S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167, “North Africa”

Draft Policy Statement Prepared by the National Security Council Staff for the National Security Council Planning Board1


Statement of Policy Proposed by the National Security Council on the Position of the United States with Respect to North Africa*

general considerations

1. North Africa is of great political and strategic importance because of its geographic position, its sites for military bases, its position with respect to transportation routes, its natural resources, its manpower, its special relationships with Western powers and the Moslem world, and the possible impact of its problems on the future of the United Nations organization.

2. These political and strategic factors are so important to the over-all position of the free world that it is in the security interest [Page 151] of the United States to take whatever appropriate measures it can, in the light of its other commitments, to assist in the achievement of its objectives in the area.

3. Currently, the danger in this area to the security of the free world arises not from the threat of direct Soviet military attack but from instability arising primarily from the conflict between native nationalism and the French position, coupled with the effect of political developments in the area on the policies and actions of other countries, particularly in the Moslem world.

4. Current acute situations affecting United States interests are: (a) the controversy between France and Tunisia, (b) the controversy between France and Morocco, and (c) the present weakness of the Libyan Government.


5. The objectives of the United States with respect to the area comprising North Africa are:

To insure that the area and its resources are available to the United States and its allies for use in strengthening the free world.
To prevent the extension of Soviet influence and communist ideology within the area.
To increase political stability within the area.
To insure the association of the peoples of the area with the free world.

courses of action

The Area as a Whole

6. The United States should seek to create an atmosphere which will facilitate obtaining base and transit rights where required within the area, and upon the threat of and during general hostilities, the right to conduct military operations in the area.

7. As a means of diminishing the threat to Western interests posed by nationalist demands and by political instability in the area, the United States should make the most practicable use of economic, technical and military assistance in Libya, and, through the French, in Tunisia and Morocco to influence the process of political changes in a manner that will affect the least compromise of Western interests and will offer the maximum promise of stable non-communist regimes.

French North Africa

8. The United States policy toward Morocco and Tunisia should not envisage premature self-government but continue to be a “middle-of-the-road” policy, designed (a) to avoid undermining the position of responsibility to our NATO partner, France, in this area; (b) to prevent threats to our own security interests there; (c) to retain [Page 152] the respect of the North African peoples; and (d) to avoid damage to our position with the Arab and Asian states.

[8. The United States policy towards Tunisia and Morocco should be designed with the primary objective of preserving our security interests in those areas. Such a policy would not envisage the premature establishment of self-government. It would avoid undermining the position of responsibility to our NATO partner, France. Insofar as consistent with these priority elements of policy, the United States should take steps to retain the respect of the North African peoples and to avoid damage to our position with the Arab and Asian states.]

9. The United States should continue to support the French presence in French North Africa and should make every appropriate effort to dispel unfounded French suspicions that United States policy involves the displacement of French interests by American interests.

10. Such United States support for France in French North Africa should be qualified by continued insistence that France, in its proper role under existing treaties, should implement adequate reforms which do not threaten essential French interests yet ease the nationalist pressure in the area.

11. The United States should take the position that reforms are primarily a matter for settlement between the parties and should continue to urge the parties to the Tunisian and Moroccan controversies to pursue settlements on a bilateral basis. Furthermore the United States should continue to support the principle that the United Nations is competent to discuss such problems.


12. The United States should (a) try to avoid actions which might weaken the British and French positions in Libya; (b) concert with the United Kingdom and France to the greatest practicable extent; and (c) be prepared to assume an increased share of responsibility towards Libya, particularly where this appears necessary to safeguard the substantial United States security interests in that country.

13. The United States should be ready to provide promptly appropriate economic, technical and possibly military assistance, if necessary to prevent the development of any political vacuum that might result from failure or inability of the interested Western European powers to assure the Western orientation of Libya.

14. Correspondingly, the United States in its relations with the Libyan Government and the Western Powers should exercise its influence so as to prevent the weakening or disintegration of the unity of the Libyan state achieved by United Nations decision.

  1. This paper was transmitted to the NSC Planning Board by NSC Executive Secretary Lay on Aug. 18, 1953, under cover of a memorandum which indicated that it was a revision by the NSC Staff Assistants of a policy statement dated Mar. 16, 1953.
  2. For the purpose of this paper, North Africa includes French Morocco, Spanish Morocco, Tangier, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Defense–JCS alternative par. 8. [Footnote and brackets in the source text.]