268. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5911/1


General Considerations

Importance of the Area

1. The accelerated political evolution in Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, and resultant tensions, have a major bearing on U.S. security interests:

Northwest Africa is strategically important as it forms the southern flank of Western Europe and fronts on the Western Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
The air bases and the naval and air communications facilities we maintain in Morocco will remain for some years important factors in our military strength. We also maintain a VOA relay station in Morocco.
The Algerian rebellion is a divisive factor in the non-Communist world. It serves to weaken NATO military strength in Europe, and the Western political influence in Africa and Asia. The conflict also contributes to pressure for evacuation of Western forces, especially from Morocco, but also from Tunisia and Libya.
Events in North Africa have had a profound impact upon the international standing and internal politics of France. These events have also been a major cause of France’s diminished contribution to NATO.
Events in North Africa also have a direct bearing on issues arising in the Middle East and elsewhere in Africa. U.S. actions in this region are widely interpreted as evidence of our intentions and capabilities with respect to other dependent or newly-independent peoples.

2. The crucial dilemma confronting U.S. policy is how to reconcile our need to support a major ally, France, with the need to accommodate to the nationalist tide in the area and to establish a stable satisfactory relationship with the new states. This dilemma is most acute with [Page 616] respect to the Algerian problem where we are under increasing pressure from both France and the Asian-African states to support their respective positions.

Tunisia and Morocco

3. Our most acute concrete problem is how to continue the use of our bases in Morocco.2 Moroccan policy now is to secure the evacuation of all foreign forces, and severe diplomatic pressure is being exerted by Morocco for progress by France, Spain and the United States toward this objective, especially a timetable for complete withdrawal. It would be extremely difficult politically for us to cope with Moroccan violence against the bases, interference with supply, or a formal Moroccan demand that we evacuate. We have privately recognized the “principle of eventual evacuation,” and in September 1958 offered to settle for a five-year minimum tenure. The King subsequently countered with an offer of “two or three years”. Prime Minister Ibrahim has recently indicated preparedness to conclude a formal public agreement on the whole base question if agreement on an overall time limit can be reached. Whatever specific course of events develops, the forced evacuation of bases in Morocco, even on a piecemeal basis, will have an effect on U.S. relations with France and Spain and on the future of the U.S. world-wide base system.

4. The USAF bases in Morocco play a highly important role in the maintenance of our strategic global deterrent and in the execution of the SAC mission. It is expected that the importance of these bases will continue for an indefinite time. Relocation of the aircraft on these bases to existing bases outside Morocco would produce a more dangerous concentration of our deterrent strength, and reproduction of comparable facilities elsewhere could be accomplished only at great cost. In addition to the USAF bases, the naval communications facility at Port Lyautey is a primary link in the world-wide naval communications system. There is a continuing military requirement for this facility.

5. French security forces have withdrawn from the USAF bases in Morocco, and the French flag no longer flies over them. The French administrative services which formerly performed an intermediary role between the U.S. bases and the Moroccan economy are being disbanded. We have offered to fly the Moroccan flag at the USAF bases and to accept Royal Moroccan Army personnel to perform certain external security functions, as a symbol of Moroccan sovereignty. However, France continues to claim title to the real estate on which our bases are situated, and the Franco-American agreements of [Page 617] 1950–513 call for relinquishment to France of the fixed installations at these bases when the United States evacuates them.

6. De Gaulle has moved toward establishing improved relations between France and the new states of Tunisia and Morocco, but basic problems remain unsettled in the political, military, and economic fields. Despite the continued existence of a considerable basis for cooperation with France, the pernicious effect of the Algerian conflict and related French policies in North Africa seem likely to cause continued strains in these relations unless a solution is found.

