109. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Interdepartmental Group for Africa1


[Omitted here are a title page and table of contents.]

I. Introduction and Summary

In response to NSSM 224,2 this study analyzes the current situation in Angola and attempts to project the future trends in the soon-to-be independent territory. It weighs US interests and objectives, the involvement of other third countries, and sets forth options on which United States policy could be formulated.

The study finds the situation in Angola unstable, with continuing factional strife between the contending nationalist parties probable. The presence of Portuguese military forces and perhaps also the recognition of the need to appear ready for independence have kept the contenders from pushing the conflict to the point of full civil war. The point of greatest danger in this regard will be immediately after independence when the Portuguese forces are withdrawn and before the government in power has had opportunity to consolidate its hold.

Neither of the major liberation movements, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) or the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) commands military superiority over the other. The FNLA has been the stronger throughout most of the period [Page 254] of insurgency, but during recent fighting the MPLA has more often come out on top. The third movement, The National Movement for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), is militarily much weaker than either of the other two groups.

Of the three party leaders, the MPLA’s Neto, a Marxist poet, has the greatest intellectual stature. Jonas Savimbi, of UNITA, has appeared of late to be the most pragmatic and practical of the three and is also reputed to be the most articulate and well-informed on current events. The FNLA’s Roberto is an anti-communist and close associate of Zairian President Mobutu. Roberto refuses to go back into Angola from Zaire, where he has long lived in exile. His prolonged residence in Zaire appears to hurt the FNLA’s chances.

Portugal’s primary objective seems to be to cut her losses and to get out of Angola completely and as rapidly as possible. Neighboring African states have provided financial and military assistance to the liberation movements. For ideological reasons, Congo supports the Marxist-oriented MPLA, while Mobutu has backed the FNLA. Both the Congo and Zaire have their eyes on the Cabinda enclave, primarily because of its petroleum riches and strategic location.

The Soviet Union has long backed the MPLA, and there is evidence it has lately provided the movement with considerable new military equipment. China has had some associations with all of the movements in the past, but is now most closely associated with the FNLA, to which it has supplied military equipment as well as some training.

Because of its important petroleum deposits and large coffee production, Angola is one of black Africa’s richest countries. The country’s agricultural potential is great—two-thirds of its arable land is not now being cultivated—and significant deposits of other minerals add to the promise of a bright economic future for the country. Angola will, of course, need development assistance for many years to come, primarily because it has such a small pool of trained manpower.

There may be a role for the OAU or the UN in promoting internal stability in Angola or in helping resettle refugees, particularly with respect to Roberto’s efforts to move three-quarters of a million Angolan Bakongo back into the country from Zaire where they now live in exile. It should be noted, however, that it is unlikely that the OAU—which strictly avoids interference in the internal affairs of its members—will want to take on the Angolan problem, and so far only UNITA has shown any interest in appealing to the UN for help with their troubles.

A FNLA and/or a UNITA regime would be somewhat easier to deal with than a MPLA government and would probably more readily encourage an interest in mutually beneficial ties. Even so, Savimbi and Roberto are nationalists, who would want to control (or even national [Page 255] ize) Angola’s resources, practice non-alignment, and accept aid from all countries, and support Third World causes.

An MPLA regime would probably try to put the party’s socialist doctrines into practice. But practical nationalists might postpone the application of some measures, since even a socialist Angola might well accept foreign investment. Political relationships would not be very cordial; we would probably have the arms-length relationship we have with, say, Algeria or Somalia.

In spite of considerable press coverage in Angola, little public feeling on the subject seems to have been generated in the United States. Congress has shown some awareness of the situation in the former Portuguese colonies as they approach independence and has appropriated modest amounts of assistance for them. As yet there is no substantial Congressional sentiment regarding US policy toward Angola. It can be assumed, nevertheless, that there would be strong Congressional opposition to any US involvement in support of one of the contending factions.

The study presents three options for US policy:

  • —Neutrality, under which we would make no commitment of US prestige or resources to influence the course of events in Angola.
  • —Active promotion of a peaceful settlement which, by reducing the chances of a continuing armed conflict, would create a situation in which we believe the FNLA and UNITA might better be able to compete with MPLA.
  • —Providing support designed to help ensure the continued viability of the FNLA and UNITA, with a view to preventing the MPLA from gaining power.

[Omitted here are sections 2–9 and an annex.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Africa, Latin America, Inter-Agency Intelligence Committee Files, Angola NSSM 224 Papers. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem.
  2. Document 105.