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Massoud: U.S. forgot its 'moral responsibility' in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- Ahmed Shah Massoud was one of the most well-known Afghan commanders in the 10-year war against the Soviet Union occupation. He became known as the "Lion of Panjshir" for the battles he led against Soviet troops in the Panjshir Valley.

When the Soviets withdrew in 1989, he emerged as one of the commanders as the former Afghan mujahedeen split into groups and fought a civil war for control of the country. When the fundamentalist Taliban Islamic militia captured Kabul and gain control of most of the country in 1996, Massoud, an ethnic Tajik, fled to the hills of northern Afghanistan. There, he commanded a coalition of ethnic Uzbek and Tajik forces known as the Northern Alliance that control 5 percent of the country and are fighting against the Taliban.

But Massoud is no longer the leader. Two men, posing as journalists, exploded a bomb hidden inside a television camera on September 9, mortally wounding Massoud. The Northern Alliance alleges that attack, which came just two days before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, was ordered by suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is the main suspect behind the September 11 attacks.

Below is the transcript of an interview of Massoud that was done for CNN's Cold War documentary series. The interview was conducted via a translator.

CNN: I just wonder if you could ask Commander Massoud what life was like in Afghanistan before the war?

MASSOUD: Before the breakout of war in Afghanistan, there was peace and the armed forces controlled the whole country. Life was calm, and the young generation was in favor of transformation: they were not happy with the situation.

CNN: Why did things change? Who was responsible for it?

MASSOUD: As I mentioned, the majority of the young generation and under-ground parties, undoubtedly ... even the left parties, the Islamic parties and those parties which had liberal ideas, and all the people of Afghanistan, wanted change. But the communists had relations with foreigners, and they also wanted to take part in changes and to change the situation in their favor. And also, in these changes and transformations, the aims and objectives of the former Soviet Union ... and the other main issue was the inner conflict between the royal family. During the period of Zahir Shah (the last king of Afghanistan, deposed in 1973), Zahir had problems with Doud (Zahir's cousin who Zahir had forced to resign prime minister in 1963) ... and he (Doud) wanted to become president after Zahir. And the people of Afghanistan also wanted to bring change in Afghanistan. And just the inner conflict within the royal family caused (problems) ... and also Daud carried out a military coup and he overthrew the king and took power.

CNN: Why were you opposed to the PDPA? (the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan)

MASSOUD: Before the communists took power, everybody knew that they were the puppet of Russia. All the people of Afghanistan knew from Peter's time that the Soviet Union had the objective of reaching warm water; and also, the Soviet Union wanted to occupy the region's countries and they wanted to follow their own objectives. They were atheists, and their ideas and their ideology were not in conformity with our culture. And gradually, the people of Afghanistan got to know their faces and people knew that, except for disaster and tragedy, they could not bring anything for the benefit of the people. And also, the people of Afghanistan had the memory of the former Soviet Union's government in the Central Asian republics, and they had a negative impression of the former Soviet Union.

CNN: What was it about the reforms that really he objected to, or people objected to?

MASSOUD: Part of these reforms ... it was not in conformity with our culture. For example, when the communists took power, they exerted pressure on the people, on old women, to take part in literacy courses. This was something the people of Afghanistan were not used to. Besides that, they exerted pressure on the people; the communists went to the villages and they wanted to register the people, and they forced them... especially they wanted to ask the men to tell t to give the names of their wives. It's not according to our culture to ask women's names to register them for literacy courses. And also the land reforms, they had their special objectives: they wanted to just use these people who had land to struggle for the communists. And the communists extrajudicially (illegally) captured and arrested the people, and executed them without trial. As a result of these actions of the communists, finally the people of Afghanistan rose up against them and struggled. And another matter that I would like to mention (is that) when the communists took power, they wanted to inculcate their godless, atheist ideas into people. This was their motto, but the people of Afghanistan knew their true faces.

CNN: How did the negative impact of all these reforms contribute to the creation of the mujahedeen?