7. The prestige and stability of the Tunisian and Moroccan governments are threatened in varying degrees by serious economic and political difficulties:

The unity and common purpose which characterized Moroccan politics and society in the aftermath of independence have been seriously disturbed by such related developments as tribal unrest, a profound split in the ruling Istiqlal Party, and failure to institute many necessary governmental and economic reforms. Thus the task of insuring national unity and order has developed on the moderate and Western-oriented King Mohamed V. Drawing on his great popularity and his considerable political acumen he has so far managed to prevent the spread of extremist political forces and doctrines in Morocco without alienating important political and social factions.
Although Tunisia is unified behind moderate and relatively pro-Western President Bourguiba, his government’s prestige and stability are threatened by forces primarily of external origin. On the one hand, Algerian militants, operating on Tunisian soil, have clashed frequently with Tunisian security forces and resent Bourguiba’s advocacy of proceeding toward an Algerian settlement through conciliatory and gradual steps. On the other hand, the French have pursued Algerians into Tunisian territory, and have informed the Tunisians that French occupancy of the naval base at Bizerte is not negotiable. Bourguiba has managed with great skill to consolidate his domestic political position. However, Tunisia faces serious economic difficulties, and if the government should fail in its appeal to nationalist sentiment, serious opposition would probably develop, especially in the labor unions and among Tunisia’s younger elements.

8. Both Morocco and Tunisia remain heavily dependent upon trade with France and French capital controls much of the national industry, particularly that of Morocco. About 60 per cent of Moroccan and Tunisian trade is with France, benefiting from preferential tariff or quota arrangements and from outright subsidy to goods produced mainly by French interests in those countries. French military expenditures in these countries have continued to be substantial, but declining. Both Morocco and Tunisia are less developed areas with low standards of living, chronic unemployment and occasional food [Page 618] shortages. Since France has virtually ceased direct economic development assistance to these countries, both have been relying upon the United States for the bulk of such aid, and until France can be persuaded to resume aid on conditions acceptable to them, or until other Western sources can be encouraged to provide more assistance, Morocco and Tunisia will almost certainly continue to look to the United States as the principal supplier of development assistance. There is little doubt that in the absence of effective outside aid—either direct or indirect—from some source, these states would become much more prone to social disorder and extremist political influence.

9. For its part, France hopes to maintain a presence in Morocco and Tunisia and is anxious to protect its investments, the rights and well-being of European residents, and French cultural influence. Perhaps more important, it wishes to preserve its military bases which the French consider important to the security of France as well as Algeria and the French Community in Africa, and to France’s influence elsewhere in the world. It is also anxious to prevent Morocco and Tunisia from aiding the Algerian rebels, but has not succeeded in doing so. France wishes to be the principal supplier of equipment to the Tunisian and Moroccan armies, but its political difficulties with these countries have caused them to seek other sources of arms. The United States and the United Kingdom have endeavored to forestall acceptance of Soviet Bloc arms offers by efforts to have the arms needs of these countries met from friendly Western sources. We are providing military and police equipment to Tunisia, and have agreed in principle to provide arms to Morocco.

10. Serious difficulties may develop between Morocco and Spain. Spain retains the Mediterranean port cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the small Ifni areas as enclaves in Moroccan Territory. To protect these interests and those of its nationals residing in Morocco proper Spain retains forces in the enclaves and also in Moroccan Territory. Morocco is pressing for the complete evacuation of Spanish troops and has asserted claims to the enclaves as well as to the Spanish Sahara. Franco, on the other hand is attempting to avoid evacuation and may be under considerable pressure from the Army in this respect.


11. French forces involving about 400,000 troops have not so far succeeded in stamping out the Algerian rebellion which began in 1954. Despite recent successes, intermittent terrorism and guerrilla activity continue. The fact that Morocco and Tunisia provide safehavens for the Algerian Army of Liberation (ALN) and facilitate or countenance the passage of arms and other support has contributed significantly to the Algerian rebellion. Morocco and Tunisia continue to have difficulties with Algerian militants but neither government is [Page 619] likely to adopt policies running completely counter to FLN objectives, in view of widespread public support of the rebel cause. Although the rebels retain a force of 15–20,000 in Algeria, supply difficulties, the loss of key commanders, and the increased effectiveness of the border barriers, have somewhat impaired rebel morale and have contributed to some dissension in the rebel movement. On the other hand, the Algerians retain considerable para-military capabilities, and it appears likely that France will have to maintain a large army in Algeria for the foreseeable future.

