173. Memorandum for the Record1


  • 40 Committee Meeting, 3 February 1976, 4:00 p.m.

Members Present: Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Brent Scowcroft; Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert F. Ellsworth; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General George S. Brown; Director of Central Intelligence George Bush.

[Page 429]

Substitute Member Present: Director of Intelligence and Research Harold Saunders vice Under Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco.

Also Present: Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lt. General W. Y. Smith and CIA Deputy Director for Operations William Nelson were present for the entire meeting. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs William Schaufele; Chief, Africa Division, CIA, James M. Potts; and NSC Senior Staff Officer for Africa Harold Horan were present for Item 1. Chief, Europe Division, CIA, William Wells was present for Item 2.

1. Angola

Scowcroft: We have two new members here today. Welcome to our group. George (Bush), do you want to tell us where we stand in Angola?

Bush: These are the words of CIA, not mine. I am prepared to brief at some length, or somewhat shorter, at your pleasure. (Briefed on situation in Angola, during the course of which he made the point that during January the Soviets and Cubans had spent about $88 million on Angola.)2

Scowcroft: Let’s have the specifics on that.

Bush: Well, here they are (in millions):

Soviets Cubans Total
Materials 23. 41. 64.
Personnel .4 17.6 18.
Transportation 2. 4. 6.
Totals 25.4 62.6 88.

Saunders: That’s a dramatic increase. The estimated total for several months was only about $180 million.

Scowcroft: Right—almost half again as much. What we are faced with, it seems to me, is whether to shut off everything, or to continue with what is in the pipeline. The President has not yet decided what to do about overt aid, so there’s no need to address that now. Anyone feel that we should not continue with what is in the pipeline?

Ellsworth: I have two questions. I know I’m the new boy here, but I am concerned with what we are proposing to do in this paper.3 I’m brand new and should hesitate to open my mouth, but I have questions about some things. The paper says that we should continue to support [Page 430] UNITA and FNLA until they collapse, encourage the French to give their all, Zaire should be encouraged, Zambia, too, but that all this will run out in March and then we will be finished and the whole thing will collapse. I have two questions. First, is this what we want to do? Encourage FNLA and UNITA with every bit of what is in the pipeline and then let them fade away and collapse? We might be injured by letting that happen. Maybe we should approach this on different grounds. Maybe we should explore other means to try to get a better deal, try to buy better terms than ultimate complete surrender. These are big questions. I don’t have the answers.

Scowcroft: This paper does not include all that we should do. The major question is whether we shut off everything now, continue with what’s in the pipeline or use what we have differently. Along with our review we must plan for consultation with the major elements involved and the neighboring countries to ease tension. It is not just to run the pipeline out. There are other alternatives. If we were just quitting, we could shut the pipeline now.

Ellsworth: No, not shut it off now, but put the dollars we have to some other and perhaps better use. What is our money situation now? If the Defense supplemental passes it will bar the use of any of the money in it for Angola, and will rule out any reprogramming, right?

Bush: The President can try to do something overtly, but we do not have a free hand.

Ellsworth: I understand that there is [dollar amount not declassified] but do we have to check with the Appropriations committees on this?

Nelson: Let me clarify our money situation. We have been authorized $31.7 million. All of that has been obligated except [dollar amount not declassified]—or, more correctly, we can deobligate some and make available a total of up to [dollar amount not declassified] There is [dollar amount not declassified] in the CIA Reserve in old money.

Ellsworth: That’s [dollar amount not declassified]

Nelson: This might be available, although we would have to go to the Appropriations committees and explain what we wanted to use it for in Angola.

Ellsworth: And you think they’d agree to using it for refugee aid, resettlement, etc.

Nelson: They might—we don’t know. They might not approve anything. The [dollar amount not declassified] we wanted from Defense reprogramming is out totally. Our use of the 1976 Reserve replenishment would be subject to Congressional approval.