MASSOUD: As I already mentioned, the people of the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan did not have a good memory of the former Soviet Union. And secondly, their own actions, their own deeds also resulted in the people of Afghanistan (wanting to get) rid of them and struggling against them. And I myself entered the Panjshir, and I had no effect on the Panjshir people. And when I entered from Nuristan (a province in Northern Afghanistan) to Panjshir, I didn't have money with me, and when I reached the Panjshir, and this was a base where the people knew that they could launch a struggle against the Russians. And I talked with the people, and they prepared and expressed their readiness to struggle against the communists. All the groups came to me at night; and as I mentioned, I had nothing, not even a gun. Young and old got ready - even scholars, the young generation. The peasants and workers gave their support and all of them came to me and they (asked) me that I also organize them and prepare them for an uprising. And all the pressure of the communists on the people resulted in these things.

CNN: Could you just explain a bit about how fighting and dying relates to God and the jihad?

MASSOUD: As I mentioned before about the communists, they are godless, atheists. And besides this, they were a puppet of foreigners, they were cruel, they oppressed the people, because the people accounted themselves righteously. And from the religious point of view, fighting against the communists ... if someone is dying they (say) they are "in the path of God," and if he is a martyr, then he (has achieved) martyrdom. In both cases, ... we will fulfil our duty in the face of God and in the face of the people of Afghanistan.

CNN: Right. What do you remember of December 27, 1979, when the Red Army entered Afghanistan?

CNN: On that day, I was with some of my groups in the valley of Panjshir, and I wanted to switch on Radio Afghanistan. And when I switched on and found Radio Afghanistan, suddenly I heard the voice of Karmal (Babrak Karmal was installed as Afghanistan's communist leader when the Soviets invaded) saying something bad about Hafizullah Amin (the Afghan communist leader who was killed when the Soviets invaded) and I was surprised: how had it happened that the situation had changed in Kabul? I switched on to another station, and again Karmal was on the radio, and again we found out from other radio stations that Karmal had taken power with the help of Russia, and I finally knew what was happening. And then I kept in touch with the scholars, with the people of Afghanistan ... and really that day, I tell you I was not disappointed, I was very happy, because the Russians occupied Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan after that knew that they were occupying Afghanistan and they were aggressive troops, and I believed in the people of Afghanistan resisting against this until the last drop of their blood and all the aggressors had been defeated in Afghanistan, and I believed that the Russians would also be defeated. And I told my friends: "I believe from this time that I am successful."

CNN: What struck you about the Russians' initial military tactics, the first time that you saw them?

MASSOUD: Their first offensive was on Panjshir in spring, and we also came across Russians at that time. I was not at that time in Panjshir. And those groups who were in Panjshir ... the Russians suffered many casualties. And after fighting the Russians, we had a discussion, and when I asked my colleagues "What was the result of this fighting, and how did you fight against the Russians? What did you see?", all of them told us: "We thought that the Russians were very strong and their tactics were very strong." But the colleagues told me "They are not such good fighters -- they just made their column and they launched their offensive, and from behind, we started our firing." And they (entered) the valley, and we could one by one to take under our target (pick them out one by one)." It was propaganda that the Red Army was very strong and terrible, and when our friends came across them they found out that if that's how strong the Russians were, they were very happy.

CNN: (The Russian) military tactics changed, and how did he manage to cope with that?

MASSOUD: The Russian tactics changed very slowly; they only thought about their mistakes at the end of their fighting, and when they changed their tactics, we also changed our tactics. First their tactic was to bombard, and they launched their offensive with tanks. We were around the mountains at that time, and they started to use helicopters to deliver their troops. We also started to change our tactics at that time and tried to put our arms and ammunition in places where the Russians wouldn't be able to seize them, and we distributed all our troops on mountain tops, and with small mobile groups we moved and started our fighting against the Russians and took the initiative from the Russians and inflicted heavy blows on them in the Panjshir Valley.

