INTERVIEWER: I was just wondering could I ask you something about that, I mean when Gorbachev came in you know there was an announcement that he was gonna withdraw, I mean how did the elements of the administration react then? Did they think he was serious?
DR CHARLES COGAN : I think there was initial skepticism about Gorbachev's offer to withdraw, but I think as time went on and of course there were many other facets to the American Soviet relationship, there was the disarmament question, other questions, it became apparent, that there was this relationship between Baker and Shevernadze, it became apparent that these were people we could deal with. In contrast to this previous period of Brezhnevism and Post Brezhnevism which was not a compromising period at all.
INTERVIEWER: Gorbachev has said in the past that really it was, really the biggest problems of withdrawing Soviet troops from Afghanistan was trying to convince Reagan and his administration that he was serious, I mean in a way one could say there was a lot of lost opportunities there because no one wanted to take him seriously.
DR CHARLES COGAN : I'm skeptical that the US would have done better in agreeing to an early withdrawal of the Soviets in Afghanistan. I think that the question is really, whether the So, whether the US should have continued its aid to the Mujaheddin, after the Soviet withdrawal. Whether this was really useful or not, because the main object in this program was to damage the Soviets and to get them, damage them in Afghanistan and eventually to drive them out of Afghanistan and to inflict on them a tremendous psychological defeat in the cold war. And once having done that when the last Soviet came out of Afghanistan I think there is some question there as to whether we should have continued our support of the Mujaheddin.
INTERVIEWER:: I'm just wondering, talking about the Geneva I think this whole thing is quite interesting with the arrival of Gorbachev and this instant withdrawal. I mean there seems to be a sort of policy differences then between the State Department and the Pentagon about how they should proceed, I mean the story in 85 when, with you know the Whitehead speech, you know agreeing to the guarantees of the Geneva accords, and he is quoted as saying he had to make 95% of his speech anti Soviet to please who he called the Evil Empire people he was referring to the hard liners there. I mean there seems to be a major, there seems to have been a major reluctance to follow up the Geneva Accords and a possible peaceful settlement.
DR CHARLES COGAN: Well I think there was a great deal of skepticism about Soviet intentions on the part of the Reagan White House. It's paradoxical there certainly were divisions of opinion over whether there should be a negotiated solution or not but there was never any great dissension within the administration on the question of, continuing to put pressure on the Soviets in Afghanistan with the provision of weapons there was a this was a problem free program from that point of view, it was not at all like other covert action programs such as in Central America where there was real political difference. There was no political difference to speak of in terms of keeping the pressure on the Soviets in Afghanistan, there certainly were nuances as to whether negotiations should be given more favorable attention or not, but the pressure, there was no problem, there was no opposition really. The opposition really came from people who wanted us to do more. Such as people in the Congress.
INTERVIEWER: The intelligence suggests in the mid 80s, was CIA intelligence suggesting that the Russian military were calling for an escalation in Afghanistan and did they tell Gorbachev that they wanted, we were given the impression they were saying "Give us two years to prove we can win it" and then, have you heard of that?
DR CHARLES COGAN : There were indications certainly in the mid 80s that the Soviets had adopted or were in the process of adopting they had brought a new general in there, a new tactic of using helicopter gun ships in an attempt to finish off the war. So yes this was very much in our minds, I think particularly in terms of the decision to finally go and use the Stingers.
INTERVIEWER: I was just wondering in a way, how that influenced your attitudes to Gorbachev and his offers of withdrawal if you actually knew, you'd explained, knowing what you knew behind the scenes of your contact with the Russian military. And in fact was Gorbachev just making these inroads to withdraw, was he actually agreeing to a military escalation over two years to win the war?
DR CHARLES COGAN : Well I think the time sequence is such that Gorbachev I believe came in, in 85 but he really didn't get his policy organized until 86, and by that time this Soviet program had already been launched and we had put the Stingers in as I said the first Stinger attack was in September of 86, so I think it , I don't think you can pinpoint that Khrushchev, excuse me Gorbachev was carrying on two policies at once. Now he might have been unaware of exactly what his military was doing in Afghanistan, but I don't think that he was on a two-trpolicy of winning the war on the one hand and negotiating a settlement on the other. It doesn't sound like Gorbachev to me.
INTERVIEWER: I was just wondering, I mean what was wrong really with UN attempts to negotiate a peaceful end to the war, with regard to military aid, an end to military aid, a coalitiongovernment in Kabul and a role for the king, I mean why was there a reluctance on the part of the US to sign to that agreement?
DR CHARLES COGAN : I think as I mentioned a moment ago the, there was always a residual suspicion in the US, even stronger to day toward the UN and what the UN can do. And that coupled with the lack of trust in the US towards the whole Brezhnev period, the so-called second cold war of the 70s, and early 80s did not inspire confidence in Washington. And we had a presidency that was very hard line vis a vis the Soviets. If this had been a different period than the Brezhnev and post Brezhnev periods in Russia. If it had been a different president in the US things might have come out a little bit differently, but there was a, there was quite a fierce confrontation, at least verbally between Washington and Moscow in those years.
INTERVIEWER: I mean do you not think then that it's a given that the superpowers should really take some sort of responsibility for the continued unrest in Afghanistan after that period?
DR CHARLES COGAN : Certainly the people who supplied weapons to Afghanistan are responsible if you will for the continuing fighting there. But all I can say is you have to look back and say we won the cold war. So people tend to forget that this was a very, although nothing happened this was a very dangerous confrontation and some terrible things could have happened during the Cold War. It ended peacefully, maybe we take it too much for granted.
INTERVIEWER: I mean what do you think ultimately was really responsible for the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan?
