462. Memorandum for the 303 Committee1


  • Request for Approval to Continue [less than 1 line not declassified] Maritime, Air and Covert Funding Operations in the Congo

1. Summary

This memorandum recommends that:

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(1) [less than 1 line not declassified] maritime activities in the Congo be maintained at their present level through 30 June 1966, after which [less than 1 line not declassified] participation would be sharply reduced. The reduction may be possible earlier (and would then be greater) if even before that date the Congolese Government accepts responsibility for crewing the boats. The expected level of expenditure for CY 1966 is [dollar amount not declassified].

(2) The [less than 1 line not declassified] air program be continued through CY 1966 at an expected level of expenditure of [dollar amount not declassified].

(3) Supplementary authorization for [less than 1 line not declassified] covert funding activities in CY 1966 be granted in the amount of [dollar amount not declassified].

The objective of these programs, at an estimated total cost for CY 1966 of [dollar amount not declassified], is to strengthen the pro-Western regime of General Joseph Mobutu and to provide further needed support to the Congolese Government in its efforts to stamp out the rebellion and restore order in its aftermath.

The air program will be reviewed quarterly (the next review to take place in May 1966), with the intent of reducing its level wherever feasible, consistent with U.S. interests at the time. At present, no feasible alternative to its continuation is seen. Following the Belgian Government’s refusal to fund the tactical air program in the Congo, reiterated at recent U.S.-Belgian talks in Brussels, the U.S. Ambassador to the Congo has expressed his deep concern lest the air operation be phased out precipitously or appreciably reduced in the coming months.

2. Problem

Despite the continuing defeats suffered by rebel military forces and the disarray of the rebel leadership, the Congolese Government has not been able to reestablish administrative control and consequently the free movement of commerce in much of the area once overrun by the rebels. Rebel bands are still active in the northeastern and eastern Congo and, in the latter area, north of Albertville, still mount successful ambushes and other harrassing actions against Central Government forces. There are large groups of rebels in the southern Sudan, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. The governments of the Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda have officially ceased active support of rebel efforts to mount offensive action within the Congo and have taken steps to suppress rebel military activity based on their territories. However, as late as November 1965, a small action was fought at night between boats belonging to the [less than 1 line not declassified] maritime unit on Lake Tanganyika and rebel boats approaching the Congo from the Tanzanian shore.

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In January 1966, there were reliable reports of Congolese rebel activity based in Uganda and directed against the Congo, and during this same month, the growing radical-Tutsi influence over the Burundi Government has raised the very real possibility of a renewal of significant Chinese Communist influence in Bujumbura, including the reopening of their Embassy which served in 1964 as one of the major sources of aid to rebels operating in the eastern Congo.

Of real importance and apart from continuing rebel military activity and the possibility of renewed Chinese Communist or other Bloc support is the failure of the Congolese Government, to date, to take effective action directed at the political, economic and social factors that were the principal causes of the rebellion. On 25 November 1965, fearing that the conflict between then President Kasavubu and former Premier Moise Tshombe threatened political chaos and the loss of all the gains recently made against the rebels, Congolese National Army Commander-in-Chief General Mobutu seized power. He thus provided the Congo with what many informed observers believe to be its last chance to resolve its problems in the framework of a unified nation under a pro-Western government.

3. Factors bearing on the problem

a. Origin of the Requirement

The [less than 1 line not declassified] maritime, air and covert political funding operations in the Congo have been carried out at the request of the Department of State and the Ambassador and with the approval of the 303 Committee. The Ambassador at Leopoldville and the Bureau of African Affairs of the Department of State have recommended a continuation of these operations at the levels indicated in the initial paragraph above.

b. Relationship to Previous 303 Committee Actions

On 23 September 1965, the 303 Committee approved a proposal, presented in a status report on the Lake Tanganyika maritime interdiction program, dated 21 September 1965, to add two armed, radar-equipped, 50-foot high-speed boats (Swifts) and up to five smaller boats (Seacrafts) to the existing limited maritime capability at Albertville. The Committee also approved the initial manning of these boats by [less than 1 line not declassified] crews, with the understanding that the [less than 1 line not declassified] would be replaced by other third-country nationals as soon as qualified personnel became available.

On 28 October 1965, the Committee approved the continuation of [less than 1 line not declassified] covert tactical support for the Congolese Air Force at an annual level of [dollar amount not declassified], but requested quarterly reviews and a sustained effort to modify and cut back whenever possible.