12. Politically the Algerian nationalist movement has expanded during the conflict both in size and strength and has undoubtedly gained the sympathy and support of an important number of Moslems in Algeria, even though only a small number take active part in the fighting. The great mass of the population may be more war-weary or apathetic than militantly anti-French; some Algerian Moslems have become resentful of ALN intimidation and some degree of confidence in De Gaulle’s personal intentions has been expressed in Moslem quarters. Nonetheless there is probably an increasing belief in a national identity of some sort for Algeria of which the FLN continues, in the eyes of most Moslems, to be the sole organized proponent. The Algerian nationalist movement has gained in international status since the formation in the fall of 1958 of the “Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic” (PGAR). The Arab states back the Algerian cause, and several other countries (notably Communist China) have also recognized the PGAR. The Asian-African nations look on Algeria as a major colonial issue and will continue to press for UN internvention so long as no settlement is reached.

13. The Algerian rebellion remains France’s most critical problem. Although the French Government can probably continue to finance the Algerian military campaign in its present dimensions almost indefinitely, the over-all Algerian effort, which has resulted in tieing down over half of the French ground forces, represents an enormous drain on French resources and is a source of political instability. Moreover it would appear inevitable that Algeria will emerge with a considerable degree of autonomy, if not eventual independence. General De Gaulle announced his future program for Algeria on September 16, 1959.4 It promised self-determination to the Algerians through a referendum after pacification; this offer went far beyond that made by any previous French Government. That referendum would offer the choice of secession, assimilation into France, or a large measure of internal autonomy. The announcement has been praised by the U.S. Government, in particular for its promise of self-determination. If implemented [Page 620] in a manner permitting freedom of political expression in Algeria, it would be consistent with our hopes for a liberal and equitable solution which we could support.

14. De Gaulle has made clear his belief that complete independence would not be to the advantage of the Algerians. Instead he appears to favor an autonomy under which an Algeria would emerge whose internal status and ties with France would be determined in consultation with representatives of Algeria’s various ethnic groups. Although not completely spelled out, De Gaulle’s offer of self-determination has given rise to new hopes for a restoration of peace in Algeria. It appears to have the support of most French but is being attacked by the extremes of right and left. The rightist and nationalist elements of the European population in Algeria, which played a large role in the events of May 13, 1958, oppose it. While there has been no open opposition from the military, some Army leaders are agitating against a liberal solution.5

15. The PGAR (Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic) after a period of considerable hesitation during which it consulted with Algerian resistance military leaders and weighed the reactions of the U.S. and other governments, especially those of the Arab states, announced on September 28 that “as director of the Algerian resistance and liberation army” it “is ready to enter into talks with the French Government in order to discuss the political and military conditions of a cease-fire and the conditions and guarantees for application of self-determination”.

16. The PGAR statement is not exactly responsive to that of De Gaulle. The acceptance of self-determination through the electoral process by the leaders of the rebellion does, however, represent progress and may lead to undercover discussions between the French and FLN representatives, looking towards a cease-fire and the implementation of the De Gaulle program.6

17. Resolution of the problem is made particularly difficult because of its unusual political, economic, and social aspects. In particular, the presence of over a million persons of European descent permanently residing in Algeria (out of a total population of about ten [Page 621] million) and owning the majority of businesses and productive land contributes to making this problem so difficult to resolve, even though their influence has been recently curbed by De Gaulle and the Army in an effort to convince Algeria’s Moslems of France’s good will. The increasing discoveries of petroleum and natural gas in the Sahara and the strategic location of Algeria add to the complexity; the French appear determined to maintain control of the development of the Saharan economy regardless of what modus vivendi eventuates. The current involvement of the French military in the Algerian issue poses a further and perhaps the most serious problem. The explosive nature of the issue was clearly demonstrated by the political upheaval of May 13 which brought an end to the Fourth Republic.

