1. Briefing Paper Prepared in the Department of State0


In giving Morocco and Tunisia their independence in 1956, France expected to remain in very close association with them. “Independence within interdependence” was the phrase coined to describe the hoped-for relationship. France, it was thought, would continue to support the two North African nations financially and in return would keep its military bases and obtain special guarantees for its citizens and investments. In recognition of France’s paramount role, the U.S. at the time said that any aid we might give Morocco or Tunisia was intended to supplement (not supplant) French efforts.

Events soon belied these hopes. The nationalistic prejudices aroused in Morocco and Tunisia clashed with French short-sightedness (and short temper)—over bases, over French privileges, over disputed territory and over the other sequels of French colonization in North Africa. The Algerian war made it certain that a stable relationship was for the time impossible. Morocco and Tunisia were bound to support the FLN and the French were bound to resent such support. The FLN depended heavily on the sanctuary of Tunisian and Moroccan territory. Border transgressions by both the French Army and the FLN exacerbated the tensions between France and its former protectorates to the point of rupture.

The remarkable fact is that French influence still counts for so much in Morocco and Tunisia. This testifies to the underlying importance of the French-North African interrelationship. Some 200,000 French nationals (of 350-400,000 before independence) still live in Morocco and some 50-60,000 (of 150-200,000 before independence) still live in Tunisia. Morocco continues to rely on some 15,000 French advisers, technicians and teachers and Tunisia, while it is much less dependent on such help than Morocco, still employs several thousand French teachers and other experts. France continues to provide a protected market for Moroccan and Tunisian exports and French investments, particularly in Morocco, [Page 2] still account for most of the modern sector of the North African economies. In both countries French is the second language of all educated persons and the French liberal press and French culture exert a powerful influence.

On the governmental level, nevertheless, France, because of the obduracy of Morocco and Tunisia in post-independence negotiations, suspended virtually all direct financial aid to these two countries. This left a void which we have felt it necessary to fill both for the sake of our own national interests and to preserve some position for the West. In both countries the U.S. has become the principal source of direct foreign economic aid. In Morocco, U.S. aid has reached an annual level of $40 to $50 million, in Tunisia $20 to $25 million—two of our largest aid programs in Africa. We also entered into modest military supply programs when it appeared that Morocco and Tunisia, in desperation, would seek arms from the Soviet bloc. France has not been happy about the expansion of U.S. military and economic aid, but has acquiesced in it while trying to insure that we consult France in advance of any new steps and showing great sensitivity over an indication that we might permanently undermine the French position. As elsewhere in Africa, the French have been especially pained by our English-language teaching programs which they see as a permanent danger to the predominance of French culture.

We have taken great pains to persuade France that we are not seeking a predominant role in North Africa and that we hope France will play a greater role there when the Algerian war is over. We have argued, at the same time, that so long as we have important interests in the area, such as our bases in Morocco, and that so long as the controversies separating France and North Africa endanger the Western position generally in the area, the U.S. does not feel it can abandon Morocco and Tunisia.

One of the most hopeful auguries for the future of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) lies in the interrelationships between the economies of France and that area. France is an important labor market for North African workers and provides outlets for North African grain, wine, phosphates, edible oil and petroleum. The great reservoirs of natural gas developed by French enterprise in Algeria can no doubt provide all of North Africa with a cheap source of power on which to base an expanding industry, and with cheap power it may even become possible to desalinize water profitably and thus to bring vast new desert areas under cultivation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110. Confidential. Drafted by Root; cleared by Valdes, McBride, and Witman; and approved by Collopy. This paper was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the President’s visit to France May 31-June 2, 1961.