325. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Cambodia


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • CIA
  • Thomas H. Karamessines
  • William Wells
  • Defense
  • Mr. Wade
  • JCS
  • Admiral Thomas Moorer
  • General Glick
  • NSC Staff
  • W.R. Smyser
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Tom Pickering

General Cushman said that estimates on the aid for Cambodia are being completed, and will be complete when Saigon comments. Mr. [Page 1054] Karamessines said that the integrated BunkerAbrams plan would be received that day and would be ready for the Tuesday meeting.2

Admiral Moorer, in response to Dr. Kissinger’s question, said he has a report from Saigon on what they gave to Cambodia. More will come soon. Yesterday Cambodia got 600,000 rounds. Dr. Kissinger asked if this included material as well. He asked for a precise list of captured material shipped to Cambodia and what would be shipped next. The President wants this.

Dr. Kissinger said that we needed to increase our intelligence capacity in the Phnom Penh Embassy. We do not now have any information on what is happening in the Cambodian countryside or in the border areas, and we should get this information to be able to prepare for Communist military actions and to evaluate what we should do. He said the President did not worry about 6 more people, if they were needed. There was a discussion of the space shortage at the Embassy. Ambassador Johnson suggested that the increase be handled on an incremental basis. First a DOD complement of several people would be sent, as well as 5 Marines. State would send 2 (out of 3) administrative personnel. [1½ lines of source text not declassified] There was no objection to putting this proposal to Rives. Dr. Kissinger asked how soon we would have an increase in intelligence capacity; a week, perhaps? Mr. Karamessines said it would probably be longer.

Admiral Moorer said that the T–28’s were on track. Five had been loaned from Thailand. We will send Thailand ten more of which five will go to Cambodia. He said that they wanted to give more authority for Salem House operations, and were testing for greater COMINT capacity. He said that General Abrams has uniforms for the Thai force of Khmers, but thought it would be best if Thailand made them—they would fit better. Dr. Kissinger asked if that would be soon enough.

Ambassador Johnson said that Lon Nol would like to see the results of the photo reconnaissance, and Admiral Moorer said he would be shown some.

The question was raised about money for the uniforms. Neither State nor CIA said they had the money, and the question was left open.

Admiral Moorer said that General Abrams would train two more battalions. The cost of the equipment would come from the MAP add-on funds for 1970–71. Ambassador Johnson asked why it could not be MASF-funded.

Dr. Kissinger asked why South Vietnam had stopped recruiting Khmers. Mr. Pickering said because it cut RF–PF recruitment.

[Page 1055]

Admiral Moorer said that they were trying to see how to exploit the captured documents found in the operations for what they revealed about enemy plans. Dr. Kissinger asked Mr. Smyser to ask the Psyops Committee to look into this.

Mr. Karamessines said that Cambodia had been trying to get a 5 or 10 KW transmitter from Thailand. Bangkok suggested putting one on the border, but not in Cambodia. Cambodia wants it in Phnom Penh, of course.

Ambassador Johnson said he had asked the Australian Ambassador that day if his country could provide a transmitter. Admiral Moorer said that he could get a portable 10 KW transmitter to Phnom Penh soon, but a 50 KW would take longer. He said it cost $380,000. Mr. Wells pointed out that Cambodia already had a large (50 KW) transmitter, and any additional would be to provide an alternative channel for listeners so they would not get tired of just one station. Ambassador Johnson said he had heard that there was none. Ambassador Moorer said that they could get a 10 KW transmitter from Okinawa to Phnom Penh on a loan basis soon. It was decided to have the working group look at this.

Ambassador Johnson raised the subject of the Black Panthers, indicating that the Thai were unhappy about the restrictions being placed on their operations.3 General Abrams was not happy either. They cost a lot. He does not want more.

Ambassador Johnson had drafted a cable with an alternative proposal, which he had tabled.4

A discussion ensued about how best to undertake the action proposed in the telegram and to justify it. There are no funds for use of Thai forces in Cambodia. There was some discussion about whether we should argue that the forces were committed for the defense of Thailand, but Dr. Kissinger argued that this would hurt us with the Thais in justifying their presence at Long Tieng. He asked why we just did not tell them that we have no legislative authority to pay them in Cambodia.

[Page 1056]

Ambassador Johnson said that, no matter what the reason, we want to train two regiments in Thailand rather than Black Panthers.

