222. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Southeast Asian Affairs (Kocher) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)1
- Franco-American Cooperation in ANL Training
It appears from Paris telegram 40792 (Tab A) that the French are attempting to obtain our acceptance and support of a position that is far apart from our position on the sort of Franco-American cooperation necessary for prompt and effective improvement of the condition of the Lao National Army. The present French position rejects the concept of Franco-American joint teams and the concept of simultaneous training of all battalions of the Lao Army in the field. They are attempting to insist on continued exclusive French training of combat units of the Lao Army and to require that such training be concentrated at the Seno base. It also seems clear that they have an understanding of the wishes of the Lao Government that differs greatly from ours. In view of this fact, whatever course of action we decide on, it has now become desirable that the Lao communicate their views to the French in an unequivocal manner. Vientiane’s 18923 (Tab B) indicates [Page 530] that the Lao may already have done this and, as pointed out in Paris’ 41184 (Tab C), this action may have a salutary effect on the French attitude. The details of the Lao position described in Vientiane’s 1892 do not coincide exactly with the details of the Defense position5 (Tab D) but in principle they support that position and indicate the unacceptability to the RLG of the French position. Defense has officially recommended a minimum U.S. position which Ambassador Smith believes could, if politely but firmly stated in opening talks, provide a sound basis for obtaining French cooperation in Paris talks.
It would appear that we have a choice of five possible courses of action, as follows:
1) Acceptance of the French position as set forth in Paris telegram 4079.
I believe we cannot pursue this course of action since past events have clearly demonstrated that a French-dominated training program will neither meet our indispensable requirement for rapid improvement of the condition of the Lao National Army nor be acceptable to the Royal Lao Government.
2) Relinquish the entire training program to the French on the assumption that they could improve their performance by building up their training mission in quality and quantity.
On the basis of past experience, it seems unlikely that the French could or would, so improve their efforts. It would also be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to continue financing a training effort over which we would have no control. It is clear that the French wish to continue a primary role in Laos, probably wth the least effort required. In any event the Royal Lao Government has repeatedly made it clear to us that it would not accept such a solution.
3) Consultation in Paris with the French, with a view to negotiating a relaxation of the French position and a substantial accommodation to our views.
In view of the much more restrictive position now suggested by the French (Paris telegram 4079, Tab A), it appears that it will now be difficult to obtain such a relaxation of the French position. However, it perhaps can be done if we concentrate on persuading the French to accept the basic framework of the Heintges plan against the clear alternative of our being obliged to proceed without further delay with courses of action 4 and/or 5 described below. Even if such negotiations are not successful, they should at least help assure the U.K. [Page 531] Government, whose support would be most helpful, that we have honestly exhausted all possibilities of reaching an agreement with the French.
4) Proceed independently of the French and in collaboration with the Lao to carry out a training effort along the lines of the original Heintges plan.
This would be the most satisfactory solution from the point of view of accomplishing improvement of the army, and from the point of view of U.S.-Laos relations. However, decisions would have to be made concerning probable U.K., Canadian, Indian and Communist bloc reactions to such a decision. U.K. support for our efforts to improve the ANL has so far been contingent on our working out arrangements with the French. It is problematic if the U.K. will support the introduction of U.S. training personnel into Laos without French concurrence. The Canadians have taken a legalistic approach to the problem and would not be likely to go along with a unilateral U.S. solution. The Indians would clearly object. The Chinese Communists, on the basis of their extremely strong propaganda reaction to the Lao February 11 and 17 Declarations,6 would react strongly propaganda-wise and perhaps through the application of military pressure against Laos. Adoption of this course of action would entail sounding out the U.K. and perhaps the Canadians to arrange for their support of, or acquiescence in, such a move. It would also require the preparation of diplomatic and propaganda moves to undercut bloc reaction.
5) An entirely new approach to the problem envisaging complete exclusion of the French from ANL training and large-scale training of Lao officers and non-coms at American military schools in the U.S. and Hawaii, or possibly the Philippines.
Diplomatic and propaganda exploitation of this approach could stress that the RLG had decided to dispense with all foreign military advisors.
6) Increase in the size of the Civilian Supervisory Group by the subtle introduction of additional US personnel on a semi-clandestine basis. This would be a perpetuation of the present unsatisfactory situation and would be unsatisfactory in the long run. It would be impracticable in any event since the “cover” of the PEO has evaporated. PEO’s expansion on a semi-clandestine basis, assuming, as seems likely, this would become known, would probably evoke as violent a reaction from the French, the Canadians and the Communist bloc as the open introduction of U.S. Military personnel.
- That, if the French have not already been so informed (Vientiane’s 1892), the U.S. cease discouraging the Lao from disclosing their true feelings regarding training preference. Once this is done, however, it should be realized the U.S. has incurred an obligation to the Lao to undertake training of the ANL by one means or another.
- That we inform the French the position stated in Millet’s note represents a retrogression from the earlier French position on the basis of which we agreed in principle to discussions. We would wish, however, to start discussions with the Government of France on the basis of their memorandum of April 10 and ours of April 22. If this is acceptable to French a date for negotiation will be set. (Tab E)
- That we informally indicate to the U.K. that we are doing our best to reach agreement with the French on training the ANL in a manner responsive to Lao desires and needs but that it is possible we will not be able to reach such an agreement. On the basis of the U.K. reaction we may then have a clearer idea as to the advisability of choosing alternatives 4 or 5 above, in the event 3 is unsuccessful.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.5/5–1159. Secret. Drafted by Corcoran, approved by Ambassador Smith, and sent thorugh Parsons. None of the tabs was attached. The telegrams contained in Tabs A, B, and C (see footnotes 2–4 below) are included in the microfiche supplement.↩
- Telegram 4079, May 5, contains a translation of the May 2 French note on Lao training. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.5/5–559)↩
- Telegram 1892, May 7, reported that Phoumi expressed his strong preference for U.S. trainers in instructor and advisory roles while the French would fill predominantly service positions. (ibid., 751J.5/5–759)↩
- In telegram 4118, May 8, the Embassy warned that the French and De Gaulle considered the Lao training issue a matter of national prestige. (ibid., 751J.5/5–859)↩
- Apparent reference to the memorandum supra .↩
- See footnote 2, Document 213, and footnote 4, Document 214.↩
- There is no indication on the source text if the recommendations were approved, but telegram 4370 to Paris (sent also to Vientiane as 1355), May 13, made the points recommended here. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.5/5–859; included in the microfiche supplement)↩