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US politician Charlie Wilson dies
Former congressmen famous for funding Afghan mujahidin against Soviet forces dies aged 76.
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2010 13:25 GMT
Wilson served in congress for 12 terms before quitting politics in 1996 saying it was no longer fun [AFP]

Charlie Wilson, the former US congressman famous for funding Afghanistan's mujahidin fighters in their war against the Soviet Union, has died at the age of 76.

Hospital officials in Texas said Wilson died after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday.

Wilson served as a Democratic congressman for Texas from 1973 to 1996 and was a member of the US House Appropriations Committee, which helped secure money for weapons for the Afghan mujahidin during its war with the Soviet Union.

Although that funding helped turn the tide of the war, leading to the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and speeding up the collapse of the USSR, Wilson was unable to keep the money flowing.

"People like me didn't fulfil our responsibilities once the war was over," he told the Associated Press news agency in a September 2001 interview.

"We allowed this vacuum to occur in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which enraged a lot of people. That was as much my fault as it was a lot of others'."

Known for his high-living, party-going lifestyle, Wilson developed the nickname "Good Time Charlie" and his activities were chronicled in the Hollywood movie, Charlie Wilson's War, with actor Tom Hanks playing the lead role.

No longer fun

After serving 12 terms in the US congress, Wilson left politics in 1996, saying he no longer found it any fun.

His death comes just weeks after he attended the dedication of the Charlie Wilson chair for Pakistan Studies at the University of Texas in Austin.a statement commenting on news of Wilson's death, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, said the former congressman had "led a life that was oversized even by Hollywood's standards".

Charlie Wilson, front, was the architect of the CIA's mission to end the Cold War [AP]
"After the Soviets left, Charlie kept fighting for the Afghan people and warned against abandoning that traumatised country to its fate - a warning we should have heeded then, and should remember today."

Interviewed by Al Jazeera over phone, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, the Pakistani high commissioner to the UK, said: "[Charlie Wilson's] confessions were absolutely right and he was the architect of the operations during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

"He funded millions of dollars to raise the mujahideen from all over the world who came in and who now have become a menace throughout the region.

"Where he failed was that he couldn't come up with the idea of an interim arrangement within Afghanistan before the Soviets withdrew their troops. Had he done that, things would have been totally different today.

"This was a failure of US policy at the time. They did not listen to Charlie Wilson. Had they listened, things would have been different."

For his part, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said Wilson had been "an extraordinary patriot whose life showed, once more, that one brave and determined person can alter the course of history.

"As the world now knows, his efforts and exploits helped repel an invader, liberate a people, and bring the Cold War to a close."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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