We had very severe fighting with the Russians, and we had a temporary ceasefire with them, and at this time we started our reinforcement in the northern provinces. This was a very good year; and then the Russians again launched a huge offensive and brought very large troops there and also spread mines everywhere and cut off the routes and bombarded different positions. They wanted to bring quite a lot of their troops to the valley, and I knew about their aims and objectives. Then I told my colleagues ... "let them come" But it was not simple duty. And every day at that time, two reconnaissance aircraft flew over the Panjshir Valley, and they followed us step by step. We wanted to deceive the enemy and we resisted against the Russians. Before the start of fighting, we also engaged in some formation fighting, and at that time I had 3,000 guns. Twenty-four days before the fighting, I asked the people of the valley to evacuate the valley, and thousands of people replied positively to our request. And one day before the launching of the Russian offensive, on the excuse that we would like to launch our fighting in the northern provinces, we retreated our forces, and our fighters fought very well in the northern provinces. One day before the Russians started their offensive, we transferred thousands of mujahedeen along the valley, and they descended their troops, and we also spread thousands of miles around. When the troops descended, everywhere they came across anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. From the informational point of view and from the tactical point of view, our troops did very well, and the Russians became like mad. And in Parvan, there also broke out fighting against the Russians. They searched for our groups by helicopter, but we managed to inflict heavy blows on the Russians. At that time, the weather conditions were very good, and we intensified our mobile fighting and activities against Russia.

After the first conflict we had with the Russians, when the Russians suffered a reverse, people realized that they could resist against the Red Army. Everybody, every country feared the Red Army at that time, but as a result of our first resistance, the people of Afghanistan knew that we could resist against the Red Army.

CNN: Could he just talk us through some of the human suffering that he experienced because of the war, the atrocities?

MASSOUD: One of the negative issues (was) their mass killing, and they bombarded villages, residential areas. Old men, women and children were killed by the Russians. Naturally it affected everybody, every human being. When the Red Army suffered reverses and casualties, they killed young and old indiscriminately, even animals, and I myself was an eyewitness of an event. In one place, the people resisted against the Russians, and when I went there I saw the killing of the people: women, men and even animals. In one case, the Russians also poured petrol on people's bodies and burned them. It was very tragic. Another thing that affected the Russians was that when the people realize that the Russians would launch an offensive, and also the Russians bombarded during the day, people wanted to evacuate their villages, and whatever they had, their belongings, they took with them. It was really a very negative action.

CNN: It's obvious that as the war progressed, the Russians changed their tactics, they became more brutal... what did he think was behind the tactics of destroying these villages completely, what were the Russians trying to do, do you think?

MASSOUD: They wanted to defeat the spirit of the people and to defeat the struggle of the people. People again got (together) against the Russians and they strongly resisted them.

CNN: How did the mujahedeen treat Soviet prisoners, and how did the Red Army treat captured mujahedeen?

MASSOUD: Honestly, our attitude was very humane, and I don't remember even having killed one Russian soldier. When we captured Russian soldiers, we just took them to the prison.

CNN: How did you treat Soviet prisoners, and how did the Red Army treat mujahedeen?

MASSOUD: The Afghan attitude to the Russian prisoners was very good. We had some Russian prisoners, and we released them and they went back to their homes. On the contrary, the attitude of the opposition was very inhumane, and when they captured our soldiers, they killed them. Some of them were alive, but they were under oppression, under their pressure.

When I entered the Panjshir for the first time, there was an uprising. And during two days we managed to surround the enemy forces and we captured their troops. Also, some Afghan armed forces came into the valley. And after a few days, we could manage our fighting against the enemy.

From the tactical point of view, it was wrong to fight in front with the enemy. The irregular fighting was not in our favor. The people were new and they were not properly trained. And the second time I wanted to fight, after the first defeat, we collected some other people and we pledged we would fight against our enemy until the last drop of our blood, and we would liberate our country. It was a group of about 15 people, and we swore to God Almighty that we would fight. And I also requested them to observe all the new orders, and that it was necessary to be very good, to receive training. And when I got all these pledges and some training, I set up some other bases in the valley. I started from there, and we started our fighting, using new opportunities, new tactics, and we continued until the collapse of the regime.

CNN: How effective was the Stinger really? (The Stinger missile was a U.S. shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapon that allowed the Afghans attack Soviet helicopters and other aircraft.)

MASSOUD: Stinger was partly very effective, and also it avoided enemy aircraft bombardment, and it was especially very effective against the helicopters, although generally speaking it didn't change the whole war. From beginning to end, I had eight Stingers, and we just fired two of them. When we fired one of the Stingers, we brought the aircraft down, and the second one did not hit the aircraft. I had six Stingers until recently.

