868.00/3–1245: Telegram

Mr. Alexander C. Kirk, Political Adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater, to the Secretary of State

946. For the Acting Secretary. In reply to a message from SAC to Scobie requesting him to release certain troops in Greece for use elsewhere Scobie has informed Alexander that the reoccupation of Greece in stage 1 has proceeded far better than he had hoped and he has now collected the majority of the arms surrendered by ELAS in the stage 1 area. The authority of the Greek Government is not by any means yet reestablished but the Greek Government provincial civil officials are now reinstated. At least half the population remains uncooperative but the atmosphere is cold, and until it thaws completely, the machinery of the Greek Government will not be able to operate. At present the entire situation is extremely delicately balanced. Without another upheaval it will only be balanced British way if confidence in the British and confidence in the Greek Government and its ability to govern in reality in the provinces is retained. Any withdrawal of British troops would immediately be noticed and would seriously shake public confidence and thus set things back. This must be accepted as a fact and taken under advisement. A tremendous risk would be run and irreparable harm may well be done if this should happen before the national guard and provincial government are firmly in seat in area of stage 1 and British have reentered the areas of stage 2.

Scobie held a meeting with his divisional commanders in order that the degree of risk to be run at the beginning of stage 2 could be judged and for purpose of getting their personal opinions at the stability in their respective areas. They unanimously agreed that the situation would be stabilized only if the British troops, not counting [Page 119] those who are needed for advancing into stage [2], should until April 15 remain undisturbed. If steady progress is made in present situation, Scobie stated, he felt justified in recommending to SAC on March 17 that on April 7 certain troops could start to withdraw. If the withdrawal were made earlier it would be such a blow to confidence that it might result in the area of stage which has forces remaining under Scobie’s command, never being entered and therefore only mockery would result in the area in stage 1 controlled by the Greek Government.

Scobie stated he realized fully the urgent necessity for withdrawing certain troops which he would recommend as soon as possible but pointed out that if this attempted before April 7 British would be running a very grave risk. He strongly recommended that SAC not withdraw troops prematurely as it might result in a major commitment in Greece.

For security reasons we are not reporting numbers or identity of troops involved or for what purpose SAC wishes to withdraw forces from Greece.