18. De Gaulle’s statement has strengthened the growing sentiment in France in favor of a settlement in Algeria, although it has also alarmed certain elements who fear that self-determination will inevitably result in independence. However, metropolitan public opinion has less bearing on the outcome than that of the European population and especially the French military in Algeria. Both France and the rebels are undoubtedly anxious for a settlement, and prior to De Gaulle’s proposals overtures were made behind the scenes by both sides. De Gaulle appears to be striving for an agreement with Moslem elements which would provide for evolutionary progress toward eventual internal autonomy. However, the issue of which Moslem elements are to exercise control locally constitutes at least as difficult a barrier to a French-FLN accord at present as the question of the formal status for Algeria. De Gaulle has been unwilling to enter into political negotiations with the FLN. Any steps to give the FLN or its leaders the right to campaign in Algeria for independence would presumably be resisted by many settlers and perhaps some Army elements. Yet some means of assuring the rebels that they can safely enter the political arena is clearly a prerequisite to the cessation of hostilities in Algeria. Thus the problem of Algeria has shifted from the issue of self-determination to the problem of its implementation. One of the difficulties of implementation involves the indication by De Gaulle that Sahara would in any event remain under French control, and that even the remaining part of the country might be subject to partition as a price of independence. Another difficulty, although a lesser one, is the necessity for ratification of the Algerian choice by the French electorate.

19. Meanwhile the Algerian dispute is a grave handicap to us in our international relations. We are considered by the Moroccans and Tunisians, and by the other Arab and Asian peoples, to be the chief outside support for French policy; it is widely believed that our influence could be decisive in changing that policy if we chose to exercise it. The Soviet Union poses as champion of the oppressed Algerian “colonial” people, and its local agents are busy in France and Algeria [Page 622] trying to gain a voice in the nationalist movement. Thus far the Soviet Union has refrained, however, from recognizing the PGAR, and, by contrast with Communist China, it is obviously inhibited in its support by its relations with France and the Communist Party in France. The Algerian rebellion is diverting French forces from assigned NATO locations and preoccupies French political energies without being in itself a long-range unifying force in a country that badly needs greater unity. On the other hand, the French Government and a large segment of French opinion bitterly feel that the United States fails to give all-out support to its NATO ally in a place where critical French interests are at stake and where Frenchmen are being killed daily. There is French resentment too concerning the activities of the FLN representatives in the United States. There is some suspicion also that the United States actually intends eventually to supplant French influence in North Africa. In any event, the French will continue to blame the United States for their own failures in North Africa. The Algerian problem thus constitutes simultaneously one of the most sensitive issues affecting both U.S.-French relations and our relationships with the Asian-African world.

20. Social, economic, and ethnic factors in common underlie a considerable popular feeling of community among the Moslem populations of Northwest Africa, which is felt with particular force in the sense of solidarity in Morocco and Tunisia with the Algerian nationalist movement. Thus the concept of “Maghreb Union”, i.e., close association of the three North African territories with each other, has widespread popular appeal and tends to partially displace the attraction of a wider pan-Arab nationalism. However, personal rivalries at the government level, the unchanged status of Algeria, unresolved boundary problems, and internal political complications, especially in Morocco, have prevented positive steps towards unity apart from a generalized commitment to consult on matters of common concern. Nevertheless, the Maghreb Union concept might provide a vehicle for association of France and North Africa should France be prepared to grant to Algeria a considerable degree of autonomy. Without an Algeria which was, as a minimum, substantially self-governing, Maghreb Union would not be feasible.

