INTERVIEWER: The Accords were never ultimately signed I mean they were still a continuation of aid, of military aid, some views went out, why?
FRANK ANDERSON: I'm not sure I trust my memories of the why. In the grossest terms the why was that the Soviets probably decided to get out, well before we realized they had decided to get out. They were on their way out at a time when in fact they were unable to negotiate a better deal and they were gonna accept. And we politically as I said before, if Secretary Schulz told you his hands was tied, were tied what was probably happening is that he was unwilling, or unable to sign an agreement, that would make it a better deal for the Soviets than they had at that moment. In effect what was happening is that both the United States and the Soviet Union, were acting in a way that was truly directed by what the Afghans were doing. And what the Afghans were doing was expelling the red army. And then they were getting ready to conduct the ongoing intra-Afghan struggle that has characterized the last 8 years.
INTERVIEWER: I mean some people would suggest that this, the UN's failure to get a coalition government in Kabul under the king and the complete end to military aid is one of really Afghans great lost opportunities, would you agree with that?
FRANK ANDERSON: I wouldn't, I mean it's a wonderful view and I would have loved to see it, but I can't see anything in the history of Afghanistan up until 1989 and I certainly see nothing in the history of Afghanistan since 1989, that tells me that there was ever any prospect of that kind of government being formed. I think it was a valiant attempt on the part of the United Nations. I would hate to call it a failure on their part it was just an unachievable objective.
INTERVIEWER: With both sides, aid sides continuing to supply military aid, it did seem impossible to do.
FRANK ANDERSON: I don't believe as I had said before, both sides providing military aid, was the issue here. They had both sides had the means to file on, that was clear, which side would be inclined or would see its interests being served by the arrival of the coalition government, not only led by but entirely staffed by people who had spent the years of the war in places like Washington, Paris and London. The people who were conducting the war had no interest in them and that's what made it unachievable not whether, not the level of skill that they, that the United Nations diplomat, or the level of commitment of an American diplomat, I .....
INTERVIEWER: Could you repeat that last ...
FRANK ANDERSON: Because of the knocking, actually, okay lets go back again to the question......I think it's both unfair to UN diplomats and everybody that was involved to call this a failure. It was unachievable, the Afghans who were present in Afghanistan and who had fought that war, had no reason to be interested in the establishment of a government by people who had lived the previous decade in places like Washington, London, Paris and Rome. I don't think that there was anyway that you could ever negotiate that. As far as the question of whether or not both sides could continue to supply arms was crucial in this failure to establish a coalition government - another irrelevancy. By 1987 both sides had all the arms that they would need to continue fighting. And therefore no incentive to accept the government that didn't meet their needs and aspirations. What's been clear for the last 8 years, was clear now. The Afghans are not ready to accept a national government. There are just too many people with too divergent interests and too many guns for any combination of diplomatic and political skill to bring about a government in Kabul such as was envisioned in 1987, 88.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think was really responsible for the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan?
FRANK ANDERSON: They made a big mistake in November of 1979. the one part of the United States government who first recognized this was the United States training and doctrine commander in Fort Levelworth who did an analysis of the road system in Afghanistan and figured out that the Soviets could never have supported more than about 175,000 troops. There just, it was just simply impossible to bring in the food medicine, clothing, guns and ammunition and then put it on trucks or any other means of conveyance and then spread it around to the kinds of units that you would need to deploy in Afghanistan to defeat an insurgency of the size that the Soviets knew would confront them. They didn't see that. We didn't see it until very late in the war. But the simple fact is they blew it. They moved into a country where even a cursory reading of the history was gonna tell them that they were gonna be opposed. If they had listened if they had found some competent logisticians and listened to them, the logisticians would have said, well there is this accepted rule that counter insurgency forces have to out number the insurgents by about ten to one. That works out to be I dunno, 30, 40 maybe 50 times more troops than you can possibly sustain inside the country. It is not gonna work.
INTERVIEWER: I mean how important was Afghanistan do you think in the cold war?
