INTERVIEWER: I mean do you think that really America's Vietnam experience in any way influenced you as policy toward Afghanistan.
FRANK ANDERSON: There isn't any question that Vietnam influenced our policy. In the early years it probably contributed to our defeatism. It was hard for a nation to believe that these were not the kind of wars that we always lost and the other guys won. To another extent, for the supporters of the program in Congress it was sometimes an overt and explicit aspect of their motivation. They wanted the paying back, and it was there. It was always there from beginning to end and I believe that when the Soviets walked out of Afghanistan it was a very common reaction in the minds of Americans if not in there spoken reactions and their estimates of it, that this was, it was not that payback.
INTERVIEWER: Now how important was Pakistan during the 80s to US interests in the region and in particular Afghanistan, policy towards Afghanistan.
FRANK ANDERSON: I fall into the camp of people who believe that Pakistan has been a consistent friend to the United States, obviously that is a view that's debated, but when I was running this program I was able to point out frequently to those who were not friends of the Pakistanis that you've got a geographic choice on this one. The logistically significant routes into the land locked country of Afghanistan, run through Iran, they run through what was then the Soviet Union, or they run through Pakistan. Take your pick! If you want to run or support a war in Pakistan that is against the Soviet Union at a time when Iran has declared itself to be the enemy of the United States, you don't have a lot of options. The only way you can go is through Pakistan. So much for our choice on this. The Pakistanis unquestionably had their own interests, that were not American interests in Afghanistan,, on the other hand, it's awfully easy to ignore the price that the Pakistanis willingly paid throughout this war. Just the absorption of refugees was a tremendous burden upon them. They never flinched. We had disputes with the, we would argue sometimes about how to distribute the goodies which they were helping us with, we had occasionally times when we would work very hard to see to it that they didn't favor one group of the Mujahaddin over the others, something of which thwere accused much more often than they were guilty. But you couldn't do it without the Pakistanis. If it were not for the willingness of the Pakistanis to help. If it weren't for the significant sacrifices which the people of Pakistan endured during that war, we couldn't have done it.
INTERVIEWER: I mean how did that relationship work, I mean could you talk a little bit about, the sort of the major, major military packages, that were involved with Pakistan in regard to F16s which of course are mostly interested in their fighting in India, weren't they.
FRANK ANDERSON: : Well there was this great paradox, while we, while the Pakistanis were unstintingly helping us in what turned out to be a significant strategic victory in the cold war, and I believe a, a factor that significantly hastened the fall of the Soviet Union, we consistently were either slow or downright negative in our approach to their request for assistance . It certainly complicated the task of dealing with them, but it didn't once change it. There obviously were differences in the kind of support that we would get, at different times, but and there were obviously times when there were awkward moments but I never in my experience nor can I think of any of those who ran the program before me, being able to say that there was a time when the Pakistanis were not entirely and effectively supportive.
INTERVIEWER: I mean before the invasion of Afghanistan the US had consistently criticized Pakistan over its development of a nuclear deterrent in fact even its human rights record, yet it was willing to give them an easy ride when it came to acting as a conduit for military aid. Why?
FRANK ANDERSON: We walked into this again, in and they dealt with us in the same way, we had disputes. I once spoke to a senior Pakistani General and said "let's face it you and I work for government that made strategic decisions that are in conflict, you've decided you want a strategic weapons capability, we have decided that we are opposed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, I think you're wrong. The truth is that the possession of a nuclear capability is probably much more of a problem than it is a benefit. And I'm gonna do everything I can to find out about what you're doing and to support efforts to slow it down. Nevertheless it is essential that you and I be friends. If you catch me trying to stop or slow down your program I am sure that you will figure out some way to punish me, and I will do everything I can to find out about it and slow it down. But at the same time I won't let that get in the way of you and I together, this was obviously a personal discussion, pursuing a program that is so important to our two nations." I think that was exactly the approach of the Pakistanis. They didn't agree with us on the subject, they didn't they not only disagreed they made attempts to take elements for a nuclear weapons program in the United States, the Pakistanis were arrested and prosecuted for that, we supported those prosecutions. To some extent there was a schizophrenia in that relationship, but it never got in the way of pursuing this program that was so much in the interests of both sides.
