439. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to Ambassador at Large (Harriman)1

As the toughest Congo-fighter of them all, you’re the one with whom I want to share my mounting worries.

I feel in my bones that, just as we close off the tag end of the last rebellion, we’re sliding into another all too familiar political crunch that could tear the Congo wide open again.

Tshombe is not just going to sit back and bide his time. He’ll probably try either: (1) to gain power legitimately by running for President or scaring Kasavubu into making him PM again; (2) run a coup while his SA mercenaries are still around; or (3) retreat again toward Katanga separatism, perhaps as a threat to get him back into power in Leo.

Meanwhile Kasavubu and Nendaka are proceeding apace to box in Tshombe, and playing with the dangerous idea of seeking radical African support against what they may believe is US/Belgian support of Tshombe. When the Belgians (with our backing) tell the GDRC that we won’t give any new economic aid unless it puts its financial house in order this will powerfully reinforce their suspicions. Now Adoula’s return adds to the confusion. In sum, a new struggle for power is already well underway.

I suspect Tshombe will be at us and Brussels shortly to back him. Tom Dodd will doubtless weigh in too. We’ll be confronted soon with a policy decision on whether to: (a) press for a Kasavubu/Tshombe reconciliation; (b) back Tshombe; (c) back legitimacy and let the chips fall where they may.

The last course has many attractions, but I doubt that it will give us or Belgium the reasonably stable Congo toward which we at least are contributing over $50 million a year.

So without prejudice to our ultimate decision, wouldn’t you agree that we should start contingency planning now to anticipate this problem. Otherwise we’re at the mercy of the Congolese.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Subject Files, Congo (4). Secret. A copy was sent to McGeorge Bundy.