INTERVIEWER: just wondered if you could contrast US views of Afghanistan pre invasion and after the invasion.
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI : The United States view on Afghanistan were that it was a back water not of much interest at all, to American policy. The key element in that region was Pakistan, Iran on a different side, but in terms of that access Pakistan. Afghanistan really didn't play any role, few people knew about it or were interested in it. After the Soviet invasion clearly Afghanistan emerged on the radar map, but the basic view was the Soviets are gonna be in there. They were gonna remain, lets make life, more difficult for them and as the official view was, lets raise the costs of consolidation in Afghanistan. That remained essentially true, I would say through 82 and into 83 when the Pentagon became more involved. And I was the main person in the Pentagon on that and Congress was becoming more involved, private groups were becoming more involved. It is in that period that for 82, 83 and after that one can distinguish different views in the United States government on what to do in Afghanistan. On the one hand you had those, and by that I mean essentially the State Department and the CIA, which at any one point said and thought that whatever was needed at any one point was to do not much more than what was being done the day before or the months previous to that. And essentially they maintained the war going. Just enough to keep the war going, but not enough to really help the Afghans I think is the correct way of putting it, although I don't know if it was always that conscious on their part. The others and that is in congress and in the Pentagon was that one ought to develop a much more aggressive and vigorous help for the Afghans, and for the Afghan resistance, and my own view was that there was no reason to think that the Afghan resistance could not win. There were certain advantages in providing indirect help. There were, there was the possibility of drawing up a strategy whose objective was the withdrawal of Soviet forces and the establishment of a stable Afghan government. That was the objective I had, this was the objective that was supported by my superiors in the Pentagon, the assistant Secretary, the under-secretary of defense Freddie Clay and the assistant secretary Richard Perle. So I would say in nutshells that was, those were the basic divisions. If we go back for a moment to look in a little bit more detail at the state department and then the CIA in the state department there were clear reasons for doing what they wanted to do, and that was that the state department views was essentially directed by those who saw the US soviet relationship as the main element, and wanted the US soviet relationship to be back on a more peaceful calm track and specifically to bring nuclear talks to successful conclusions again the idea that more agreements with the Soviets would lead to better relations. Those were disturbed by the Afghan issue, especially if they thought the Soviet troops won things would remain. And therefore were against raising the whole issue of escalating the war, of creating more tension in that area. The CIA was I think principally interested and they would no doubt dispute that, but that is my view and I think its correct. The CIA was principally interested in observing and gaining intelligence on Soviet military operations, so the idea that some people have raised that there were people who were interested in hurting the Russians in bleeding the Russians and so forth is only very ancillary and essentially not that correct. The basic idea was correct information and in order to do that, the war to be kept going. It is true that there was a callousness here, in terms of the variousness, the lies of people and so forth but essentially those were, those were the objectives. If we wanted to talk about now the ways in which the policy did exist was carried out, then I think what we need to focus on is the fact that the state department paid a great deal of attention to the Pakistani
INTERVIEWER: I mean what effect do you think this favoritism had on the Mujaheddin as a fighting force?
INTERVIEWER: I mean what effect do you think this favoritism had on the Mujaheddin as a fighting force?
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI : Well there an interesting one I think it accentuated a division which is not uncommon in revolutionary wars, civil conflicts, ethnic conflicts, between what we might call an external leadership of the resistance based in Pakistan and an internal leadership of the resistance based within in country. In other words in Afghanistan. It is there that you see the emergence of strong leaders in the North East and in the West, Masoud for one in the north east, Ismail Han in the west in the Jirat area of leaders with strong popular backing able to carry on effective fighting and relying on, on their own efforts. While also and this I must also add, over that period of time because precisely people like myself, people in Congress, people among the French, the French doctors who have had a good relationship with for instance Masoud and others were bringing those things to our attention. And I had developed my own intelligence on these issues a little independent of that of the CIA and was able to challenge, effectively I like to think those perceptions and therefore push for more of a share of that assistance to some of those non radical, non fundamentalist groups. It was never as successful as I would have liked, and neither was the approach to the political dimension of the issue, because there unfortunately the department of state retained the lead and was not overly eager to develop good stable, strong Afghan relationship which would include diverse good ethnic groupings and factions. Probably same officials would tell you that this is not correct, but I think the fact remains that throughout the war the state department tended to follow the Papproach which was very heavily favorable and predominantly favored the radicals such as Gorbadin and one or two others, major radical leaders.
INTERVIEWER: It's interesting really because we've had CIA guys have actually said that there was no favoritism at all.
