410. Memorandum From Harold H. Sanders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


We’ve gained some ground in the Congo since year’s end. Tshombe has won wider support among the non-interventionist Africans, and together they stood off the interventionists at the recent OAU foreign ministers’ meeting. We now think the only reason they didn’t vote a moderate Congo resolution was that they preferred no resolution to a showdown that might have split the OAU.

At home, Tshombe’s elections will run through April, and half a dozen African governments have already named observers. There will be a lot of political pulling and hauling between Tshombe and Kasavubu, but we hope each realizes his need for the other. In the northeast, Col. Hoare’s offensive to cut rebel supply routes from Uganda and the Sudan is moving ahead steadily. Cutting the line from Tanzania is tougher. Rumors of a rebel counteroffensive continue to fly; we know almost 60 planeloads of arms are stockpiled for them in the area; we’ve seen two new airfields in rebel territory. So far the rebels haven’t marshalled serious opposition, but even if this push succeeds, there’s still a lot of mopping up to do.

We’re concentrating now on putting together an African political umbrella for the Congo. This is the only sure way to turn off aid to the rebels. Moreover, Hoare’s forces are too thin to hold against another big rebel push, so we’d want to fall back immediately on political defenses. Although we’ve gained substantial African support since December’s UN resolution passed, we haven’t gone past first base in setting up machinery to close the Congo’s borders. We’ve given State a skeleton action program for doing this and have asked them to come up with a refined version by the end of the week.

Our longer range purpose is to disengage somewhat so as to restore balance to our African policy. The Congo tail has wagged too much of the African dog over the last six months. African machinery would help fill some of the vacuum, and Harriman and RWK should come back with a clearer view of how much cooperation we can count on from the UK and Belgium.2 All this won’t solve the Congo problem, [Page 595] but it might bring the level of instability within ranges the Congolese can manage and we can accept.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XI, Memos & Miscellaneous, 1/65–9/65. Confidential.
  2. Harriman and Komer were in Brussels for talks on the Congo March 25–27. Telegram 1882 from Brussels, March 27, transmitted the text of a memorandum setting forth the details of the agreement reached by Spaak and Harriman on continued U.S. and Belgian military assistance to the Congolese army. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)