Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



Chief Instructor

Douglas Little

Second Reader

Valerie Sperling


Afghanistan, Charlie Wilson, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Soviet Union, US foreign policy, invasion, communism, Cold War, media coverage, media coverage, media literacy, United States media coverage of war, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, United States, mujahideen, international coalition, proxy war, aid, aid program, foreign policy, Zia ul-Haq


From 1979 to 1989, an international coalition led by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan sent aid to Afghan guerillas known as the mujahideen. This thesis investigates the interests served by this aid by identifying key decision makers and identifying what they hoped to achieve by participating in the aid pipeline. In the United States, President Carter escalated the aid program in response to waxing Soviet influence and waning US influence in the region. President Reagan’s foreign policy approach, fighting the Cold War in other countries through proxies labeled “freedom fighters”, encouraged members of Congress and the Executive branch to expand the aid program. Pakistan’s government distributed the aid. Pakistan’s dictator Zia ul-Haq and his intelligence agency controlled the aid program. They used this as an opportunity to improve Zia’s image as a leader and Pakistan’s own security. Saudi money flowed from the government to this international pipeline, and from private donations directly to the mujahideen. Participating in this program strengthened the Saudi government’s security alliances with both the US and Pakistan. The Saudi government, its religious institutions, and citizens also supported the mujahideen for religious reasons. Though the story of the mujahideen was presented as straightforward—Afghans fighting for freedom and peace with the help of an international coalition—foreign governments stoked the war with weapons to achieve other political and security-related objectives.