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273. Editorial Note

On August 1, 1969, the CIA prepared for the 303 Committee a 14-page update on regional intelligence activities that included information and recommendations concerning the Tibetan operations. The report stated in part:

“Since 1958, CIA has been supporting guerrillas of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan resistance movement, the bulk of whom are now located in a safehaven in Nepal just across the Tibet/Nepal border. They are conducting intelligence collections and minor paramilitary operations against Tibet and constitute a force which could be employed in strength in the event of hostilities [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], or in the event of a partial collapse of Chinese control of Tibet resulting from other causes. The above combined [Tibetan and other regional paramilitary] programs were approved by the 303 Committee for a three-year period in 1966 at a cost of [dollar amount not declassified]. The Fiscal Year 1969 expenditure was, however, only $2,500,000 and it is proposed to continue the program at this level in Fiscal Year 1970.”

The report noted that the CIA had provided military equipment, training, communications, and money to Tibetan resistance guerrillas in the Mustang area of Nepal. Approximately 1.5 million [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] was spent on the Tibetan force during the 1966–1969 period, often passed to leaders in local currencies to purchase food or animals. The current force had 1,800 men, “well above the optimum size considering the current targets and the increased Chinese control of Tibetan territory opposite Mustang.” The CIA noted that it had been discussing with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, guerrilla leaders, and others a plan to reduce the force to “300 well-equipped and combat ready men, the remainder being resettled as civilian ‘reserves.’ “The CIA requested $500,000 per year for the Tibetan program, with the expectation that the force reduction “might involve a termination and resettlement payment of $2,500,000, spread over a number of years, but the eventual effect would be to cut our annual cost to under $100,000.” In considering alternatives, the report stated: “In light of current conditions in South Asia it is not deemed necessary to discuss the alternative of more extensive support than that outlined in the ‘Proposal’. Should current indications of Soviet plans for subversion in Sinkiang and Tibet sharply increase, a plan to augment the present proposals could be quickly developed.”

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The CIA stated that there were few risks involved with these programs. The U.S. Ambassadors to India and Nepal, as well as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, had been kept apprised of this program. The report concluded by requesting $2.5 million for the Tibetan and a related paramilitary program for Fiscal Year 1970, while the CIA explored “ways to reduce the force level of the Tibetan guerillas, and to resettle them as appropriate.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303/40 Committee, 1969 Minutes)

In a September 12 memorandum to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Joseph Sisco noted “reservations” about the CIA claims that the force could be used in the event of a conflict with China or the weakening of Chinese control over Tibet stemming from “other causes.” (Ibid.) In a subsequent September 15 memorandum to Johnson, Sisco raised other concerns related to the possible use of these forces “given the state of Sino-Soviet relations.” He predicted that the Soviets would encourage an internal uprising in Tibet in the event of hostilities with China and urged that “The Committee make clear that it would reserve its judgment on any use of the Kampa Force [Tibetan guerrillas in the Mustang Valley in Nepal] in Tibet pending an extremely careful analysis of the circumstances existing at the time the issue comes up.” Sisco also suggested that the CIA emphasize to other governments in the region that the Tibetan border force was “defensive” in nature and that caution should be exercised before its use. (Ibid.) These memoranda were forwarded to the 303 Committee for a September 23 meeting.

Tibet was not discussed until the September 30 meeting of the 303 Committee, when Henry Kissinger, Richard Helms, John Mitchell, David Packard, and George C. Denney, Jr., Deputy Director of Intelligence and Research, concluded that “the operation is well worthwhile, [1 line of source text not declassified].” The recommendations for reducing the Tibetan and related regional paramilitary programs in the August 1 CIA paper were approved. (Memorandum for the Record by Frank Chapin, 303 Committee Meeting of September 30; National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, 303/40 Committee Files, 1969 Minutes)