Perhaps the two biggest mistakes were pressuring Saudi Arabia's King Fahd to the point where his intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal hired Bin Laden to recruit fighters and secure funds from rich Arabs for the Afghan Jihad, and having the U.K's Special Air Service give the Mujahideen explosives training, including how to improvise Soviet explosives captured in ambushes and recovered mines. Bin Laden kept a database of fighters recruited for the struggle. Al Qaeda is base in Arabic.
Pakistan also used U.S. dollars to build dozens of religious schools, or seminaries in the border regions. It was the U.S and Pakistan's shared aim, that the seminaries would maintain extremist teachings and provide a steady flow of Muslims to go and fight in the Afghan Jihad. Many of those religious schools remain breeding grounds for Salafist anti-western extremism to this day.
It is because of the policy of fomenting extremism to breed Jihad in Pakistani seminaries working so well that the combined forces of N.A.T.O, the U.S., and the Afghan Northern Alliance haven't fully defeated the Taliban nearly six years after they removed them from power. Piling the pressure on Pakistan's Musharraf to help deal with the problem has led to the balance being tipped, and now Pakistan's border regions are engulfed with Talibanization. The Taliban, meaning seminarian or seeker of knowledge, were raised in the seminaries in the border regions. So their support there has always been high. But now their supporters are angry at what they see as Musharraf picking the U.S. over his own people.
A few years after the Soviet withdrawal in 1994, the Taliban went forth across the border, supported by a Pakistan regime still flush with U.S. dollars and keen to install an Islamic ally in Kabul. When they achieved rapid success and took power in most of Afghanistan by 1996, they allowed the return of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. By this time Al Qaeda was a well-known terror network that had declared war on America and their allies — in effect the "international community".
Al Qaeda and Bin Laden weren't taken seriously by the U.S. until their attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania in 1998, and U.S.S Cole in Yemen in 2000. But Al Qaeda membership was dwindling, despite the acclaim in the extremist world for those attacks, and the anti-Americanism building in the Islamic world for years. Muslims were and are angry at the years of America supporting Israel's theft of Muslim land and other actions against the Palestinians, as well as the U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia after Saddam invaded Kuwait. That deployment and its permanence after the first Gulf war ended were the main causes behind Bin Laden's (Fatwas) declarations of holy war against the U.S. The U.S. was also indirectly to blame for Saddam's invasion, and therefore the Al Qaeda Fatwa's (religious rulings), but part II will cover the Middle East.