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI : Of course, of course, what do you expect them to tell you that the yes favored one group and that as far as they were concerned as I told you the state department will tell you that I'm bananas, but they will tell you that I don't know what I'm talking about, and they will tell you no every body got, they were very concerned with the political thing and they wanted stability this is standard line. The reality in this you will get from congress it was not that. Not only that but as soon as they thought that we were not looking, all of a sudden the help to the resistance went down. And there were technical problems they would see. When we would notice the flow of the assistance to the resistance diminishing the idea of this particularly towards the end of negotiations, I don't wanna interfere with all the questions you're gonna ask..
INTERVIEWER: No not at all do you mind talking a little bit about.. that sort of the rivalry or the disagreements.
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI: What you have as I said the basic picture I gave you is there. The simple approach, the simple view of the issue without going into all the details is that the state department and the CIA were very reluctant at every step of the process to do more. There are many examples one is that the Afghans needed mine breaching equipment and the CIA had been tasked to produce that and they were working on that for I think two years and nothing was coming out, and the hi-tech thing. Finally through various things the Pentagon office was charged, the thing was taken away basically from the CIA and the Pentagon developed within a few months very effective, very low tech, mine breaching you know that would allow the people to cross mine fields, very effective method that was later on used also in the Gulf War. but the CIA at every point was making an issue and once the weapon was produced they said well it can't be tested in Afghanistan, we have to make sure it works very well first and all sorts of tests. Whereas what we were arguing is let the Afghans have it and lets see what happens, but at every step there were road blocks at every step there was reluctance to implement, to do things, to provide weaponry, there were debates on stingers as you know. At every step the same actors in the play had these positions the Pentagon, and we had some help in the White House but in essence the White House was not a very forceful, the National Security council was not a very forceful element in that ....
INTERVIEWER: Okay so from a sort of Global and regional sense why was Afghanistan important to US interests during the 80s and late 70s?
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI: Well in terms of the importance of Afghanistan to American policy, I have to say that Afghanistan was never really an important area, this one can go back to even the 50s where the United States even when asked refused to get involved, did not want to spread the cold war there, never considered Afghanistan important. Even when the Soviet Union invaded, and when this became an important issue, it was an important issue I would say for a short period of time after the invasion and then as the war dragged on, when the United States was for various causes and reasons pulled into, it became again, temporarily of some significance. But I think the best way to summarize its significance is to see that it was not involved all the way through, until the Soviet invasion, and that as soon as Soviet troops, as soon as an agreement for Soviet troops to be pulled out was reached, the United States lost in essence, all interest. And since 89 and through the 90s has not shown much interest.
INTERVIEWER: I mean why did, what did the US feel about Soviet influence in Afghanistan in the years leading up to the Soviet invasion?
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI : Well the United States regarded the Soviet Union's position there as dominant I think the United States viewed Afghanistan as within the Soviet's sphere of influence, and American concern therefore was centered on Pakistan, with which it had going back some years fairly significant interest, and so the I would say American interest in Afghanistan was a derivative of its strategic concerns for Pakistan. Therefore when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan the significance of Afghanistan became that Pakistan might now become much more directly threatened and therefore US interests were fairly immediately concerned.
INTERVIEWER: I mean what was the extent of CIA activity in Afghanistan pre 78 revolution.
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI: Well I have no, when we talk about CIA involvement being Afghanistan or possible involvement in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion, I have no direct knowledge of the exact operations, but I would say that if any it was minimal. Clearly the United States was somewhat surprised by the Soviet invasion, despite some reports and warnings and some information. This is an issue that can go far afield in terms of looking at the CIA and looking at some of the emphasis on technical means rather than in human intelligence, so I would say in a nutshell it was minimal I think prior to the Soviet invasion.
INTERVIEWER: I mean how did the US view Soviet involvement in events such as the April revolution in 78 and the rise of Amin.
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI : Again the United States because it was not particularly concerned with Afghanistan as a Foreign policy or defense issue, noted the revolution and clearly was not pleased by the fact that the communists were by now more clearly openly entrenched in power, but I don't think that that made an enormous difference to the basic American stance.
INTERVIEWER: I mean how big a part do you think that the Soviet Union played in the rise of the PDPA?