Scowcroft: The sum of [dollar amount not declassified] is really all that is readily available.

Nelson: The rest is all possible, but not assured.

[Page 431]

Bush: I agree with what you are saying, Bob (Ellsworth). This paper was not intended by my people as a final plan. We were just trying to disengage.

Ellsworth: Disengagement could be a bridge, but it seems to me that if we push things through the pipeline and then come to an abrupt halt when the money runs out that we may not be doing the best thing. I want to support a policy in the larger concept about which we are all clear. Something better than outright surrender. Something better for Zaire and for France than to encourage them to go all out with us and then for us to pull out in March.

Bush: Action with the [dollar amount not declassified] to build a bridge while delaying a pull-out.

Saunders: In all fairness, there’s something missing here and State should supply it—policy. We have a paper—Bill Shaufele has worked on it—which is before the Secretary for decision.4 It deals with transitional action to put the problem in a broader context. One alternative would be to maintain a relatively high level of guerrilla activity which will help lead to a political settlement. Or more on the political potential—UNITA withdrawing, going into the woods, but holding territory while talking with others. If we do this, how would the remaining dollars best be spent, which will determine whether we should keep the pipeline open or hold up. There is no decision from the Secretary yet, but this will give us policy.

Ellsworth: I’d like to see that. But I am not ready to agree to this program in principle until I obtain more information.

Scowcroft: One thing to remember. They didn’t start fighting because of us, and they are not likely to stop just because we say so. It is not our decision; it is their decision.

Ellsworth: I don’t agree. We have an interest in what they do.

Scowcroft: But we don’t have control and we shouldn’t try to control.

Bush: We don’t have any clout.

Ellsworth: What are we trying to do then?

Bush: We are trying not to get clobbered.

Ellsworth: We might have an interest in showing that the U.S. is withdrawing.

Saunders: I don’t think that would work. We need to work hard to modify the political situation.

Schaufele: We might have more interest in playing out the Angola matter because of regional concerns. What is the threat to Zaire and [Page 432] Zambia? So we would want to maintain whatever military capability we could muster. We want to get the most value from our money.

Saunders: Should we spend the money for general operations to try to sustain UNITA/FNLA? What would they do?

Ellsworth: Who knows?

Nelson: We shouldn’t confuse what we are talking about with the classic definition of guerrilla warfare. I think the trend is to keep up general operations—to try to maintain lines of communications. I think the most you could expect would be that they would try to protect some of the land. UNITA might split on a real guerrilla situation if you tried to move them from the towns where they live and put them into the bush. They may want to make peace. I think that applies to Mobutu, too. He might move to recognize the MPLA. The same with Kaunda.

Saunders: Especially if we tell them the money’s gone and there will be no more.

Scowcroft: What happens when we tell them we want to pull the plug.

Bush: Don’t. Let’s get the Secretary’s views and keep the thing going till then.

Scowcroft: One of the key elements is whether the President wants to take on the Congress again and try to get overt aid for Zaire/Zambia or for Angola or what.

Saunders: Whether he does or not, what should he do with UNITA—stretch out our funds, or are we in a situation where we should go all out for six to eight weeks, or should they hole up? What is UNITA likely to do?

Nelson: Probably try to hold on to where they live.

Scowcroft: Any realistic hope that Savimbi could control his area through March?

Potts: Maybe he could hold on for a week. We can’t even get a lead on what he would do unless we can talk to him about what we can do. If we tell him that this is our plan, then we could talk to him about what he can do. This is the same problem with Mobutu, with Savimbi and Roberto.

Saunders: If we go to him now we could only ask him what he is going to do. If we wait and go with a prepared U.S. strategy we could ask what he would do within that framework.

Potts: There’s not much time to make decisions. He is hard pressed and is trying to save his troops. Probably he would get away from the railroad and from the roads and just try to exist.

Scowcroft: If we go and say we have so many dollars, what’s the most optimistic estimate?

