November 3, 1996

The Electronic Telegraph.
A race between terrorists and the Western powers for control of a huge cache
 of missiles is underway in the arms bazaars of Afghanistan.  The hunt, that
 has pitched the resources of intelligence services against terrorist groups
 and pariah states, is for an arsenal of shoulder-launched Stinger
 anti-aircraft missiles. The weapons were sent into Afghanistan by the CIA
 during the Soviet occupation and were a key factor in tipping the balance of
 firepower against the Red Army.  Now the West fears that, if they fall into
 the wrong hands, the Stingers could turn the tables in future conflicts or
 prove devastating if used by terror groups against civilian aviation. .....
 The CIA has spent more than £70 million in a belated and often bungled
 operation to buy back the missiles. As a result, the weapons are fetching up
 to £200,000 each on the Afghan black market - 10 times their official
 "retail" price - and have proved lucrative investments for their current
 owners, a mixture of warlords, black marketeers and drug barons. .... There
 is evidence that Afghan military commanders have been only too eager to sell
 them to embassies in Kabul such as the North Koreans' and the Iranians'. The
 two pariah states are believed to have bought 40. ....

"The Stinger is a  status symbol weapon and would be a significant weapon for any
terrorist  group," said Damon Bristow of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence
 Studies. "With little training it can bring down any aircraft. The CIA has
 botched its shopping trip in Afghanistan."  When the CIA first sent covert
 shipments of missiles to Afghanistan through Pakistan in June 1986, it kept a
 check of their serial numbers and distribution. But at least 1,000 had been
 sent by April 1988 and the Americans now admit to having no idea what became
 of most of them. ..... "The Stingers do need to be maintained, and would need
 battery packs and trigger mechanisms checked," said Tony Cullen, editor of
 Jane's Land Based Air Defence. "But if they have been kept properly the
 weapons will still function. They were designed to be portable and withstand
 rough treatment. Their other attraction is that they are simple to use. You
 aim and fire. "  "The Israelis found Stingers held by Hizbollah, American
 Special Forces found the wreckage of some in Iranian patrol boats destroyed
 in helicopter attacks in the Gulf war and the Tamils have used them in the
 Sri Lankan civil war."  The FBI is still unsure whether a heat-seeking
 missile might have brought down TWA flight 800, the civilian airliner that
 crashed earlier this year in the sea near New York.