FRANK ANDERSON: Afghanistan wasn't important. The war in Afghanistan I believe and obviously because I played a role I have a reason to be biased, but nevertheless I am comfortable with the following: the Soviet Uniwas collapsing, or eroding, falling apart. The Soviet Union by the mid 1980s still believed in the idea of its being the military defender of socialism around the world. And the system was therefore extremely vulnerable to any kind of a clear contradiction of that idea. Everybody in the Soviet Union lived a crummy life and they all knew it. Everybody in the Soviet Union was sacrificing and they all knew it. Everybody saw that their life was not only not getting better, it was getting worse. And they had only one tto which they could cling as a justification for this horrible situation, and that was "Well the Red Army is still there." The defeat, the Afghans defeating the red army gave lie to that. And I don't know whether it hastened the end of the Soviet Union by a year or two or ten or twenty, but I have total confidence in the view that it hastened it significantly. The Soviet Union lost the cold war probably inevitably, but it unquestionably lost it much faster because they were defeated in Afghanistan.
INTERVIEWER: Right I mean looking back over the 10 years and all the death and destruction, suffering and the fact that the conflict is still going on. I mean how does that make you feel.
FRANK ANDERSON: You cannot be involved in violence and not feel responsible for the consequences of that violence. We the United States we might part of the government and I as person made decisions and took actions that put weapons in the hands of people who used them to kill other people. That has continued. I spend not many sleepless nights, in fact I practically have no sleepless nights about it. I have devoted a lot of thought over the years to whether or not that mattered and was it worth it. If you look at it solely in the terms of Afghanistan, fewer people would have died if the Afghans had simply succumbed to the Soviet invasion. And maybe there is a basis for an argument that said therefore it was immoral to encourage them to resist. The simple truth is that the Afghans were going to resist. The unfortunate and painful truth is that the Afghans after they got done resisting were going to turn on each other. It is because they have always fought among themselves when there was no external enemy. The level of technology in that violence has gone up because of the war and we contributed to that, and that is something with which one has to be concerned. Nevertheless I come down comfortably on the following position: The Soviet Union, which and I know that there is a lot of intellectual ferment around the idea of or trying to disguise or somehow to change the history, really was an evil empire. In every way the world is far better off now than it would have been had the Soviet Union continued for another decade. If nothing else, simple environment, the environmental disaster that was taking place on the Eurasian land mass that is now being slowed and in some places just being reversed would in and of itself have been a good enough reason to accept the losses of the Afghan war to hasten the end of the Soviet Union. But there were a lot better ones and the war in Afghanistan and the Soviet defeat therein, brought the end of that evil, much more quickly than it otherwise would have taken place, and that's enough for me to decide that it was a good deal.
INTERVIEWER: I just wondered, I mean last time I think you spoke about, your moral conscience is different from that of the B17 pilot over Dresden, is that what you said to Robin. That both of us were fighting evil empires and inevitably it was going to be bloody. I was just wondering, if that's what you said to Robin, I just think it's an interesting thing, people understand your situation as the supply sergeant I think.... I am just wondering how you, I mean looking back on the conflict, I mean how does it make you feel?
FRANK ANDERSON: Looking back on it, there was a conflict, there was warfare, people were being killed and we played a role. Both nationally and personally you can't escape the question of what was the impact of that role? There was an American author Ken Dickey who wrote a poem about what it was like years later remembering the green lights of his, of the cockpit of a B17 on a bombing raid over Germany and later struggling with images that came to his mind of what was happening on the ground when those bombs arrive. no person who has been involved in that sort of an endeavor can get away from those kinds of evenings and thoughts. The b17 aircrews were dealing with another evil empire I think that as a result the vast majority of them are able to... well over the years have been able to put away what otherwise might have been unbearable demons. I haven't had a bad night. And it's not because I'm cold blooded about it, it is not because I am without feeling for it, it is not without understanding of how much agony goes along with war, it is just that this was such a contribution to the end of what was otherwise an evil that inflicted other kinds of pain and on so many other people, that on balance it was worth it.