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Potts: That he would hold on for a week or so.

Ellsworth: If we asked, he might say he wanted what was in the pipeline.

Potts: He might say he wanted what he asked for last—mortars, ammunition, etc. But the situation has changed and if he has to move, he might want land mines now to protect his area. He might want aircraft to put supplies into a new area. We’d have to look at that and decide if it was possible.

Ellsworth: If he does that, are we going to Zaire and ask them to help us out or just stick with what we are doing?

Scowcroft: We need the political strategy which will give us guidelines about what to do. We need a paper and then to check with the President on further aid. Then we can get what we are doing coordinated with the political strategy of the four or five major actors. It is unlikely that Mobutu/Kaunda/Savimbi/Roberto will all agree.

Nelson: No. Kaunda wants the railroad open. He’ll make peace to do it.

Scowcroft: Savimbi also?

Nelson: Possibly.

Schaufele: How open is the railroad?

Potts: Some bridges have been blown.

Ellsworth: Doesn’t MPLA hold some key points?

Potts: Yes, and they blew the bridges.

Schaufele: I think there is something to be said for playing this out over several months because time may turn the Cuban presence to our advantage, especially as they move more into the country.

Brown: I agree. We’ve not exploited it.

Ellsworth: Not to mention the effect on Zaire and Zambia.

Schaufele: They might have to go back over the line.

Saunders: Does Savimbi know there’s [dollar amount not declassified] available?

Nelson: No. He read about what Congress was doing here and came to Kinshasa to see what was going on.

Scowcroft: He doesn’t have a clue?

Potts: I think he believes it soon may be all over and we could only tell him that we were trying to decide in a few days.

Schaufele: There’s another question. Are the South Africans going to back Savimbi to put some covering on their role in Angola?

Potts: There is no indication what South Africa is prepared to do.

Schaufele: Don’t they know what we are doing?

Potts: We’ve not told them.

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Schaufele: They might want to form a buffer in front of the dam.

Potts: That’s logical, but we don’t know.

Scowcroft: It seems to me that we need the political strategy paper, and it also seems to me over the next few days we should advise Savimbi to try to preserve his force and not try to beat the Cubans.

Potts: Savimbi is sending off groups of 10 to 11 troops now and telling them to guard a road, or secure a bridge—trying to protect his forces.

Schaufele: With a significant flow of the pipeline he could hold out in the South?

Potts: Yes, he might.

Ellsworth: Can’t we tell him to move East?

Potts: There’s much symbolism in where he is. If he had to give up the key cities where he is now the MPLA would make much of it as a symbolic victory—it has political significance.

Nelson: The MPLA would trumpet it as a major victory.

Scowcroft: Any realistic hope of doing anything else?

Bush: Brent, there’s another problem—French helicopters. What shall we tell them? I’m not sure what the commitment is, but what do we want to do with these gunships? We shouldn’t wait too long.

Saunders: It can wait two or three days.

Brown: Try to use them.

Nelson: They won’t be ready for a month.

Scowcroft: Really?

Nelson: We sent an expert out to survey the situation, and he believes that they will be ineffective.

Brown: Then cut it off today.

Nelson: He says that they will have no air spotters to tell them where targets are, that they will have no air protection, and that they will be sitting ducks for Redeyes or other ground weapons.

Scowcroft: They won’t be effective now.

Nelson: The French expect us to pay for this, and all we may get will be a bill for lost helicopters.

Scowcroft: Not my understanding.

Nelson: It is complex, but the French expect us to cover their expenses.

Scowcroft: I don’t think that is accurate.

Nelson: Then you’d better talk to Ambassador Rush—he says it is.

Scowcroft: I talked to Henry (Kissinger) and he says no.

Schaufele: I talked to the French and that’s what they led me to believe.

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Scowcroft: It won’t hurt to wait a few days on the French, [less than 1 line not declassified]

Nelson: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Scowcroft: Anybody disagree?