Dr. Kissinger reviewed the history of the issue and said that we were now back where we started—we have two Thai regiments as a strategic reserve, which is not what is needed.

Admiral Moorer said he would like to use forces across the border without U.S. support, but the Thais and the Koreans were not good for this.

Dr. Kissinger asked if the two regiments being developed would go into Cambodia. Ambassador Johnson said they would do so only if the threat to Thailand became clear and if the Thais themselves decided to move—with us paying. He said that his proposal would train regiments and let Thailand and Cambodia decide how to use them. But we would not give them special pay and allowances as for the Black Panthers.

Dr. Kissinger asked if this had not been agreed. Ambassador Johnson said only in the areas near South Vietnam; then payments could be made because the operations were Vietnam-connected. He said we would pay for the equipment and support, but not the special pay and allowances. [1½ lines of source text not declassified] We’ve said that it is up to them, but we cannot pay.

Dr. Kissinger asked what about the two Khmer regiments being trained by the Thais. Mr. Karamessines said this was in training. The packs will go in soon, and training will start July 1.

Dr. Kissinger then again reviewed the history of the discussions over the past three weeks, and said that we were back where we had been three weeks ago, without any forces to move into Cambodia when we moved out. Ambassador Johnson said this was correct, because of MACV’s and Bangkok’s attitude. He said that his proposal would get the process started, at least, at less cost than the Black Panthers. He said we could go ahead if DOD and the WSAG agree that we want to equip and train the Thai regiments in place. Mr. Ware said he would check, but thought DOD would agree, Dr. Kissinger said this seemed sensible, since the proposal would cost DOD less. Ambassador Johnson said that Thailand would get about $7 million less under this proposal.

Dr. Kissinger asked if the forces would be used in Cambodia. Ambassador Johnson said this was not certain, but they could use them in Thailand. The ISA representative indicated that we do not want the Thai pulling forces out of Thailand which are used to defend our bases.

Dr. Kissinger again reiterated that nothing seemed to be happening by June 30. Ambassador Johnson said that there were the two Khmer regiments, whom we could not pay a bonus. There was a brief aside discussion about the 1971 MAP, in which DOD said that $25 million had been reserved for Cambodia.

[Page 1057]

Mr. Karamessines asked if the Thai could not be asked to conduct a holding operation for three months. Ambassador Johnson pointed out that the Black Panthers, who are trained, cannot go into Cambodia without losing their allowances. [1 line of source text not declassified]

Dr. Kissinger again reviewed the history of the discussion, and again pointed out that there was nothing available to bridge the gap. He said that there have been many proposals and ideas and changes in proposals, and now we have a strategic reserve, but even that will not be ready in time. He said what was needed were units to bridge the gap. Hanoi will try to give us a serious blow in Cambodia after June 30, and what will we do?

Ambassador Johnson indicated the problem, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Dr. Kissinger said that we have to get ready quickly.

Mr. Wells asked if offset payments could be used, [1 line of source text not declassified]

In response to Dr. Kissinger’s urging for some push, Mr. Karamessines said that we should put a three-month proposal to the Thais. We would pay for the upgrading if they would send forces into Cambodia, even though we could not pay allowances. Dr. Kissinger said this sounded good. The ISA representative said it was not certain whether it could be done.

Ambassador Johnson said we would propose to pay for the upgrading, and that we would ask Thailand what units they could use until the Khmer were trained.

Discussion of the Green Triangle began, but was deferred since the proposal is still being studied.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1970–1971, 6/12/70, Jordan and Cambodia. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. Kissinger initialed the memorandum from Holdridge, June 19, transmitting these minutes to him.
  2. There was no WSAG meeting on Tuesday, June 16. Karamessines probably is referring to the June 15 meeting; see Document 326.
  3. According to a June 12 memorandum from Holdridge, briefing Kissinger for this meeting, State sent Unger instructions indicating that the United States could not legally support Thai troops in Cambodia. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–075, WSAG Minutes, 6/12/70)
  4. According to Holdridge’s memorandum to Kissinger, June 12, the draft proposal envisioned supporting and upgrading two Thai regiments for the defense of Thailand that could be used in western Cambodia or southern Laos and given U.S. logistical support if an armed attack on Thailand developed. (Ibid.)