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI : The Soviet Union played a very significant role in the development of communism in Afghanistan and played a very significant, I would say dominant role in the revolution, in the 1978 seizure of power by the communists. To divide the question into two parts prior to the revolution, and the revolution itself, I would say that back to the days where King Zaie Shah was the rule the Soviets had a very strong influence in the country. There were few moves that the Afghan government could do that were not either approved or known at least and therefore basically acquiesced to by the Soviets prior to their occurrence. The replacement of the king, the overthrow of the king by his cousin Daoud, was at Soviet instigation, and the Soviets thought that if they had a republic that would be something that would be seen as a positive thing in the west while actually being stronger in their influence with the government. Because the idea is again to summarize it that the Soviet Union wanted to increase its influence within the Afghan government and basically dominate it completely. So that the overthrow of the king was meant as a step in the direction of more control Daoud is appointed then and started making overtures to the Iranians at the time a strong American ally to the Saudis and others and so the Soviets decided that that wasn't good either and so the only way to really have control was to have a communist regime in power. Now I remember hearing as recently as 95, Soviet officials, former Soviet officials maintaining that they didn't really know the Soviet role in the revolution in the 1978 overthrow and the communist seizure of power. At the particular meeting that I had attended a former communist the last I think Afghan foreign minister, Communist foreign minister, raised his hand and said "Excuse me but I have a different take on that," and he proceeded basically to say and I don't think that has come out publiso far as I am aware. he proceeded to say that "Not only were the Soviets involved, but that they actually directed the entire coup." And he had received the instructions to go for medical treatment in the Soviet Union and whilehe was there, the Soviets had arranged the overthrow and had assigned various Afghanis their positions in the government. So I, I would say again to summarize, the Soviet Role was extremely central.
INTERVIEWER: I mean when was the sort of earliest the US started any type of communication with the resistance forces like the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan?
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI: Well there was some clearly immediately after the invasion, where Dr Brzezinski for one in the American government wanted to make sure that the message was received by the Soviets that this type of activity was not tolerable to the United States and there was a covert program that was started very soon after the invasion. That was never, at that point however it was a very small program there was no expectations there were no expectations that it would lead to any significant impact beyond raising a little bit the cost for the Soviet operations in Afghanistan.
INTERVIEWER: I just wondered if perhaps you could talk about, I mean I believe very very early on there was some type of aid given in the form of communication equipment and that sort of stuff.
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI: Well again specifically it is a little bit difficult because I, in terms of direct knowledge, because I became involved with the effort in Afghanistan sometime in 82 so I knew that there were certain things, but what I do know is whatever there was, was not very extensive and certainly not all that advanced.
INTERVIEWER: I mean how significant was the death of Ambassador Dubbs to US-Afghan relations and America's security interests in that region?
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI : Well if we talk about the death of ambassador Dubbs I have to say that unfortunately in my opinion, this did not make a significant dent. There were official reactions, public reactions, but in terms of policy clearly there were minimal differences in terms of the degree of engagement or lack of it, but I would say overall not very significant.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that events in Iran with the fall of the Shah altered the strategic importance of Afghanistan in the eyes of the US?
DR ELIE KRAKOWSKI: If we look at the issue of Afghanistan the overthrow of the Shah, and relationship to Afghanistan then we deal with a somewhat complex issue in the sense that things that have been said and on the other hand there is a reality. That is, you have on the one hand the reality and on the other are perceptions. I would say from the Soviet standpoints the revolution in Iran, certainly has been alleged to have been a profound influence on their view of the situation. I'm not sure that even there it was so severely affected. Soviet activity in Afghanistan was directed mainly by the fact that Soviet policy was shall we say expected, certain results which did not come and there were a series of misperceptions on the part of the Soviets that led to deeper involvement, they, the Soviets thought that replacing the King by Daoud would solve the issues of control. That then that replacing Daoud by the communists would resolve the issues. But the communists came in power started radical reforms which provoked a very strong rebellion and resistance and precipitated a crisis which then led to Soviet intervention, direct invasion. The soviet invasion itself however was not so much because the regime collapsed or was on the verge of collapsing, but because the Soviets thought that the intrusion of large numbers of Soviet troops would lead to a quick revolution that revolved that have started against the radical measures of the communist regime. That too proved false. So there is no doubt that Iran concerned the Soviets. But I think their activity and their actions in Afghanistan was more narrowly defined. Now from United States standpoint, Iran also played a role, but with regard to Afghanistan I don't think that it affected it all that much. And by that I mean that the United States was overwhelmingly concerned with the events in Iran with the failure of the hostage rescue attempt. With the, and I mean everyone knows how preoccupied the United States was with that as such, during the hostage crisis. Since Afghanistan had been secondary, since the United States basically assumed that once the Soviets moved into an area they stayed put, since their concern was essentially with regard to Pakistan then the heightened sense of threat was to always buttressing Pakistan as much as possible and then in making life a little bit more difficult for the Soviets in Afghanistan. Was there any thought of pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan? I don't I really do not think so, not until 1985 or later. That is maybe a long answer but....
INTERVIEWER: What about the sort of , fears that you know fears that the Soviet Union might invade and the Americans plans to invade and the loss of the listening bases and that sort of stuff?