INTERVIEWER: I was wondering how much you know about Vance, you know different views between Vance and Brzezinski, is that something you could talk about? Different views about the Soviet intentions. I was just wondering what sorts of views are floating around the administration in 78/79 with regard to the Soviets intentions in Afghanistan?
DR CHARLES COGAN : There was certainly a diversion of opinion between the hard-liners in the Carter administration particularly Brzezinski who was the National Security Advisor, also Schlesinger who retained some authority hidden in the former Secretary of Defense former CIA director who was then Secretary of Energy. This hard line group favored a crack down in Iran, I think in retrospect some of them still feel that this might have worked. I personally don't think so because I think the monarchy was terminal, the Shah had no will. Vance and the shall we say the State Department in general I think looked towards the possibility of a smooth transition whereby the monarchy would cede some power to the dissidents who were considered to be not just Khomeini but moderates around him and there were some and this could be a successful transition to a parliamentary a constitutional monarchy, which turned out to be not the case, the country was engulfed by the Khomeini revolution. So when it came to Afghanistan and the following year, or in the same year, 79, I don't think that there was much opposition or difference within the government about doing something concerning Afghanistan and certainly after the Soviet invasion in December 1979, there was very little quarrel with undertaking a cover action in Afghanistan in contrast to the great dispute which went on for months over Iran. The hard-liners had their representative the Yukon commander General Heiser and communicating directly it was a really a bifurcated US policy that ended very badly in Iran.
INTERVIEWER: Right, could you talk us through the reason behind Brzezinski's visit to Pakistan and what the US was hoping to get from the Pakistanis at that stage?
DR CHARLES COGAN: When was this visit?
INTERVIEWER: It was just after the invasion I think Brzezinski then had his first visit to Pakistan by Brzezinski.
DR CHARLES COGAN: Well,
INTERVIEWER: Around the first time the CIA made contact, because it was thought of as the first period to set up possible conduit of aid
DR CHARLES COGAN : Well the CIA as I mentioned a moment ago had already set up a conduit of contacts from approximately July 1979 onwards. So this allowed for the reaction to be very swift. A presidential finding was signed I think on something like 30 December and the first arms when it arrived in Pakistan on the 10th of January, so this was an extremely swift reaction, because the conduit was already there and the visit of Brzezinski was certainly to reinforce the political level the new relationship, the reinforced relationship between the US and Pakistan.
INTERVIEWER: Why do you think Zia turned down the 400 million-dollar offer of Aid?
DR CHARLES COGAN: Zia in the early years of the war was quite concerned about the possible Soviet reaction against Pakistan. He had this metaphor that he used to use with Casey, that we have to keep the pot boiling but we can't let it boil over, we can't let it go too far. And I think he was anchored in this opinion and I think mostly people in Washington were too, until it became, until two things became apparent. Firstly that very considerable losses were being inflicted on the Russians, secondly the Russians had begun to alter their tactics in 84/85 and were inflicting considerable damage on the Mujaheddin and at that point people began thinking of new weapons. Not just weapons that could be explained away quote unquote as having come from the battle field, but weapons that would be effective against helicopter tactics of the Soviets and this led to the stinger, and the stingers came on stream operationally in September 86 in attack at "Jallalabah". But Zia until very late in the game was very cautious about possible Soviet moves there had been assassinations in the camps, there had been occasional Soviet air raids and I think he was concerned that Pakistan might have to pay a very heavy price so he didn't want to go too far.
INTERVIEWER: I mean what sort of different views were there in the Reagan administration about US policy in Afghanistan and the possible drawbacks of backing fundamentalist groups like the Mujaheddin?
DR CHARLES COGAN: The question of the US aid to fundamentalist groups has really become a well partially distorted first as a general comment I would say that not only the US but many of the regimes in the Middle East fought during the cold war in the 70 particularly that the fundamentalists or the Islamists could be used as a counterweight to the communists. So there was some thread of that, but the postmortem on the Afghan war which holds that the US gave all its aid to the fundamentalists, is simply wrong. The US tried to distribute arms fairly to the groups who were doing most of the fighting and the groups who were doing most of the fighting were the "Hapmajar" group which was fundamentalist and the "Masoud" group which was not, moderate fundamentalists shall we say. So we always tried to set a proportion with the Pakistanis. Now they were in charge and we could only do so much, we knew they didn't, they were not particularly fond of Masoud, but we tried to hold them to this. We tried to monitor the deliveries. So I think it is an exaggeration to say the least that the US supported the fundamentalists consciously during the Afghan war. The people who complain most against the US support of the fundamentalists were these various monarchical, or pro-monarchical groups who were not doing much of the fighting. And mainly in the "Pushton" areas.
INTERVIEWER: But didn'Pakistan really have an Agenda of their own with regard to which groups they wanted to favor?
DR CHARLES COGAN : Certainlythey had an Agenda of their own, we knew that the then chief of the Pakistani service, general Aktar, used to chide us as we'd haggle over these things and he'd say your friend Massoud. We knew that he wasn't terribly enamoured of this Tajic, who is not a "Poshtoon" but I think he dealt with us reasonably fairly and let me also say this, that the Pak service is probably the best organization in Pakistan in terms of carrying things out.
INTERVIEWER: But looking back doesn't it seem rather odd that the US were dealing with leaders like "Ekmatier" who was one of the most sort of radical Islamic anti-American leaders around?