Policy Conclusions

Morocco and Tunisia

21. A close and amicable relationship between France and Morocco and Tunisia would, if attainable, be in the U.S. interest. The possibilities of such a relationship are inevitably compromised by the continuation of the Algerian conflict and French policies stemming therefrom. We should of course continue to consult with France on [Page 623] North African problems. However, our own interests in North Africa and the importance of a favorable orientation for Morocco or Tunisia may compel us in some situations to take initiatives in our relations with these countries which may not wholly accord with French wishes. Moroccan and especially Tunisian nationalism can usefully serve U.S. interests as a counterweight to Arab extremism and Soviet ambitions both in Africa and in the Middle East.

22. The military importance of the U.S. bases in Morocco will continue for an indefinite period and all feasible means should be taken to secure Moroccan acceptance of their retention.


23. Because prolongation of the Algerian dispute adversely affects U.S. interests in Africa and Europe, and is a handicap to the Free World in competing with the USSR, an early settlement is highly desirable. However, the United States has limited capabilities for bringing about a satisfactory solution to the Algerian issue, particularly in view of the adamant position of France that the Algerian issue is solely within its domestic jurisdiction. De Gaulle’s proposals of September 16, if implemented in a manner permitting freedom of political expression in Algeria, would be consistent with our hopes for a liberal and equitable solution which we could support. The statement of the “PGAR” is also encouraging in its acceptance of the self-determination process. These are the first proposals by either side which offer a basis for working toward a solution acceptable to both. It is in the U.S. interest to support discreetly a settlement generally along the lines proposed by De Gaulle. Espousing the French cause too actively could (a) give De Gaulle’s opponents in France the opportunity to attack him through charges of U.S. “interference”, (b) undermine our relations with the Afro-Asian states who await evidence that De Gaulle’s program will be implemented by the French in such a way as to permit free political expression to those Algerians who advocate independence, and (c) risk driving the Algerian rebels toward closer ties with Moscow and Peiping, should they interpret our position as giving a “blank check” to the French. Thus the United States must, without tempering its support for French efforts to bring about a liberal solution on Algeria, retain a capability to promote by discreet and appropriate means a constructive attitude towards De Gaulle’s proposals.


24. An early and equitable settlement of the Algerian conflict as a means of contributing to general stability in France and North Africa.

25. Within the limits of feasibility, maintenance of U.S. bases in Morocco for as long as they are required.

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26. Closer association of the peoples of this area with the Free World.

27. Prevention of the spread of Communist influence in the North African area.

28. Maintenance of moderate governments in this region.

29. Progress toward political stability and sound economic growth in North Africa.

Major Policy Guidance

Morocco and Tunisia

30. a. Provide economic and technical assistance to Morocco and Tunisia as required by our direct interest in their stability and by our military interests in Morocco, bearing in mind (1) the importance of consulting with the French and others with a view to obtaining their cooperation, and (2) the desirability of contributing to a political climate in Morocco which would facilitate retention of our bases.

b. Encourage the continuation of present forms of French assistance to Tunisia and Morocco and the settlement of outstanding issues between the French and Tunisia and Morocco in the hope that such settlement may lead to resumption of French military and development assistance to Tunisia and Morocco.

c. Urge other Free World countries to participate in efforts to promote the economic development of Tunisia and Morocco. Encourage some form of limited membership or association with the European Common Market countries which would facilitate financial assistance from those countries.

31. a. Seek to minimize the danger that Soviet Bloc military equipment will be sought for the Tunisian and Moroccan armed forces. To the extent feasible, seek to have them meet their legitimate requirements initially from other friendly Western sources, especially from France, should this become acceptable to the countries concerned. However, where necessary to retain the U.S. position in Tunisia or Morocco, or when essential assistance is not otherwise available, provide limited U.S. military assistance, on a grant basis only if necessary.

b. Encourage Tunisia and Morocco to develop local public safety and related military forces to maintain internal security and to help prevent effective penetration by the Communist apparatus by overt or covert action.