CNN: Do you think the Americans' arms made a difference to you?

MASSOUD: The first issue was that the people of Afghanistan had their motives against the Russians, and they accepted the casualties, and this was the main reason for our uprising against Russia. And the help rendered to the people of Afghanistan, of course it was not ineffective.

CNN: Many of the Pakistanis have told us that the Pakistanis distributed the aid evenly, fairly across the mujahedeen. How does he feel about that?

MASSOUD: This is not true: the arms were not distributed fairly. Pakistan just kept in view its future interests. As I already mentioned, they gave us eight Stingers. During two years, Pakistan cut off all financial and military equipment for us. Hekmatyar (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was a fundamentalist Islamic mujahedeen commander) had sincere relations with the Pakistani generals, with ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's intelligence agency), and Hekmatyar could take most of these arms and ammunition. And Pakistan also wanted someone who could just fulfill and implement the Pakistani's interests in Afghanistan. That was Hekmatyar, and Pakistani generals thought that after Afghanistan, the matter of the Central Asian countries would be very important, just to have influence on the Central Asian republics, and also they wanted to bring about and implement their objectives through the Islamic ideology. And Hekmatyar also thought that he was the leader of Islamic countries, and they wanted to use him as a springboard to achieve their goals and objectives. It was one of the main issues of the Pakistani generals that Hekmatyar should remain and should take power. Fortunately, this plan was not fulfilled, and the communist regime collapsed, not by Hekmatyar but by us. And after the victory of the mujahedeen, they started fighting against us. And when they became disappointed with Hekmatyar, they brought the Taliban into existence, and again they wanted to turn Afghanistan into a springboard and (deal with) the other countries through the Taliban and also influence the regional countries. And this assistance was not fairly (distributed) -- all of the ammunition and arms were given to Hekmatyar.

CNN: I just wondered if he could talk about a few examples of the favoritism that struck him, how the favoritism showed itself. And what effect does he think this favoritism had on the mujahedeen as a fighting force?

MASSOUD: For example, the modern weapons at first were sent to Hekmatyar's commanders, and it was Hekmatyar who was able to use these weapons. Hekmatyar first got the Stinger missiles, and his commanders received modern artillery. It was a unilateral distribution of arms, and Hekmatyar also wanted to exterminate other parties and other people so as to avoid problems in the future. They also wanted to fan the internal fighting, and Hekmatyar thought that he would exterminate all his rivals. They were very optimistic, and they encouraged Hekmatyar by giving him arms and ammunition. Hekmatyar himself announced, after the collapse of the communist regime, that "I have ammunition and arms to fight on for 15 years," and he was able to continue the fighting after the collapse of the regime.

One of our problems during the fighting was (the existence of) different parties, and arms and ammunition were supplied to different parties. They also gave arms to different types of people -- for example, to scholars, to old men. They were distributing arms to (anyone who)claimed they were going to resist the communists, and the leaders didn't know who to give arms to. These people from different parties, with different views, with different ideas, (only shared their desire) to struggle against the Russians, and every party wanted to strengthen its position in this part or in that part of the country. And for example, in any one district there should be one commander from one party, but there existed 10 parties and 10 commanders, and every year there was a different commander from each party. For example, one was a scholar, one was young, one was illiterate, and with different views, with different programs. The main problem was how to convince these different parties to be united and to bring a system or order to regularly fight against Russia. On the other hand, Afghans are naturally independent and they want to be independent. When I wanted to bring everybody together and set up an administration and an army, I had problems. This was the main problem: different commanders, different parties. And at that time, the ethnic problem didn't exist as it does now; and gradually, slowly, with difficulties, with problems, we managed to convince the people that their interest was to be united. And this work in those parts was successful. And also, we started this work on those parts where the Russians exerted their pressure.

CNN: About these divisions ... I'm just wondering if some time during a battle, there was one particular incident that stands out in his mind as being the most frustrating, where the divisions came out, and he tried his utmost to try and unify them?