INTERVIEWER: Well do you think really, I mean given a balance surely you can't push one, you can't get one without the other, I mean do you not think really that the US stand to help Pakistan achieve their goal, ultimately, given the money as well that was pumped in.
FRANK ANDERSON: Well we certainly helped them achieve their goal of getting the Soviets out of , out of Afghanistan. Whether or not we helped them achieve their goal of developing nuclear capability, I don't believe we did, you know I believe that we, we worked very hard, to put as many obstacles as we could in their way. I'm not at all certain that that we had the means to stop them from developing that capability, they obviously had other friends in the world who were willing to help them. In terms of money that went into Pakistan because of this program, I just don't buy that. The war in Afghanistan was a cost to the Pakistanis, which they paid. It was an expense, it wasn't a source of revenue.
INTERVIEWER: I mean the Pakistanis have said to us really that it was set in pretty blunt terms that the whole nuclear question was not going to be an issue really. That number one on the list was actually you know their relationship with Afghanistan.
FRANK ANDERSON: I don't know which Pakistanis said that, and I don't know which Americans they would say, said that to them, but I don't know any American that would have, and I certainly know what my arguments or statements were to them, and I never said, nor anybody that worked for me said and I certainly never saw an American ambassador or anybody working for him, say anything that would allow the Pakistanis to believe for a second that we were not unalterably opposed to their development of a nuclear weapons capability.
INTERVIEWER: We've talked a bit about Stinger haven't we, but perhaps I could because the tape ended didn't it, while we were talking about that, I thought of asking, I'll ask a bit more about the, I mean what was the, what was behind the decision to supply stingers to the Mujaheddin, I mean how effective were they really?
FRANK ANDERSON: this is an interesting one, because the people who were running the program for the CIA were the people who, or the institution that was most reluctant to sign onto the idea of providing Stingers. The Stingers were gonna take away, whatever fig leaf we had, that we were not providing the weaponry with which the Mujaheddin were waging the war. There was a very serious concern, that this was a weapon that we didn't want spread around in the hands of people whom we couldn't control. It's potential for use later, by people who might change their mind and decide that they might want to use it against us or our friends, was serious and a valid concern. nevertheless we lost the argument and turned out to be wrong, and we turned out to be wrong, or those who were on, and I will put myself firmly in the camp of people who were wrong on this, were wrong because we didn't at the time, foresee in their argument this dramatic effect that Stingers was, were going to have on the one Soviet tactical program that was most effective for them, and that was the interdiction of the supply routes. But Stinger coming in late 1986 just as the volume of weaponry that was being provided to the Mujaheddin went up 10 times, had the effect of making it go up 20 times, and I don't know if it, we had a one year or a two year, but there isn't any question that the Stinger was the single most influential system that we put in.
INTERVIEWER: How difficult was it to get the Stingers back and how successful were you?
FRANK ANDERSON: When it came time to get the Stingers back, we knew that this was gonna be tough, we knew that what we were gonna have to do was ask for them back, just turn around and say we gave you these for a purpose that has now been achieved you no longer need them, we would like them back. We knew that we were gonna have to buy some back, and we expected that perhaps we might even have to steal some back. I remember being surprised at how many came back when we just asked for them back. I think it goes across the line of things that I shouldn't say in public about how much we got back. We got more than I would have expected back, but far fewer back than would allow me or anyone else to say that their continued presence outside the control of the United States is a concern.
INTERVIEWER: I mean is it is it fair to say that in a way some of those Stingers were actually used against Western forces, or could be in the future.
FRANK ANDERSON: It is a historical fact that a couple of Stingers that were captured by the Iranians in 1987 or so, were not fired but found in a boat that was engaged in a fight with American forces in the Gulf. And were the Iranians able to make them effective against an American aircraft during that engagement they would have. It is a concern that these things are now in the hands of somebody against whom we might find ourselves enin a firefight. on the other hand it was a price that we as a system, as a nation, or at least the executive, no the whole United States government in 1985 at the time we made that decision added up the benefits that we expected to get from them in Afghanistan and factored in that as certainly the cost and decided that it was a good enough deal. And frankly we had underestimated the benefits, so I would still have to say that on balance it was an okay deal.
INTERVIEWER: I mean in a way would you not say that American backing of fundamentalists and Pakistan's backing of fundamentalists in a way has backfired that some of the sort of more recent terrorist activities that can be traced back to sort of Pakistan and American backed trail.
