245. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Internal Security of the Congo (U)

1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have received the attached staff estimate of the internal security situation in the Congo2 and consider that it provides an effective basis for evaluation of policy alternatives. The estimate includes a brief explanation of the situation, a list of possible broad military courses of action, and conclusions. These are summarized for convenience on the attached spread-sheet.

2. The courses of action range from one of “wait and see” to one of direct US military intervention. It should be noted, however, that alternatives might be selected in combination and that any one could be refined to show various options. Furthermore, some of the alternatives have already been considered, are being explored, or are in the process of implementation.

3. The Congo has little strategic value from a strictly military point of view. However, in terms of communist strategy and tactics, the Congo has great value from a political point of view. The course of events in the Congo may threaten US objectives of insuring its pro-Western orientation, preventing communist infiltration, and maintaining Congolese unity. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that communist-inspired rebellion could lead to the rapid spread of communist influence throughout Central Africa. They recommend that the United States:

a. Provide necessary matériel and financial assistance leading to effective operations by Congolese security forces. Such assistance should supplement Belgian and other Western support, which must continue to be encouraged.

b. Continue to persuade the Belgians to increase and acceler-ate their support leadership efforts and to assume responsibility for the effective performance of Congolese security forces, including mercenaries.

c. Supplement Belgian support and leadership with limited numbers of US advisory personnel to meet the immediate needs of the [Page 356] Congolese security forces. Continuation of US advisory support should be conditional upon satisfactory Congolese performance.

d. Continue with the Belgians to solicit appropriate assistance from other Western nations.

e. If Belgium does not assume responsibility for the effective performance of Congolese security forces, encourage the concept of intervention by a coalition of Western and African countries to establish internal security. However, implementation of other possible courses of action should not await the outcome of efforts to obtain African support.

f. Accelerate current psychological operations designed to condemn communist aggression, demoralize the rebels, and strengthen the Government of the Congo and the political positions of its pro-Western leaders. A public statement to serve these purposes should be issued promptly by the President or the Secretary of State; however, this statement should guard against committing the United States to “certain victory” in the Congo.

g. Exert increased diplomatic pressure as appropriate to discourage any political, financial, or matériel assistance to the rebels.

4. The foregoing courses of action may fail because of Belgian reluctance to become deeply involved, because of divisive forces and incompetence within the Congolese Government, and/or because of increased external assistance to the rebels. Consequently, the United States could be faced with a hard choice between a basic desire to avoid an increasing US involvement and the need to pursue US objectives. In this regard, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have concluded that:

a. Direct US military intervention with combat forces could suppress rebel military operations, preserve the existence of the pro-Western Government, and provide short-term protection of US objectives. However, this probably would not insure the objective of Congolese unity, and communist infiltration would continue to be a threat. Also, the US Government would be vulnerable to severe international reactions. While US forces might be quickly disengaged, there would be a risk of continuing involvement.

b. A substantial unilateral US support program, to include tactical advisors, might be successful. While international reactions would be less severe, greater risks would be encountered of “another Vietnam,” with the United States inheriting a continuing, difficult responsibility for internal Congolese security.

c. Any course of action, to be of lasting value, would require effective diplomatic action to deny the Congo–Brazzaville and Burundi as safe-havens for rebel forces and similar action to discourage other African countries from supporting rebel forces.

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d. A decision on extensive US involvement is not justified, pending solidification of Belgian and Congolese plans and intentions and an examination of these proposals for compatibility in the light of US objectives. At the same time, it is apparent that an early decision should be made concerning such US assistance as may be furnished, because delays probably will result in strengthened rebel forces. If intervention becomes necessary, it should be executed without hesitation and with adequate forces to insure rapid success.

5. While military actions can assist in solving the immediate security problems in the Congo, there is also the overriding concurrent requirement for solutions to political problems within the Congolese Government if the US objective of establishing a viable and unified Congo is to be permanently realized.

6. In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the United States intensify its diplomatic efforts to persuade Belgium to accept responsibility for the effective performance of Congolese security forces and, to the extent necessary to secure this, provide matériel and limited numbers of advisory personnel. Such US assistance is justified in the face of communist encroachment. Although reconsideration may be appropriate as the situation evolves, the United States should avoid the commitment of US combat forces.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler 3
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 218, JCS Files, 9111 (25 August 64). Top Secret.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates General Wheeler signed the original.