MASSOUD: The divisions among the mujahedeen were very damaging. When we wanted to fight against the Russians, Hezb-i-Islami (Hekmatyar's Islamic Party) at the same time wanted to disarm our groups. And when fighting broke out at that time, Hezb-i-Islami cut off all our supply routes and they didn't allow food-stuffs or ammunition and arms (through). Whenever the Russians wanted to launch an offensive to capture a place, the Hezb-i-Islami also exerted pressure on the same place, and they just wanted to defeat their rivals.

One of the factors which was... we tried to remove this division among the people of Afghanistan. At that time, I announced (a new organization) by the name of Supervisory Council, and I invited all the people of Afghanistan to come around and to cooperate with each other. Fortunately, this supervisory council was very useful, and we managed to prevent fighting in the northern provinces. Most of the commanders and parties came along and joined us, and we organized our forces and we carried out joint operations against the Russians. For example in the northern provinces ... for all these parties I organized commanders, and we launched joint operations when we launched an offensive ... and captured the members of (the Afghan communist army), and there were 13,000 militias, and all of us (operated) jointly. I organized them, and it was a very successful operation. In the whole of Afghanistan, when the matter of Kabul was raised, I also raised the issue of commanders. I invited all the commanders from all over Afghanistan to come along, and all operations should be carried out by coordination between all of these commanders. The different commanders were able to have several meetings and discussions on how to find a solution.

CNN: What did you think about the Geneva Peace Accords and the way that the Soviet withdrawal was handled?

MASSOUD: From my point of view, it was a historical mistake. It only paved the way for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, it was necessary to bring peace to Afghanistan. But when the Russians left Afghanistan, the communists remained (in power) in Afghanistan and bloodshed and destruction continued, and so this decision was not for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan. Perhaps (it meant) honor for some countries that 'we defeated the Soviet Union' but it was not for the benefit of our nation and the war still continued. This was what emanated from the Geneva Conference and from the Geneva Pact.

CNN: What does he think about the idea, or the United Nation's idea, of a coalition government, involving possibly the king? (Note: Former King Zahir is still alive and living in Italy) And does he think that the mujahedeen were actually ready for government at that stage?

MASSOUD: In this regard, it was not serious; it was not (intended) that the matter should be solved. My impression is: Pakistan wanted just to bring their puppet into power, like Hekmatyar, and they didn't want to bring peace to Afghanistan.

CNN: I'm just trying to get an idea of all the sorts of things that were being talked about at the time with regard to coalitions, how he feels about Najibullah (the last Afghan communist leader who was executed by the Taliban), the king, and how he feels about the mujahedeen's role within that. I'm just trying to get an idea of all the things that were up for grabs at that time.

MASSOUD: From my point of view, the main defects of that time was ... just depends on (Pakistan) and on several leaders. Those leaders had already proved that they could not ... especially their relations with those commanders that (were in the field), they were in relation, and it was very successful, but unfortunately it was the case that these efforts didn't come out from (Pakistan), and just from the framework of these leaders. For example, when we kept in touch with (a Pakistani diplomat) who at that time had shuttle diplomacy between Kabul and (Pakistan), I suggested that "I would like to see you in Afghanistan," and his reply was, "I haven't got time at this time. After the matter is finished, I would like to see you." When Najib collapsed, also it remained like that.

CNN: I just wondered now... the last question is about the Cold War. Looking back now at the 10 years of the war, how does all the death and destruction make you feel, given that the conflict is going on in Afghanistan today, and the role that the superpowers had in fueling it? What does he think of the Americans, and what does he think of the Cold War being played out in Afghanistan?

MASSOUD: From my point of view, it's evident that the Afghan people, by shedding their blood, prevented the communists (from remaining in power) in Afghanistan, and also it resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union and their empire. Western countries, especially the United States of America, forgot Afghanistan, they forgot their moral responsibility before the people of Afghanistan. When they had achieved their goals and objectives, and they had achieved their revenge on Vietnam and their own objectives, they forgot Afghanistan and they left Afghanistan alone (for whatever) ISI, Pakistan wanted to do in Afghanistan. And unfortunately, war is still going on in Afghanistan, and Afghan is killing Afghan. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, we thought that our people would reconstruct the country, but still the suffering of people is going on. And morally, I account this as the responsibility of Western countries, especially the United States of America.

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