382. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson1

We are trying our best to get some kind of a political umbrella erected over the Congo, to help forestall a rebel counter-offensive and to protect us against military overcommitment. Since the Northeast Congo is really being held by only 110 mercenaries, supported by a peanut airforce, we are greatly worried lest outside aid to the rebel remnants lead to a counter-offensive which could even retake Stanleyville. The Belgians, especially Spaak, feel the same way. They and we are also doing what we can to help Tshombe beef up his forces (he’s recruiting his own mercenaries) but we doubt they could hold if rebels started using mercenaries too.

During Harriman’s trip to Europe, Spaak proposed that we both try to get Kasavubu and Tshombe back into touch with the OAU. Since we want an “African” political solution, or at least an extended negotiation in lieu of renewed fighting, we’re inclined to favor this course. However, it may require some pressure on Tshombe to get him to make the necessary gestures to get more African states on his side. Spaak will work on Tshombe when he comes to Brussels next week.

At the NATO Council, Spaak and Harriman seemed to make a dent in urging our allies (except for the French) to join us in supporting the Congo regime. Harriman himself did rather better in London; we can probably count on more UK help in weaning the East Africans away from the radical Arabs and Nkrumah.

Harriman gets back today at 4. You might want to get a brief report directly from him. If not, you might want a half-hour meeting on the Congo sometime next week to brief you on our strategy. I have my fingers crossed on this one, but I now see a 50/50 chance that we’ll be [Page 553] able to disengage somewhat from the Congo and get it off the crisis list, while still keeping our legitimate friends in power.

R.W. Komer2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. X, Cables, Memos & Miscellaneous. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. McGeorge Bundy initialed below Komer’s signature.