113. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • Angola
  • The President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger
  • Acting Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff General David C. Jones
  • Director of Central Intelligence William Colby


  • State: Deputy Secretary of State Robert S. Ingersoll
  • Defense: Deputy Secretary of Defense William Clements
  • White House: Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
  • NSC: Lt. General Brent Scowcroft
  • Harold E. Horan

The President: Bill [to Colby], will you brief us on Angola and related problems.

[Page 266]

Mr. Colby: Yes, sir. [Briefed—as attached.]

The President: Cabinda was a part of the Portuguese territories? [This was in reference to a point in Mr. Colby’s brief as he described Cabinda.]

Mr. Colby: Yes, sir.

The President: What are the white areas within the borders of Angola?

Mr. Colby: These are essentially tribal, not military areas. These are additional tribes and I just chose [pointing on the chart] to mention those three. They have different languages and are different socially.

The President: Did the Portuguese do much in combatting illiteracy? Are there many educated blacks?

Mr. Colby: The Portuguese were not forceful in this area. The literacy rate is between 10–15 percent.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, until the coup, the Portuguese had no intention of leaving their territories in Africa and didn’t organize them for independence.

Secretary Schlesinger: Most of the educated classes are in Luanda and support the MPLA.

The President: What is the white population?

Mr. Colby: Three to four hundred thousand.

The President: Out of a total population of how many?

Mr. Colby: About 5.7 million.

The President: Are these mostly white Portuguese?

Mr. Colby: Yes.

The President: Now, Henry, can you give us the options?

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, I will be reasonably brief. This is an area where no one can be sure of the judgments. I do question the judgment that control of the capital is not of importance. The history of Africa has shown that a nation’s only focal point is the capital, and whoever has the capital has a claim on international support. In the Congo civil war, the reason we came out on top is because we never lost Leopoldville. If Neto can get Luanda, and drive the others out, he will have a power base, and gradually gain support of other Africans.

Mr. Colby: I agree, except to note the importance of the (Benguella) railway and Zaire and Zambia’s need for it.

The President: What is the name of the city at the end of the railway?

Mr. Colby: Lobito. There is, of course, always the possibility for fragmentation.

[Page 267]

Secretary Kissinger: Soviet arms shipments have reversed the situation. Sheldon Vance has just come back from talking with Mobutu,2 who has stressed the change in the balance of power. Portugal is tilting toward Neto, and the Soviets are putting important equipment, such as armed personnel carriers, into Neto’s hands.

Our understanding from Vance is that this is one reason Mobutu is moving away from Roberto and wants a coalition.

An interagency effort has developed options,3 none of which I am in wild agreement with. The first is neutrality—stay out and let nature take its course. This would enable us to avoid a costly involvement in a situation that may be beyond our control; protect us from some international criticism; avoid tying us to any group; and avoid further antagonizing the MPLA. The probable outcome would be that Neto would establish a dominant position. Mobutu might try to go with Savimbi, or adjust to reality; Angola would go in a leftward direction; and Zaire would conclude we have disinterested ourselves in that part of the world and move towards anti-Americanism.

As for the second course, my Department agrees, but I don’t. It is recommended that we launch a diplomatic offensive to get the Soviets, the Yugoslavs, and others, to lessen arms shipments to the MPLA, get Portugal to exert its authority, and encourage cooperation among the groups. We could have direct dealings with the Soviets or get African states to do it. If we appeal to the Soviets not to be active, it will be a sign of weakness; for us to police it is next to impossible, and we would be bound to do nothing.

If we try to affect events, we could support Roberto and Savimbi with arms and money. If we move to arms supplies, it would be best to do so through Mobutu, but we could give some money directly to Roberto and Savimbi.

Mr. Colby: We have had a relationship with Roberto [1½ lines not declassified]

The President: Is this for him, or for him and his activities?

Mr. Colby: For him and his activities. Savimbi has had a [less than 1 line not declassified] and we could up that.

[Page 268]

The President: Have we got any benefit out of [less than 1 line not declassified] Roberto?

Mr. Colby: Some. Mobutu knows about our relationship.

Secretary Kissinger: There is need for money to increase the discipline of his organizations. The agency has weapons that it could get [less than 1 line not declassified] into Zaire to control the situation with Mobutu as the front man.

