88. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Cambodia


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • JCS
  • Mr. U. Alexis Johnson
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Mr. Marshall Green
  • Lt. Gen. John Vogt
  • Mr. Thomas Pickering
  • Lt. Gen. Melvin Zais
  • Mr. James Wilson
  • NSC Staff
  • Defense
  • Mr. John Holdridge
  • Mr. David Packard
  • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
  • Mr. Dennis Doolin
  • Mr. D. Keith Guthrie
  • CIA
  • Mr. Richard Helms
  • Mr. Thomas Karamessines
  • Mr. William Wells

[Omitted here is the Summary of Conclusions.]

Thai-Khmer Units

Mr. Johnson: The Cambodians have now decided they don’t want the Thai Khmer units, and the Thais are in the process of disbanding them.

Dr. Kissinger: Are they already disbanding them?

Mr. Johnson: They will start very shortly. There would be an advantage in converting the Thai Khmers into SGUs, which could be used in Laos, where they are needed. We prepared a draft message—which is now being circulated—suggesting to Ambassador Unger that he discuss this possibility with the Thai. In the meantime, Unger has come in with a similar proposal. I would like to move that we dispatch our cable.

Mr. Packard: What does the cable say?

Mr. Johnson: It tells Unger to talk to the Thais about turning the Thai-Khmer units into SGUs.

[Page 178]

Dr. Kissinger: If these troops are partially Khmer, will they be enthusiastic about fighting in Laos?

Mr. Johnson: We have raised this question in our draft cable. It can be pointed out to the Thai Khmers that they would be helping in the defense of Cambodia. The pay will also be an inducement. Of course, some of them may nevertheless drop out. We also ought to take into account that we already have the money available for the SGU program.

Mr. Packard: I think these operations in Southern Laos are useful.

Dr. Kissinger: That may be true; but before the year is out, we may be hard pressed in Cambodia and may be wishing we had two regiments to put in. I am reluctant to see our assets disappear. We should also keep in mind the President’s view that he does not want Cambodia to go down the drain without some effort on our part.

Mr. Packard: In Southern Laos the units will be doing just as much good for Cambodia.

Mr. Johnson: Possibly they will be more helpful if used there.

Dr. Kissinger: If that is the case, why didn’t we think of putting them there in the beginning?

Mr. Packard: Our concern then was about the immediate problem of bolstering the capabilities of the FANK. Since that time, they have given evidence of having some staying power.

Mr. Green: Also, the Cambodians won’t integrate the Thai Khmer units into the FANK sufficiently to make it possible for us to employ Cambodian MAP funds in the program.

Mr. Johnson: The SGU operation is undoubtedly more pertinent to the present situation.

Mr. Green: If the Thai Khmer units are needed later in Cambodia, they can be relocated.

Lt. Gen. Vogt: The Thai Khmers can be used right now. They have equipment and ammunition. They will be a wasted asset unless we make some use of them now. Placed astride the enemy supply lines in southern Laos, they can make a real contribution to the defense of Cambodia.

Dr. Kissinger: We were going to establish the SGUs anyway. Using the Thai Khmers won’t add anything to our total assets.

Mr. Johnson: It will mean that those assets will be more immediately available.

Mr. Karamessines: Actually, the Thai Khmers will add to the total of SGUs.

Dr. Kissinger: Then the Thai Khmers would be in addition to the SGUs earlier planned for Southern Laos?

[Page 179]

Mr. Karamessines: Yes. There would eventually be a total of eight Thai SGUs. In addition, we have been having difficulty finding personnel for the proposed Lao SGUs. Using the Thai Khmers will permit us to move ahead immediately.

Mr. Green: Then we will end up with eight Thai and four Cambodian SGUs.

Mr. Karamessines: That’s right.

Mr. Wells: One of the Cambodian SGUs is at Pakse now. The second is in training, and the third and fourth will be coming in at the end of the month.

Adm. Moorer: (to Kissinger) I feel the same frustration you do with the Thais. On the other hand, Lon Nol has had more success than we anticipated.

Dr. Kissinger: And possibly more than he can sustain.

Mr. Karamessines: We will be significantly assisting Cambodia if we choke the enemy supply lines.

Dr. Kissinger: If Lon Nol knew that the present Cambodian MAP might be supplemented, do you suppose he would continue to refuse the Thai Khmers?

Mr. Helms: Basically, he doesn’t like having Thai troops in his country.

Mr. Karamessines: The Cambodians have had a lot of trouble with the South Vietnamese troops. They would rather do without foreign troops now that their needs are less pressing.

Mr. Johnson: I think there is no doubt that using the Thai Khmers in southern Laos is the best way to help Lon Nol.

Lt. Gen. Vogt: CINCPAC thinks so too.

Mr. Helms: I agree.

Dr. Kissinger: We will probably never see any Thai troops anyway.

Mr. Wells: We still have one problem. General Praphat is concerned about pay scales. This has been holding up the SGUs for four weeks. Praphat says that it isn’t possible to have Thai units in Laos on two different pay scales.

Mr. Johnson: How much is the difference?

Mr. Wells: It is significant. The SGUs are much cheaper. An SGU costs us $1,250,000 a year. The three artillery batteries and three battalions in Long Tieng cost about $25 million.

Mr. Johnson: Couldn’t we take the position in dealing with the Thais that we can’t have SGUs being paid at varying rates?

Mr. Wells: We already have pay differentials among SGUs.

Mr. Green: It would be much better to allow a dual pay scale continue for a short period.

[Page 180]

Mr. Karamessines: Praphat’s proposal is eventually to have all Thai units in Laos be SGUs.

Dr. Kissinger: Did he think that up himself?

Mr. Karamessines: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Why did he suddenly come up with the idea? Everyone has told me that having units in Long Tieng has been financially very advantageous to the Thais. Why should they give this up?

Mr. Wells: General Praphat is looking forward to the return of the dry season. He doesn’t want to have regular Thai units exposed to a major North Vietnamese offensive.

Dr. Kissinger: Has there been a rainy season offensive by our side?

Adm. Moorer: There has been some action in connection with Operation Leapfrog.

Mr. Holdridge: There is another explanation for Praphat’s proposal. It would mean putting a substantial portion—thirty-eight battalions— of the Thai Armed Forces on the US payroll.

Dr. Kissinger: Is everyone satisfied with this state of affairs? Let me take a look tonight at Alex’s proposed telegram.2 Are you sure that we won’t just be creating a complete vacuum everywhere by replacing the Thai units at Long Tieng?3

[Omitted here is discussion of Operation Prairie Fire and AK–47 ammunition for Cambodia.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969 and 1970. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Part I for the record of the WSAG discussion in the Middle East which immediately preceded the discussion of Cambodia. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Kissinger was evidently not satisfied with the idea of shifting the Thai Khmer regiments to SGUs in southern Laos. In a draft memorandum to the President, attached to a September 14 covering memorandum, Kissinger identified the following “serious risks: The Cambodians probably will need all the help they can get two or three months from now.” He also noted that the SGU battalions “would not be readily available—they would be dispersed and hard to redeploy.” Finally, he claimed that “there is no assurance that the personnel of the regiment (who volunteered for Cambodia) would be willing to accept the SGU role in Laos. We run the risk therefore that in pursuing this course we may in fact be acquiescing in the disbanding of the unit.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 563, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. V)