199. Memorandum From William H. Brubeck of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1


  • Congo

1. Situation: Stanleyville is in rebel hands. All of Eastern Congo may go in next several days; Katanga, Leopoldville and entire Central Government may collapse in next several weeks. Although situation largely the result of tribal violence there is real danger Communists will be able to exploit in near future. Situation is basically power vacuum, could probably be retrieved by small security force (ideally white, at a minimum white-led and, if really good, as few as 1000).

2. Problem: No useable force exists or is now in prospect in Congo. The basic immediate problem is how to get such a force in a hurry.

3. Although Spaak flatly declares Belgians can take no significant action, Harriman is going to Brussels tonight for a final effort with him. Harriman will offer range of alternatives—

(a) Belgium provide the white military personnel required (Belgians absolutely refuse, from fear of reprisals against Belgian citizens in rebel held territories).

(b) Belgian leadership in organizing a multi-national European force for Congo (very unlikely—other Europeans even less willing than Belgians to commit troops).

(c) US-Belgian cooperation to help Tshombe organize and equip a force of Katanga ex-gendarmes led by white mercenaries (best practical prospect, but Spaak so far refuses to let Belgians serve as mercenaries, which is most critical need).

(d) Try to get African forces into Congo (Nigerians, Tunisians, etc.)—very doubtful, very complicated and would take time. We would have to compel Tshombe to broaden Congo Government in order to get any African help.

4. The HarrimanSpaak talks will probably show Belgians absolutely unwilling to do anything except perhaps supply and equip mercenary-gendarmes force. If so, by this weekend the problem of short run salvage of Congo will be squarely in our laps, raising questions—

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(a) How much support are we prepared to give mercenary force (e.g. covert recruiting, US money, etc.) as first choice?

(b) If this fails how tough will we get in ultimatum to Congo Government to compel changes necessary to get African force into Congo?

5. If these efforts fail and/or continued disintegration forces our hand (as is possible) we are reduced to three alternatives—

(a) Go back to UN Security Council and try to make a deal with Russia to permit a new UN force in Congo.

(b) Explore putting in small US force or US-Belgian force on short term basis.

(c) Let the chaos run its course, hoping the Congolese will work out an adjustment without serious Communist intrusion; and rely on Congo’s need of our aid and support for influence with the eventual government. This would be hard to explain politically in US, but it is essentially what Belgians and Europeans are doing.

6. My own feeling is the practical alternative offering early results on which we should concentrate now is to help the Congolese in every way to organize a mercenary-led force and, at same time, use our heaviest pressures (including threats to withdraw support) to compel reorganization of Congo Government in order to try to win broader African acceptance, as political basis for mercenary military operation.

William H. Brubeck2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. III, Memos & Miscellaneous, 8/64. Secret.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.