32. Endeavor, within the limits of feasibility, to maintain access to U.S. bases in Morocco for as long as they are required, being prepared to this end to offer reasonable quid pro quos, to reach satisfactory agreement regarding tenure, and to conclude such other arrangements with Morocco as may be deemed appropriate and essential to the [Page 625] retention of the bases, including public acknowledgment of the principle of eventual evacuation and the relinquishment of non-essential facilities.

33. Strengthen cultural exchanges with and information activities in Morocco and Tunisia.

34. Seek to have Moroccan and Tunisian influence exerted to moderate the demands of the Algerian nationalists, whenever this would appear likely to facilitate a settlement of the Algerian dispute.

35. Continue to help Algerian refugees in these countries where necessary on humanitarian grounds.


36. In view of the crucial importance of an Algerian settlement to both French and North African stability, take every appropriate opportunity to contribute the weight of U.S. influence toward an early, realistic settlement while minimizing the possibility of U.S. overt involvement as an arbiter. Continue to give support to the general approach outlined by De Gaulle on September 16, but retain sufficient flexibility to allow us discreetly to serve a constructive role in its application. To this end:

Direct U.S. efforts toward encouraging an early settlement of the Algerian problem generally along the lines of the approach outlined by De Gaulle.
Discreetly encourage through appropriate channels discussions between the rebels and the French Government, initially for the purpose of achieving a cease-fire; attempt to have friendly third powers play a similar role and contribute to a broader settlement.
Endeavor to ensure better understanding that the U.S. motivation is its desire for an early peaceful and equitable solution.
Except in connection with necessary UN considerations, keep our public involvement in the implementation of De Gaulle’s proposals to a minimum, but continue to make clear our general position as outlined above.
Whenever feasible, encourage the Asian and African peoples, particularly the Arab countries, to adopt a moderate attitude toward the De Gaulle proposals.
Encourage the maintenance of close and friendly ties between France and North Africa. In this connection continue to study carefully the possibilities of some form of Franco-Maghreb association for contributing to a solution of the Algerian problem.


37. Make clear to France and Spain our hope they can maintain influence in North Africa and our desire to help them do so, without involving ourselves in the territorial disputes between these powers and the North African states. At the same time encourage France and Spain to find a workable settlement of their problems in this region.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1. Secret. A cover sheet, a note from the Executive Secretary to the NSC, a Table of Contents, a Financial Appendix, and an Annex entitled “Major U.S. Facilities in Morocco” are not printed. The National Security Council considered an August 3 draft of the report, NSC 5911, on August 18. A copy of NSC 5911 is ibid.; regarding the NSC discussion, see Document 357. On October 16, the NSC Planning Board revised several paragraphs of NSC 5911. (Record of Meeting of the NSC Planning Board; Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1) The revisions were distributed to the Council under cover of an October 19 memorandum from Lay (ibid.) and discussed at its October 29 meeting. (See Document 359) President Eisenhower approved the report on November 4.
  2. For an explanation of the legal status of our base rights, see the Note in the Annex, page 23. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. For texts of the agreements on naval and air facilities in Morocco, signed at Paris December 22, 1950, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. V, pp. 17641770.
  4. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1959, pp. 1096–1099.
  5. In NSC 5911, paragraphs 13 and 14 were combined in one paragraph ending: “As demonstrated by the coup in Algiers of May 13, 1958 the degree of freedom which France possesses for coming to terms with the rebels is limited by the attitude of the French army. Though loyal to De Gaulle, the army has demonstrated unwillingness to treat with the rebels in a political context. Covertly, however, there occur from time to time unofficial and secret French contacts with rebel leaders, to explore means of ending the fighting.”

    The October 19 draft contained the language printed here. Regarding the May 13 coup, see footnote 2, Document 277.

  6. Paragraphs 14, 15, and 16 were not in NSC 5911, but appeared as paragraphs 13a, 13b, and 13c, respectively, in the October 19 version.