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On 26 November 1965, the Committee approved a request for [dollar amount not declassified] to meet existing and potential appeals for funds by General Mobutu.

c. Accomplishments

(1) The maritime program

The maritime program now consists of the two Swifts (which have been in operation on Lake Tanganyika since the first week of November), six Seacraft, and the Ermens, a 75-foot diesel-powered trawler requisitioned locally by the Congolese authorities. As crews for the Swifts there are 15 [less than 1 line not declassified].

The boats have been used extensively in interdiction patrols to prevent supplies and men from reaching rebels fighting on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika and to prevent rebels from escaping across the lake to Tanzania. Although direct contact with the enemy on the lake has not been frequent, it is known that two Soviet-supplied 35-foot armed launches have been on the lake since September 1965. As a result of the Congolese maritime force, most of the traffic between Tanzania and the rebels has had to move by night. In November 1965, the Congolese force engaged five rebel craft after dark, apparently proceeding from Tanzania to the Congo. Throughout the current military campaign against the last centers of organized rebel resistence in the eastern Congo, the boats have carried out reconnaissance patrols; escorted other boats transporting personnel, supplies of food, ammunition and arms; and evacuated wounded. The presence of the boats on the lake has continued to have a salutary effect on the morale of the local population, both African and European.

[less than 1 line not declassified] continuing efforts to find suitable replacements for the [less than 1 line not declassified] crews of the Swifts, it is expected that several European seamen will be recruited shortly and proceed to Albertville. With the approval of the Department of State, [less than 1 line not declassified] exploring the possibility of gradually turning over the manning of the boats to Congolese troops and mercenaries. At the time of writing, discussions on this subject have begun. If they are successful, it appears likely that Congolese and mercenaries will in the near future assume most of the duties now carried out by [less than 1 line not declassified]. This would make possible a further reduction in the cost of the maritime program, [less than 1 line not declassified] to supply operational direction for the boats and the necessary spare parts and specialized maintenance.

(2) The air program

The air operation now maintains aircraft at the following level: twelve T–28’s, five B–26K’s, one B–26B, three C–46’s, one C–45 (10–2) and three Bell helicopters. The third C–46 was acquired in October 1965 because of the increased transport burden borne by the air operation [Page 676] since the withdrawal in mid-August of the Joint Task Force C–130’s formerly stationed in Leopoldville. Efforts to have the Belgian-piloted C–47’s of the Congolese Air Force provide the necessary support were unsuccessful. Flying the aircraft are 29 pilots [1 line not declassified] who operate under the supervision of six American air operations officers. There are also 130 ground maintenance personnel, 127 of whom are Europeans; the other three, Americans.

The [less than 1 line not declassified] air operation has made a significant contribution in the campaign in the eastern Congo north of Albertville. The campaign opened on the night of 27–28 September 1965 with an attack on the rebel stronghold of Baraka and continues in the form of cleanup operations requiring close air support for the ground forces. The other primary area of air activity is in the northeast out of Stanleyville. In general, neither Congolese nor mercenary troops are willing to move without air cover.

The slowly improving military situation is permitting a reduction in the pace of tactical air activity. Thus, it is planned to withdraw the B–26B from service. It is also planned to reduce further the use of tactical aircraft and eventually eliminate more planes in this category, by providing light aircraft which are less costly to operate and maintain, more efficient for reconnaissance work (which until now has had to be carried out by tactical aircraft), and less visibly U.S. military aircraft.

The above reduction in pace and change in character of air activities as well as planned changes in logistical procedures have permitted an initial lowering of the annual cost level from [less than 1 line not declassified].

The gradual replacement of the [less than 1 line not declassified] pilots by other third-country nationals is a continuing effort.

(3) Funding

Of the [dollar amount not declassified] supplemental contingency fund programmed and approved by the 303 Committee on 26 November 1965 to meet the continuing political crisis in the Congo, [dollar amount not declassified] has been expended in payments to General Mobutu, the last payment—of [dollar amount not declassified]—having been authorized in January 1966, leaving a balance of [dollar amount not declassified] on hand. This money has been spent to ensure the support of the principal officers of the Congolese National Army and particularly of the First Paracommando Battalion, which is the key to the security of Leopoldville; to provide funds to important political leaders; and to furnish assistance to provincial leaders and tribal chiefs when they visit Leopoldville. It is the belief of the Ambassador at Leopoldville and the CIA Chief of Station that the provision of these funds was an important element in ensuring the support of ranking Congolese officers and their commands during the crisis brought on by the conflict between former [Page 677] President Kasavubu and former Premier Moise Tshombe, a crisis which ended when General Mobutu seized power in Leopoldville on 25 November 1965. The timely provision of these funds when they were most needed greatly assisted Mobutu in his effort to reestablish a functioning government. He has stated that without them he would have been unable to consolidate his position.