FRANK ANDERSON: It's impossible to say that we had no effect on this, but putting this in context the people who have claimed to be involved and I don't have the exact numbers, but I'll tell you from, I think I can call myself an experienced observer of the issue. The number of Islamic radicals now engaged in acts of terrorism or in terrorist organizations who claim to have been in, involved in that fighting, is substantially greater than the number who really were. The other issue is that the training that we gave to people in Afghanistan when we go back to the thing I said before, we didn't do a lot of training. The Afghans are remarkably talented warriors. They don't need much training, we certainly didn't do any training of non-Afghans. On the other hand non-Afghans went to Afghanistan and became veterans of war. My personal guess is that most of the people who are out now engaged in terrorist organizations didn't do much warfare. In terms of training, terrorist organizations were out engaged in all the things that they have done since Afghanistan, before Afghanistan. One of the more troublesome areas of the world is Algeria, and some of the people in the worst groups in Algeria, claimed service in Afghanistan, whether or not that's true, I don't know. But you gotta remember that the Algerians were engaged in a long and bloody war against France using exactly the same tactics that they've used in the previous dozen years or so and they didn't have to go to Afghanistan to learn it. There isn't anybody who says in the 1980 someone from Lebanon had to go to Afghanistan to learn how to be a terrorist. There isn't any of the tactics that have been used in recent years like terrorists that are attributable to the war in Afghanistan. It is a real popular idea and I kind of think it's kind of attractive to those people who are uncomfortable in a, and there is a thing in the American psyche. That we're uncomfortable with having accomplished something. And we really do need to figure out some ways to turn our victories into very qualified victories or defeats and the favorite one on Afghanistan is, well we aided the fundamentalists and now we have the terrorism problem. It just doesn't stand up to even a cursory examination in light of very recent and mid term history. We had a terrorism problem before we had Afghanistan, we have the terrorism problem now. I don't believe that Afghanistan had, has in any significant way increased that problem.
INTERVIEWER: Well as early as 82, 83 Andropov hinted about a possible withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the UN attempted to follow that up. People like Yacub Khan and the Pakistanis seem to have been quite keen to follow it up, but then suddenly they backtracked, I mean what was the, what was the American line, what did the Americans say to the Pakistanis about that first hint of withdrawal.
FRANK ANDERSON: the first hint of withdrawal in fact I wasn't around, so I can't say. When I ran the program in 1987 to 89 which was included some of the most intense peace negotiations and processes, I don't believe that we or the Pakistanis would have objected had the Soviets decided to leave. There was a great concern in the United States that we not, cut off the weapons flow to the Mujaheddin before the Soviets left, but it was perhaps the biggest argument that I had to deal with. Our supporters in Congress the people upon whom we relied for the great build up then became great critics of the administration on the issue of you're gonna make a deal which will allow the Soviets to equip their puppets to defeat the people who fought against the Soviets for these many years. Our position at the times was there's more stuff in Afghanistan. We've already put in so much more in terms of weapons and ammunition the Afghans themselves have already become so much more experienced and capable than they need to be in order to deal with any period between an agreement and the actual Soviet withdrawal that we can do that with confidence. As it turned out it never happened. We never cut them off. but I think the easy thing to say is that nobody ever said that it was gonna be, they would have opposed a Soviet withdrawal, the Soviets always had the option to just walk out.
INTERVIEWER: But it appears to me that people like Gorbachev have said that one of his biggest problems was actually trying to convince people that he was serious. The UN had an idea of a coalition government, a possible peace settlement, and yet it seems an amazing sort of the Americans just did not want to follow that peace process through I mean why was that?
FRANK ANDERSON: I don't think you in any way you can say the Americans didn't want to follow the peace process through. One of the things that was to my mind most positive about the way that this process was managed in the United States was the marrying of diplomacy and support for war. There was a weekly meeting chaired by the under-secretary for policy and political affairs in the department of state, Michael Armacost in which all the players, the military the Agency, the department of state, met and discussed and coordinated what was going on. None of the things that we were doing to support the war were ever held up as reasons that Michael Armacost and the Department of State should slow down or be less enthusiastic in their search for a peace process, or a peace agreement. It was hard to take the Soviets seriously. If they wanted to get out, all they had to do was get out.