training in these paramilitary camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the late 80’s Bin Laden and Azzam formed a new organization, al-Qua’ida, to focus on extending his campaign world wide. After the car bombing death of Azzam in 1989, the MAK split, with the extremist faction joining al-Qa’ida.
After Afghanistan, bin Ladin returned to Saudi Arabia and continued to support opposition movements in that country and Yemen. He began to oppose the Saudi leadership when they rejected his advice to rely on native fighters and turned the country’s defenses over to the U.S. military. Bin Laden organized a local movement to force U.S. troops out of the country. He relocated to the Sudan in 1991 and was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 after Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen accused him of supporting subversive groups. Eventually, in 1996, Sudan expelled bin Laden under pressure from the U.S. and Suadi Arabia threatening UN sanctions for Sudan’s alleged complicity in the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995.
After returning to Afghanistan, bin Laden found many willing Muslim recruits who were angered by the massive civilian “collateral damage” caused by the Gulf War. In 1996, bin Laden publicly issued his “Declaration of War” against the United States. Since then, his anti-U.S. rhetoric has escalated to the point of calling for worldwide attacks on Americans and allies, including civilians.