Director Mike Nichols (Primary Colors, Working Girl) tells the story of Congressman Charlie Wilson of Texas’ 2nd congressional district. A Representative of 24 years, Wilson uses his Texas charisma to charm both his colleagues and various women. Wilson drinks heavily, employs beautiful women as his staff, and almost singlehandedly designs a covert war in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980’s.
Joanne Herring, a wealthy Texas socialite, first arranges a trip for Wilson to meet with the President of Pakistan regarding the killings in Afghanistan. As Soviet soldiers ruthlessly kill civilians, Wilson travels to the Middle East to explore the refugee camps. Back in the states, Wilson teams up with CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, a smart-mouthed operative who runs the Afghan desk. Together, Wilson, Herring, and Avrakotos arrange meetings and raise funds to secure the arms and money necessary to help the Afghans defend themselves against Soviet fire. Israel, Pakistan, and the United States work together to organize the financial and military support Afghanistan needs. As Operation Cyclone progresses, the mission’s budget grows and Afghanistan receives the arms it needs to shoot down Soviet helicopters. Over the course of the film, the Afghans’ military power grows strong, forcing the Soviets to withdraw from the Middle East.
Representative Charlie Wilson receives the Honored Colleague Award from the CIA for his passionate support of the covert war. Through his negotiations within the House of Representatives and Congress at large, Wilson generates crucial support. His ability to win over colleagues allows him to singlehandedly orchestrate the largest international covert operation of the 1980’s. When the war in Afghanistan comes to an end, however, so does American support for the country, despite Wilson’s efforts. With Afghanistan in ruins and without the funding to rebuild, the nation becomes a haven for radical groups in the coming decades. Wilson admits, “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world…and then we fucked up the endgame.” Charlie Wilson’s War seems to argue that the militant groups that exist today in Afghanistan are the direct result of the lack of rebuilding and support.