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Gustav Lascaris Avrakotos
January 14, 1938
Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||December 1, 2005 (aged 67)|
|Alma mater||University of Pittsburgh|
Carnegie Institute of Technology
|Occupation||Case officer, Task Force Chief|
|Employer||U.S. Central Intelligence Agency|
|Known for||Operation Cyclone|
|Awards||Intelligence Medal of Merit (1988)|
Gustav Lascaris Avrakotos (January 14, 1938 – December 1, 2005) was an American case officer and Afghan Task Force Chief for the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
Avrakotos was little known to the public until the book Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History, by George Crile, was published in 2003. The book, which portrays U.S. involvement in the Soviet–Afghan War as a partnership between Avrakotos and Texas Congressman Charles Wilson, was the basis of the film Charlie Wilson's War, released in 2007, in which Avrakotos is portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Biography and career
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Avrakotos was born in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, the son of a Greek American soft drink manufacturer, from the island of Lemnos. He briefly worked at Jones and Laughlin Steel mill in Aliquippa before graduating valedictorian from Aliquippa High School in 1955. He initially attended college at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, but left after two years due to a strain on family finances. He found work at a local steel mill. He would also sell beer and cigarettes to bars frequented by immigrants from eastern and central Europe. He returned to college at the University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics.
He joined the CIA in 1962 and, because of his fluency in Greek, was assigned to take part in an anti-communist mission in Greece. He was also assigned duty in the CIA's Langley, Virginia, headquarters.
Avrakotos was number four in the hierarchy of the CIA station in Athens in 1974 (Stacy Hulse was the chief and Ron Estes his deputy). Estes and Avrakotos met with Greece's dictator at the time, Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis, formally Chief of Military Police, to warn him against the escalation of tension with Archbishop Makarios because of the danger of a Turkish reaction. These documented meetings happened on 7 and 20 June 1974. Nevertheless, Makarios, then President of Cyprus, decided to end the Greek junta's constant interventionism against his young republic, thus directly and publicly confronting Ioannidis. Makarios seemed determined to expel all Greek military personnel from Cyprus. So Ioannidis proceeded into a spectacular coup d'état against Makarios, bombarding the Presidential Residence in Nicosia, in order to kill Makarios. Ioannidis died in 2010 and Avrakotos in 2005, neither having revealed anything about their interaction in 1974. Neither did the other Greek-American CIA officer, Peter Koromilas, who died in 2007.
In the 1980s while at Langley, Avrakotos led Operation Cyclone, the largest covert operation in the CIA's history. Through intermediaries, mostly Zia ul-Haq's ISI in Pakistan, the CIA armed Afghanistan's Mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War. Avrakotos eventually met congressman Charlie Wilson of Texas's 2nd congressional district. Together they collaborated to massively increase funding for the rebels, and together helped persuade officials from Egypt, Pakistan, China, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere to increase support for the cause. Avrakotos also plucked Michael G. Vickers from obscurity in the CIA's paramilitary group to revamp the strategy for the Mujahideen. Vickers urged them to drop the Enfield Rifle in favor of a mix of weapons like the AK-47, and to introduce new tactics, training, and logistics.
In 1985 Avrakotos clarification needed] a group within the government, including Oliver North, Bud McFarlane, certain members of the National Security Council, and others, attempting to run the Iran arms-for-hostages trade using the CIA. He told his superior Clair George that the Iran Contra trade was a disaster in the making, as he did not trust Manucher Ghorbanifar or the Israelis pushing the scheme, and he viewed the people like North as the "lunatic fringe" who had earlier tried to bring bizarre ideas into the Afghan war. Avrakotos also warned George that the scheme was illegal and wrote a notable memo distributed within the CIA to that effect.[
According to author George Crile, the bureaucracy punished Avrakotos for his dissent and then banished him to a do-nothing job with little responsibility, just as his greatest success, the Afghan program, was showing results. Avrakotos was reassigned "just as the Stinger antiaircraft missile launchers downed the first Soviet gunships" and after a brief role in an African assignment, he retired from the CIA in 1989. Gust's predictions about Iran–Contra were accurate, as the Iran–Contra affair resulted in numerous prosecutions of government officials and years of congressional hearings and controversy.
Avrakotos then worked for TRW in Rome and for News Corp., for which he began a business intelligence newsletter, working in Rome and McLean, Virginia. He returned to the CIA as a contractor from 1997 until 2003.
In popular culture
Avrakotos was portrayed in the 2007 film Charlie Wilson's War by Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Avrakotos.
- Sullivan, Patricia (2005-12-25). "CIA Agent Gust L. Avrakotos Dies at Age 67". Washington Post. p. C08. Retrieved 2018-09-16.
- Crile, George. Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-854-9.
- Tady, Scott (2007-12-19). "CIA agent and Aliquippa native helped down the Soviets". Beaver County Times. Archived from the original on 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
- Adamides, Marios (2014). Η ΤΡΑΓΙΚΗ ΑΝΑΜΕΤΡΗΣΗ ΚΑΙ Η ΠΡΟΔΟΣΙΑ ΤΗΣ ΚΥΠΡΟΥ-ΚΥΠΡΟΣ 15-24 ΙΟΥΛΙΟΥ 1974 [The Tragic Duel and the Betrayal of Cyprus-Cyprus 15-24 July 1974] (2 ed.). p. 384. ISBN 978-9963996100.
- "George Crile". Charlie Rose. 2003-05-16.