c. [sic] Pertinent U.S. Policy Considerations

Since the outbreak of the Congo rebellion in 1964, it has been U.S. policy to support the pro-West Central Government against the rebels, who have received aid and encouragement from Communist China, Cuba, the radical African states and the Soviet Union. African and Soviet assistance to the rebels greatly diminished during the latter part of 1965. Also, it seems probable that by now most if not all the [less than 1 line not declassified] formerly with the rebels have left the Congo. Nevertheless, pockets of rebel resistance still remain on Congolese territory, rebel groundfire still hits Congolese Air Force planes, shorefire is drawn by Congolese patrol boats on Lake Tanganyika, rebel mines are laid with more proficiency in the path of advancing Congolese troops, and recent reports indicate that rebel leaders maintain continuing contact with Chinese, Soviet, and [less than 1 line not declassified] in East Africa. Thus, it is logical to assume that Communist China, the Soviet Union, Cuba and possibly other Bloc powers would take advantage of any weakness of the Congolese Government to encourage a new round of insurgency in the Congo.

d. Operational Objectives

The major objectives of the [less than 1 line not declassified] maritime, air and covert funding operations in the Congo are (a) to assist the Congolese Government in maintaining a maritime patrol capability designed to discourage further assistance reaching the rebels from the outside and to contribute to stability in the eastern Congo, (b) to give the Congolese Air Force an adequate capability to support the Congolese National Army in its efforts to locate and eliminate rebel resistance and to restore and maintain order in the countryside, and (c) to assist General Mobutu in his effort to keep the support of the army and of key political leaders and factions.

e. Risks Involved

Although visible U.S. involvement has been kept to a minimum, it is generally assumed in the Congo that the U.S. Government is responsible for the air and maritime operations. They thus continue to be potentially embarrassing for the U.S. Government. However, the potential for embarrassment has been markedly reduced by the fact that Tshombe is no longer Prime Minister and the Congolese Government is thus no longer a primary target of hostility from other African states. [Page 678] Passage of funds to Mobutu or other key Congolese officials can be accomplished securely, and minimal risks are involved.

f. Alternative Courses of Action

The U.S. Government failed in its efforts during talks held in Brussels in September 1965 and early February 1966 to persuade the Belgian Government to assume responsibility for the tactical air support program or even for logistical support of the [less than 1 line not declassified] air operation.

Mobutu has no political organization which, as an alternative to the U.S. covert funding program, can provide him with the funds needed to ensure his continuation in office. Nor is there any wealthy managerial or commercial class to whom he can turn to finance his political efforts. If the U.S. Government refuses to help him, he has the alternative of seeking help from other Western states. To date, other Western powers have been unwilling to provide political action funds in sufficient quantity. Another alternative would be for him to try to squeeze such funds from the local European business and commercial community by a form of blackmail or resort to graft. Such devices might easily backfire, particularly if attempted before Mobutu is firmly in power. A third alternative would be for him to turn to the French, Soviets, Chinese Communists or radical Africans. While he probably would not accept direct Soviet or Chinese Communist funds, he might in desperation accept funds from the radical African states or the French. CIA has no evidence that the French Government would be prepared to accept the financial burden involved. If the radical African states did so, the ultimate source of the funds they provided would almost certainly be one of the Bloc powers.

g. Support Required from Other Agencies

Continued support from the Department of Defense is required for the air program. The Department of Defense has provided the five B–26K’s, the T–28’s and replacements for the T–28’s as needed.

4. Coordination

a. Intragovernmental

This proposal has been coordinated with the Bureau of African Affairs of the Department of State, which recommends approval.

b. U.S. Ambassador

This proposal has been concurred in by the U.S. Ambassador at Leopoldville.

5. Recommendation

It is recommended that approval be granted for the following, at a total estimated cost for CY 1966 of [dollar amount not declassified]:

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(1) Continuation of the [less than 1 line not declassified] maritime operation on Lake Tanganyika through 30 June 1966 with the understanding that the [less than 1 line not declassified] role will be reduced sharply thereafter to a point where [less than 1 line not declassified] providing only operational guidance, spare parts and specialized maintenance, at an estimated cost of [dollar amount not declassified].

(2) Continuation of [less than 1 line not declassified] covert support to the Congolese tactical air program at a level of [dollar amount not declassified] per annum.

(3) Provision of a supplementary contingency fund of [dollar amount not declassified] for political purposes in support of General Mobutu and the stability of the Leopoldville Government.2

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 81–00966R, Box 1, Folder 12, Congo, 1966. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. A handwritten notation on the original reads: “17 Feb 1966: 303 Committee decided a plan should be presented in March (air portion emphasized) with financial cut-back.”