I am not against diplomacy, but you can do that only if you know where you go if you fail. To launch a campaign against arms supply and not know where you’re going afterward is an impotent policy. We would be the first victims of failure.

The President: Is there a specific proposal from the group on grants in the arms area? I don’t want to make a decision now, but I didn’t see any proposals in the briefing papers.

Secretary Kissinger: The Forty Committee has met twice to discuss the situation. The first meeting involved only money,4 but the second included some arms package.5 I recommend a working group make a more systematic study of this option and return to you.

Mr. Colby: [1 line not declassified] give Mobutu money for the purchase of arms; [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Colby: [less than 1 line not declassified]

The President: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Colby: [1 line not declassified]

The President: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Colby: [2 lines not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: [1½ lines not declassified]

The President: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Colby: [2 lines not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: [less than 1 line not declassified]

The President: Is it CIA’s recommendation that the effort of doing something is worth it?

Mr. Colby: There is great value to aiding Roberto through Mobutu. The first is the effect on Angola, and the effect on Mobutu himself. Assistance to Savimbi could come in cooperation with Kaunda.

The President: At dinner he was very forceful on this. He said that it was important to get his man in first, and then he will win the election. I asked him if there were not going to be elections, and he said yes, [Page 269] and that was why it was important to put Savimbi in first and then he would win.

Secretary Kissinger: Kaunda was giving the President a lesson in political science. [Laughter.]

Mr. Colby: While it would be useful to give assistance, it would be matched by the Soviets and there could be increased fighting and there would be no happy ending. I don’t think we can put up a large enough sum to wrap it up quickly, and, with CIA’s own present exposure, to get away without a great deal of criticism.

The President: We can’t sit here and worry about six Committees if we do what’s right.

Mr. Colby: What I’m worried about is leakage and scandal in the present situation.

The President: It seems to me if you’re going to do something, you have to do it in a meaningful fashion.

Mr. Colby: In answer, I doubt we could have an immediate strategic effect.

Secretary Kissinger: But the reverse of that is that if we don’t do something they would be suppressed.

The President: Once the Popular Movement takes over you can write it off.

Secretary Schlesinger: We might wish to encourage the distintegration of Angola. Cabinda in the clutches of Mobutu would mean far greater security of the petroleum resources.

Mr. President, may I follow up—if we do something, we must have some confidence that we can win, or we should stay neutral. Roberto is not a strong horse. The fact that he stays in the Congo suggests he doesn’t have the tenacity to win.

The President: It seems to me that doing nothing is unacceptable. As for diplomatic efforts, it is naive to think that’s going to happen, and the proposals on Portugal sound amateurish. I would like some re-study aimed at doing something that looks at the levels of assistance, the speed and the resources. [to Colby]: When could you have that?

Mr. Colby: We could have that next week. South Africa would like us to join with them in an effort, but we can avoid the problems that would create and deal with the blacks. Some would be encouraged for the US to take a role, and that would activate them.

Mr. Clements: I agree with this. Doing something now and keeping the two parties afloat may well be encouraging Mobutu. Whatever happens in November is not final, and it’s important to keep Roberto and Savimbi viable and keep the options open. Mobutu some help and let him channel it.

[Page 270]

Secretary Kissinger: In the first instance we could activate Mobutu and inform Kaunda.

The President: He [Kaunda] was talking at dinner about getting together with someone. Who was that?

Secretary Kissinger: With Savimbi and Mobutu.

The President: Let’s get some options prepared, Bill [to Colby].6 When can you have them?

Mr. Colby: By mid-week.

Secretary Schlesinger: Can we look at something other than arms? The FNLA has a weak capacity to enforce discipline and we should look to see whether the Congolese (Zairians) can be used for instilling discipline. And then there’s the question of the degree to which we can bring Roberto and Savimbi together.

The President: Those are some of the things that have to be in the study. I think we need something for a week from Monday,7 so let’s set something up.

Attachment 8

June 27, 1975.


The current situation in Angola is highly unstable. Rivalry between contending nationalist groups has featured increasing violence, with each group trying to stake out territory and gain military superiority before independence on November 11 and final Portuguese withdrawal by next February.
The fighting over the past few months has been between the two largest groups, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, led by Agostinho Neto, and the National Front for the Liberation of An[Page 271]gola led by Holden Roberto. A third group in the picture is the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, led by Jonas Savimbi.
In action early this month Neto’s Popular Movement pushed the National Front out of some areas north and east of Luanda, thus blocking the Front’s supply lines into the capital.

