184. Report Prepared by the Fourth Interdepartmental Survey Group for President Kennedy0

[Here follows the summary dealing with Liberia.]


United States Policy

Basic United States policy toward Tunisia is clearly defined, provides a satisfactory basis for the conduct of day-to-day relations and the formulation of action programs, and has generally been consistently interpreted by all United States elements both in Washington and Tunisia.

[Page 276]

The main objectives of this policy are: 1) the preservation and further evolution of a moderate, pro-western, and politically independent Tunisia, hopefully with increasingly democratic institutions, 2) the development of close and friendly relations between Tunisia and its North African neighbors, 3) the restoration in non-colonial form of Tunisia’s former special and mutually beneficial ties with France, 4) the creation of economic relationships that reflect and exploit the economic interdependence of the Maghrebian states and the interest these states have in long-term commercial ties with Western Europe, and 5) the attainment, with the help of such economic relationships, of a self-sustaining, politically acceptable rate of economic and social progress.

United States interests in Tunisia are based mainly on its constructive internal policies and its western orientation which have an important impact on other countries in Africa. 1) Tunisia has supported the West on critical cold-war issues. 2) In Afro-Asian circles it has exercised a responsible and pro-western role. 3) Its development methods provide a good model and the extent of its national self-help is high. 4) It has certain strategic importance. 5) It is a good example of a state with one-party political institutions administered in a manner which gives some encouragement to western concepts of freedom. 6) It is a leader among the nations promoting the decolonization of the southern third of Africa in a manner designed to eliminate or minimize Communist and radical nationalist influences.

Adequacy of Information and Intelligence Base

United States plans, policies and programs appear to be based on sound information and intelligence. Nonetheless, we need to know more about attitudes of the Tunisian military forces, labor, nomadic groups and the stresses and strains inside the ruling Neo-Destour party.

A greater effort should be made to obtain and exploit the knowledge possessed by United States Government employees in Tunisia.

Assessment of Local Situation

Tunisia’s goal is to become a modern state responsive to the needs of its people. It is working to achieve this goal by pragmatic means, using private enterprise, cooperatives or government enterprises as circumstances require. At this comparatively early stage in Tunisia’s development, there is no alternative to a major use of government enterprise. Tunisian cabinet officers and other key government officials categorically state that government enterprise will give way to private enterprise when the latter is ready and willing to take over.

Tunisia is controlled by one party, the Neo-Destour party, which under Bourguiba’s leadership fought for and achieved this country’s independence. Its one-party political institutions are administered in a way which gives some encouragement to western concepts of freedom [Page 277] and to the development of a valid popular consensus. The Neo-Destour party is making an effort to broaden its grass roots contacts with the people.

Bourguiba’s popularity has been diminished by Bizerte, other less major mistakes, and the inevitable corrosion of original enthusiasm after several years of post-independence reality. Although still strong internally, he is more or less isolated from the revolutionary Arabic leaders of the Near East and Algeria who may conceivably try to stir up trouble inside Tunisia at some later date.

The Tunisian Government is not at present threatened by any organized subversive force, Communist or otherwise. Its police and security forces have good morale, possess adequate modern weapons and are capable of maintaining public order. The recently attempted coup was an unorganized, incoherent gesture on the part of ineffectual malcontents who had no common cause. It did not reflect any deep-rooted or extensive opposition to the regime. However, Tunisia’s long and unmarked frontier, especially with Algeria, is vulnerable to foreign-supported insurgency, although any such activity at this time could be dealt with or contained by Tunisian security forces.

Tunisia’s Ten-Year Development Plan has been repeatedly reviewed by experts and pronounced reasonable though over-optimistic. Its success, as well as the size of future requirements for American aid, will depend to a large extent on the resumption by France of its natural economic role in Tunisia, and on the working out of mutually satisfactory economic relationships by Tunisia with the Common Market as well as with Morocco and Algeria. It is expected that France will during 1964 resume some financial assistance to Tunisia. Hopefully within three years it will be possible for Tunisia to obtain from Europe the major proportion of the external assistance it then requires.

The Survey Group believes that the United States will continue to have strong foreign policy reasons for playing an important, even though not the most important, role in Tunisia’s development for several years after the expiration of our three-year commitment.

[Here follows the summary dealing with the adequacy of U.S. programs and operations and other issues and the body of the Report.]

  1. Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, Report for the President on Liberia and Tunisia. Secret. The source text comprises pp. VII-IX of the Summary. The report was transmitted to President Kennedy under cover of a memorandum from Secretary Rusk indicating that the report had been prepared by the Fourth Interdepartmental Survey Group sent to Liberia and Tunisia as part of the Department of State response to NSAM No. 173 of July 18, 1962, which had directed the Secretary of State “to initiate, in consultation with the Special Group (Counter-Insurgency) a program of field visits by senior interdepartmental teams.” (Ibid.) A February 4, 1963, letter from Rusk to Ambassador Russell explaining the mission of the survey group coming to Tunisia noted that the President had expressed a keen interest in assuring closer ties between country team planning and operations and the Washington agencies and departments which participated in U.S. programs in developing countries. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 US-AFR)