DR CHARLES COGAN : On the question of "Hekmatie", the US of course didn't deal with him, the Paks were the ones who dealt with "Hekmatie". Our concern as in many other situations in the cold war, was who could carry the fight to the Russians? And Hekmatie at the time was certainly along with Masoud, the two most prominent commanders who were producing results against the Russians. So we had a very if you will, cold-blooded view of things. Our interest was in reversing the tables on the Russians, after Vietnam.
INTERVIEWER: I mean some Mujaheddin leaders have sort of said to us that they really feel that it was the unfair distribution of aid by Pakistan that really just added to the divisions in the Mujaheddin and really, really hindered them when it came to you know people like Masoud trying to make a cohesive fighting force, that really Pakistan was just out for their own, just to back a sort of more fundamentalist group really. I mean they said, they claim that they got a lot less aid, that some aid was cut off, how do you answer that?
DR CHARLES COGAN : As I say, I think we had a good experience dealing with the ISID, the Pak service. That doesn't mean that they didn't do some things behind our back that's quite possible, but I think that the people we dealt with, General Aktar and after he was killed, Hamid "Goole" were pretty straight. And I would say this, that the, percentages that were worked out with the Pakistanis I think the figures were something like 18% for each for "Hekmatie" and Masoud working down the "Nabi" group I think was about 10% and the Galani group, Mujadedde, they were about 5%. It worked out on a percentage basis, that was the rule of thumb we used and we tried to carry it out as best we could. We tried to monitor it, we weren't in any way consciously trying to split the Mujaheddin movement or create dissension within it. Our aim was to carry the fight to the Soviets.
INTERVIEWER: I mean how significant were the Senate pressure groups led by people like Charlie Wilson and Gordon Humphries in changing US policy towards Afghanistan?
DR CHARLES COGAN; Well in the US Congress there were people who had the which I think was off base that you could move in arms unilaterally into Afghanistan, airdrop them, this is just unrealistic. certain people such as Charlie Wilson, thought that we should disregard this notion of a phrase that is used in the CIA plausible denial and use weapons that couldn't credibly be explained as having come off the battle field and he was particularly interested in an anti-aircraft gun which was a rather expensive piece of weaponry called the Orlakan gun. And some were introduced into Afghanistan but they were not decisive, he did push the stinger too and others in Congress did and I think that the Stinger was very decisive.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think really that they were responsible for escalating the conflict and hardening attitudes against the UN settlement?
DR CHARLES COGAN : I don't think that the US escalation of the conflict hindered the UN settlement Russians do understand force and fortunately 86 I think it was Gorbachev came in and he was more conciliatory certainly than his predecessors and this led to the breaking of the impasse. Escalation of the war, arrival of Gorbachev on the scene. It appears to me that basically the trouble with as Gorbachev always said the trouble with the Reagan administration was actually trying to convince them that he was serious. It appears to me that Gorbachev was just not believed as being able, being serious in his offer of withdrawal.
DR CHARLES COGAN: I think that was true at the beginning it was Gorbachev was not taken seriously in his offers of withdrawal, nor was he taken seriously in his offers of disarmament, but gradually it became apparent that Gorbachev was somebody who could deal with certain people in the government were slow in coming around this view, but I think by the time of the Reykjavik summit it was clear that we had something going here and Gorbachev was certainly the key figure in ending the Cold war if he were not around at the time I don't think the Cold War would have ended as gracefully as it did.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that America's Vietnam experience in any way influenced US policy towards Afghanistan?
DR CHARLES COGAN : I think America's failure in Vietnam certainly was a powerful impulsion to carry a fight to the Soviets by means of a proxy war, and when it all came out in the end they lost about a quarter of what we lost in Vietnam. I think it was something like 58,000 US dead in Vietnam and 14,000 Soviet dead in Afghanistan. So in a sense it was, it was a payback. Or we viewed it that way.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that influenced policy towards Afghanistan?
DR CHARLES COGAN: Well the question of a come back after Vietnam only gradually took hold but by the time of the arrival of the Reagan administration and the evil empire speech it was clear that a great head of steam had been built up in the US over the failures of American policy in Vietnam and the disastrous war that we somehow got ourselves mired into and there was a great impulsion to turn the tables and get back our position of pre-eminence over the Russians which we had enjoyed for most of the Cold war until the late 70s.
INTERVIEWER: Right. I mean before the invasion of Afghanistan the US had consistently criticized Pakistan over its development of the nuclear deterrent and yet it was willing to give them an easy ride when it came to acting as a conduit for military aid to the Mujaheddin, why?
DR CHARLES COGAN: The question of the US letting up the pressure on the Pak nuclear program during the Afghan war although in official policy statements I'm sure this would not be emphasized, nevertheless I think it was, it was a matter of convenience and there was a certain degree of truth in it.
INTERVIEWER: I mean do you actually think that the US stance actually helped Pakistan achieve the goal?
DR CHARLES COGAN: Pakistan did advance to some degree in the development of nuclear weapons in the 70s and 80s, since the end of the Afghan war, perhaps you could say disingenuously the US has become more vigilant on the question of Pak nuclear capability and I think the US is keeping a very close eye on the possibility of nuclear confrontation in the sub-continent. There was the Gates mission in may/June of 1990 which helped to dampen down the possibility which seemed to be at least remotely there at the time that there might be a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India.