Brown: Do that and then call off the helicopters.

Saunders: I agree.

Brown: If they are not effective, why go ahead?

Schaufele: Again, there may be political reasons for keeping the French engaged.

Ellsworth: They are not going to be ready to go for a month, so maybe it is not necessary to make an immediate decision.

Brown: That’s like being in the locker room putting your shoes on when second half begins—you aren’t going to get into the game.

Potts: The French didn’t send the proper training equipment or teams.

Schaufele: Maybe they didn’t intend to get into the game.

Brown: It is one thing to train how to fire missiles from a helicopter, but quite another to use a helicopter in that manner.

Scowcroft: Well, we don’t need to decide this right now. Let’s see where it fits into the political strategy paper. You can move on the C–130. (To Saunders) You will hope to have the paper shortly?

Brown: I have a related issue. I believe we simply have not exploited the scope and degree of the Cuban involvement. If they don’t get burned we are asking for trouble down the road. They are going to raise hell in Latin America. We’ve got to find a way to clip their wings.

Scowcroft: I couldn’t agree more.

Ellsworth: And I think we would have the support of many Latin American nations.

Brown: Yes, they would agree, and the OAS, too. We have not yet gotten all the mileage out of this in this country, either. If we had, we wouldn’t have so many goofy things happening. We’ve got to find a way to go all out on this.

Schaufele: What about the 200 Cubans in Laos?

Saunders: Maybe we need a count shown on a map.

Scowcroft: They are all over. Let’s look at this again.

Schaufele: Zaire and Zambia ought to get in on this, too. They ought to work a lot harder. Visitors from there will be in this week, and we’ll talk to them. When the number of Cubans went over 10,000 people began to take notice.

Ratliff (to Scowcroft): Do you want to assign responsibility for this?

[Page 436]

Scowcroft: The Working Group should do this. Anything else on this subject?

Nelson: One footnote. [1½ lines not declassified]

Scowcroft: Did you recruit any?

Potts: [2 lines not declassified]

Scowcroft: You can’t put [less than 1 line not declassified] with Savimbi.

Potts: No, but Roberto is still trying to do something from across the river.

Ellsworth: Say, when I was on the Hill this afternoon they were asking me about an American military attaché in London who was helping to recruit mercenaries.

Schaufele: We’ve denied that.

Bush: Well, have you all heard of Bufftin? He’s one of your ex-soldiers who has gone AWOL several times, been tried for rape and been in and out of jail, but he’s saying that he is going to recruit Americans.

Schaufele: But that type makes the best mercenary fighter.

Nelson: He was in a hotel bar with a buddy and they were wearing Army green berets and with holsters stamped “U.S.” although they didn’t have 45’s in them. He claimed he was the vanguard of 2,000 Special Forces troops. We’ll be hearing about that in the press soon.

Potts: His military record shows that his military specialty was as a cook and clerk, although he had some training in infiltration and hand-to-hand combat.

Scowcroft: Any views on [less than 1 line not declassified]recruitment?

Brown: I agree, don’t go on.

Ellsworth: Agree.

Scowcroft: Hal?

Saunders: Agree.

Scowcroft: I’ll do what I can to get the paper through Henry and then we will have to meld this paper with the political strategy.

Saunders: I think it should go to the working group to conform the action paper with the political paper.

Scowcroft: Paragraph seven is heavily dependent upon political factors.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Angola.]

  1. Source: National Security Council, Ford Administration Intelligence Files, 40 Committee Meetings. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Briefing not found attached.
  3. Attached to a January 31 memorandum from the Chief of the Africa Division to Bush, entitled “Angola—Plan for Disengagement.” (Central Intelligence Agency, DO Files, Job 80–00464A, Box 34, Angola Covert Action Program Statements)
  4. Not found. At the next 40 Committee meeting, the paper was still awaiting Kissinger’s approval. See Document 175.