Although there were some clashes in Luanda this month, the two remain essentially in a standoff there.

a. Military control of Luanda by either group would necessarily not determine control of or influence over the rest of Angola, particularly in the rich agricultural areas or along all the main transportation routes.

Roberto’s National Front still remains strongly entrenched in large areas of northern Angola where it has substantial tribal support.
New fighting can erupt at any time:
  • —There is a continuing buildup of the military forces of all three nationalist groups;
  • —Heavier weapons—mortars and bazookas—are being introduced into Angola by the USSR and Zaire;
  • —Armed and undisciplined civilians are in Luanda on behalf of the Popular Movement;
  • —Neither major group is able or willing to exercise effective control over its own forces;
  • —All three groups are initiating military operations in parts of Angola yet untouched by the fighting where no single group has an edge; and
  • —Politicking for the October elections for a constituent assembly will increase tensions.
The oil-rich enclave of Cabinda remains a tinderbox. The Popular Movement has a slight military edge there, but both other groups also have forces active.
All three want the enclave to remain a part of an independent Angola.
The picture is complicated by the presence of a factionalized separatist movement supported by both Zaire and Congo.
Both countries have endorsed Cabindan independence, and any intensification of the fighting there could bring outside intervention either directly or in support of the separatists.
The transitional government installed last January has proved unworkable.
It is constructed on a system of checks and balances, but in the current climate members of the three liberation groups, as government officials, concentrate on the competition between them. [Page 272]
Portuguese officials are not effective—they are caught in the middle.
The liberation groups have not honored their commitment to establish an integrated national army as called for in the independence accord.
The 24,000 Portuguese troops are mostly kept in Luanda. They will intervene in the fighting only to protect the whites.
The Portuguese have in effect abandoned most of the countryside to the nationalists, and are already crating some of their heavy equipment for shipment to Lisbon.
Portuguese forces are scheduled to begin withdrawal in October and are to be totally removed by next February.
There is nothing in the independence accord to prevent the Portuguese from withdrawing as fast as possible after October.
Lisbon’s policy insofar as it has one, is neutrality among the factions.
Portugal wants to protect its important agricultural and mining interests.
The Portuguese also want to be on good terms with whoever ends up in charge after independence, but their ability to affect events is diminishing.
At this point, the Portuguese leaders’ major concern is to prevent civil war, which could have serious political repercussions in Lisbon. They hope to avoid, for example, an increase in the number of white refugees returning to Portugal who would add to the turbulence there.
Thus, Lisbon can be expected to expend considerable diplomatic effort to reduce tension in Angola, and would certainly welcome similar efforts by interested third countries.
The role of outside powers in supplying military assistance to the nationalist groups remains a key factor.
The Soviet Union has been a long time supporter of Neto’s Popular Movement, providing both arms and cash during the years of the insurgency against the Portuguese.
We are unable to determine how much Soviet military aid is now reaching the Movement, but it helped the Movement score some of its recent gains.
Most of the aid is being channeled through Congo.
Soviet long-range goals in Angola are unclear, but in the short run Moscow supports the Popular Movement in a situation where all three nationalist groups are viable contenders for power.
Peking has had some association with all of the liberation movements in the past, but the Chinese are most closely associated with Roberto’s National Front. [Page 273]
They have supplied military equipment as well as some training. Some 100 Chinese advisers may now be in Zaire working with the Front.
Chinese assistance has helped the Front to establish its forces firmly in northern Angola.
Roberto has had little success in finding assistance elsewhere.
Zaire’s President Mobutu has loose family ties with Roberto and has long supported him and the Front with funds, arms, and training. He has also allowed Roberto to maintain his headquarters in Zaire.
Recently, however, Mobutu has cut back his assistance to the Front, in part because of his government’s serious financial problems and because he is cooling toward Roberto.
Mobutu is alarmed over the Front’s recent setbacks and feels Roberto’s position has been damaged because he refuses to leave Zaire and go to Luanda.
Mobutu now believes Jonas Savimbi of the National Union should be the primary figure in an independent Angolan government.
Mobutu, of course, has some serious concerns of his own.
Zaire is experiencing a severe foreign exchange shortage because of the low price of copper on the international market.
He has now privately acknowledged that the US was not involved in a recent coup plot, as he alleged, but may remain suspicious for some time.
The prospects for Angola between now and November are poor. Further violence could take place and edge the territory closer to civil war. At best, Angola will lurch along and become independent without a strong leader.
The constituent assembly scheduled to be elected in October is supposed to select a head of government of an independent Angola, but new violence could force a postponement.
At a meeting in Kenya last week Savimbi, Roberto, and Neto reached what amounts to an uncertain truce that merely postpones a confrontation.
They “agreed” to a number of measures, such as disarming civilians, designed to prevent new fighting. Similar agreements in the past have failed, however.
All three contenders seem to recognize the inconclusiveness of the pact. They state that they will meet again to try another form for the transfer of power if the elections are not held.
After independence, it now appears that no single liberation group in Angola will have the power to impose its own ideology as national policy. [Page 274]
If civil war is averted and the three liberation groups establish some kind of coalition, the government’s policies probably will be a delicate mix of the philosophies of the two major groups.
Both major groups want a non-aligned foreign policy and will seek to maintain some balance between East and West.
The Popular Movement, if dominant, would establish a highly-centralized and authoritarian one-party regime with a pronounced socialist orientation and close ties to the communist world, with US ties kept to a minimum.
The National Front would probably seek to establish a highly nationalistic and personalized regime. Because of the Front’s rather narrow political base, an FNLA state might be highly coercive. The Front would likely accept development and/or military aid from the West as well as the East.
Both groups can be expected to nationalize Angola’s major productive enterprises, but the Front probably would be more hospitable toward selective Western investment than the Popular Movement.

