In the movie Charlie Wilson's War, Tom Hanks plays the role of the Democratic Congressman from Texas who embroiled the United States in the last hot conflict of the Cold War. In real life, Wilson appeared on American 60 Minutes explained how he saw the Afghanistan conflict as being not just about defeating the Soviet Union, but also about making real and lasting change to the lives of ordinary Afghans, millions of whom were displaced in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran.

Wilson described the jihad of the "Afghan freedom fighters" in 1983 as "probably the most heroic response to tyranny in modern history". The US and its jihadist allies (including an all-Arab militia led by Osama bin Ladin) defeated the Soviet Union, which withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in 1989. The Americans abandoned Afghanistan to tribal warlords and then to the Taliban. Wilson tried in vain to convince his colleagues in Congress and the President that the US now needed to rescue and repair Afghanistan in much the same way as it did Western Europe after the Second World War. They ignored his pleas. "We always go in with our ideals," he told one of his colleagues. "Then we leave. But the ball keeps bouncing."