DR CHARLES COGAN : I think the Soviets finally decided to withdraw from Afghanistan, because they saw, they couldn't win the war. They had a very considerable commitment which they did not want to increase. They had 105,000 troops there. So I think they came to the cold calculation around 1986 that if they didn't have the resources or the will to escalate up to 350,000 or more the prudent thing for them to do was to pull out. Perhaps the US should have done that in Vietnam, but they came to the cold calculation and I think that there has been some coverage of this by Steve Cole in the Washington Post which I've quoted in one of my articles. But they had a meeting, Shevernadze was in on it and they decided that this is, the mathematics of it were not there, they couldn't win with the commitment of 105,000 troops. They didn't, they couldn't escalate, didn't have the resources or the will, so they decided to pull out.
INTERVIEWER: But how significant do you think Afghanistan was in the ending the cold war?
DR CHARLES COGAN: I think Afghanistan was extremely significant in ending the cold war because it was the high watermark of Soviet involvement outside the Soviet block. It failed, they pulled back, there was there were heavy casualties it got through to the Soviet public. There was a great expenditure of resources and it presaged the Soviet collapse. That's not the, people say, that it would have happened anyway, perhaps that's true, but I think that without Afghanistan, without Gorbachev it could have persisted to the year 2000.
INTERVIEWER: I mean looking back over the 10 years, the war in Afghanistan, all the death, destruction, suffering and the fact that really the conflict is still going on, how does it make you feel?
DR CHARLES COGAN: I believe that American national interest is, is the primary object of our foreign policy. We got into this cold war with the Soviets, perhaps it was 10% our fault, probably 90% their fault. This went on for 50 years. And it was a struggle that if not to say we won, they lost. Now they've been obviously there has been a great deal of suffering, a great deal of fall out. But in the larger strategic sense, and you have to look at it this way if you're dealing with American Foreign Policy, it was a victory for the US and for the West. And I don't frankly have any great regrets over this. As I say, the only thing I question is whether we should have continued on this if you will, this momentum, this inertia if aiding the Mujaheddin, after the Soviets had left. I think that was, probably in retrospect it was a mistake, because basically, especially now that the Soviet system has collapsed, we don't care who is in power in these places. It is not important to us anymore, it shouldn't be.
INTERVIEWER: That is an interesting point really that perhaps we should ask more questions about. Can we ask you just one more question about that?
I was wondering with the Accords, I mean along the lines of what you have just been saying, why was there, this and you can express your own feelings about this again if you like, forget that you have just said that, why was there this reluctance to sign the accords and finish the aid, finish military aid. Why did the US and Russia for that matter want to continue this pouring in of military aid, after the Geneva Accords?
DR CHARLES COGAN : I think the US was reluctant to sign on to a complete cessation of aid, because they were at a distinct disadvantage, the "najbullah" government was getting far more in terms of assistance than we were providing to the Mujaheddin, and I thought that, I think that people consider at that time that the whole game might be lost, that the Soviets might have installed a puppet regime without their forces there and the effort would have gone to not. What we didn't anticipate was the collapse of the Soviet Union 89 to 91. If we had known that certainly we wouldn't have, we would not have continued our assistance.
INTERVIEWER: We've got a section where we talk about the Mujaheddin about a fighting force, or not as a fighting force as the case may be. I just wondered how effective, how effective a fighting force you think the Mujaheddin were?
DR CHARLES COGAN : The Afghans of course have a history of being very doughty fighters and I think we came to the conclusion as we regarded, as we looked at these Soviet casualty figures month after month that these people were pretty damn good. They're good with weapons, they can endure great hardships, they can take casualties and not worry too much about it. It's in their, it's in their blood, it's almost like the ghurkas in a way.
INTERVIEWER: What about the you know the negative aspects of that, you know of the Mujaheddin as a fighting force?
DR CHARLES COGAN : Well of course there was a great deal of disorganization, mass attacks, not coordinated tactics, I think that the training that went on in Pakistan and Afghanistan run by the inner services intelligence directorate, was very effective, and this was on a large scale. And there were certain US Special Forces advisors, advising also in the camps in Pakistan, limited numbers.
INTERVIEWER: What about the infighting between the Mujaheddin groups, I mean some people have said you know they almost spend as much time fighting themselves as they did, especially groups like "Hizbezlami and ...." than actually fighting the Russians.
DR CHARLES COGAN: Well I think we can see in the aftermath that Afghans find it very difficult to agree among themselves. And there was a predisposition for a rivalry, that is unrivalled. This is a very hard country to achieve unity and perhaps it never will. It certainly will not be a centralized country, controlled from the Center. It never has been. It is possible it might split along North South lines, anything is possible.
DR CHARLES COGAN: I think there was a very strong rivalry between the various groups. This was evident toward the end of the war, when they were fighting to get to Kabul first, and we see in the aftermath that it's very difficult for these groups to come together and to coalesce and I think that its this is true of Afghanistan as a country fday one, it's a cross roads country. It has two main divisions, north and south, Pushtoons in the South and the others in the North and it's possible that the country might eventually split along north south lines. We've seen the tremendous difficulty that the Taliban had to impose itself on the north, they were immediately thrown back and now they're back at Kabul.
INTERVIEWER: Yes 's something do you remember the very first CIA meeting with Hekmatie?
DR CHARLES COGAN: Was this before the war?
INTERVIEWER: Yes 79, a CIA official was introduced to Hekmatie......
CHAT ABOUT WHERE AND WHEN
DR CHARLES COGAN: Well its possible I wouldn't at all discount you know that at one time or another an Embassy officer or a CIA officer ran across Hekmatie at a political meeting or something and met with them, but it was an official contact brokered through the ISID, I find that surprising.