As long as an independent Angola does not restrict access to its transportation facilities, good relations with its neighbors Zaire and Zambia probably can be maintained.

1. An independent Angola will give moral and political support to black nationalists in Rhodesia and South Africa. It would probably not become immediately involved in supporting insurgencies there, however, because of distance and the dominant role now being played by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique in seeking a settlement with the Smith regime.

If, on the other hand, protracted civil war develops, Congo and Zaire could be brought into the conflict.
Civil war could also convince either one, or both to move into Cabinda in an attempt to annex or neutralize the enclave.
Continued fighting in Angola would exacerbate the confrontation between black and white Africa. It would intensify the fears of Rhodesia and South Africa concerning black majority rule.
South Africa is particularly concerned that a communist or unfriendly regime in Angola might support guerrilla activity in Namibia.
A hostile or unstable Angola would increase South African pressure on us to support its domestic and international policies. This would complicate our efforts to promote peaceful solutions to Southern Africa’s racial problems.
South Africa does not seem to be planning any action to counter this threat.
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Meetings File, Box 2, NSC Meeting, June 27, 1975. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room of the White House. All brackets, except those indicating material not declassified, are in the original.
  2. See Document 112.
  3. At the Senior Review Group meeting, June 19, it was agreed that an NSC meeting would be held on Angola, and “a paper would be prepared on the implications of U.S. neutrality and the implications of the U.S. taking a hand through a third party.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Paper, Box TS 71, National Security Council, Senior Review Group, August 1973–October 1975) The undated paper, “Addendum to Response to NSSM 224, U.S. Policy Toward Angola,” was prepared by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Africa. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Africa, Latin America, Inter-Agency Intelligence Committee Files, Angola NSSM 224 Papers) The response to NSSM 224 is Document 109.
  4. See Document 102.
  5. See Document 106.
  6. The Central Intelligence Agency suggested four options for assisting Roberto and Savimbi: 1) limited covert financial support for organizational and political activity as well as covert action to stop the flow of weapons to the MPLA; 2) substantial covert financial support and covert action to insure the Roberto and Savimbi groups would be active participants in an independent Angola; 3) a larger financial and matériel commitment, in addition to option 2, to defeat Neto militarily; 4) provide approximately one-third of the arms and supplies needed by Savimbi and Roberto. This option was considered too large scale to be covert. The paper was sent to the NSC on July 2. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 1, General Subject File, Angola)
  7. July 7.
  8. Confidential.