47. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2


  • Negotiating Instructions on Wheelus Base

I gather you told Alexis Johnson that you wanted to clear the negotiating instructions on Wheelus.

As you know, State and Defense tried for a week to get us to break the negotiating deadlock between them. We stood aside, and they have now come to terms with each other.

Ambassador Johnson has sent the resulting cable under the attached note (Tab A). I have described it in a possible information memo to the President. He has asked for clearance by Friday, December 12.

I have written the attached memo to the President for his information. It does not seem to me that negotiating tactics on something like this are a subject he should be bothered with.

On the tactics themselves, I believe we should now let State and Defense continue to haggle this out and just go along with their compromise.


That you acquiesce in the attached telegram (Tab A). [Kissinger wrote OK]
That you send the information memo at Tab B to the President if you feel he is interested.
[Page 2]

Tab A

Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)


  • Wheelus Base Negotiations

Enclosed are proposed instructions for Ambassador Palmer for the negotiations on Wheelus Base which are scheduled to commence on Monday. Broad outlines of this approach have been approved by Secretary Rogers, and the instructions themselves have been discussed with DOD. I am sending a copy to Dave Packard, who may want to make some comment to you prior to presentation of the draft to the President. If so, he should be in touch with you this morning.

In view of the time element, it would be helpful if these instructions could be despatched not later than Friday afternoon.

U. Alexis Johnson


Draft Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Libya

[Page 3]



  • Wheelus Negotiations Strategy
General Considerations. Libyan political situation unstable and susceptible of change in directions we cannot anticipate on basis present information. We wish to avoid actions which would strengthen hand of such elements of RCC as may be pro-UAR or to give RCC valuable political issue just prior Arab Summit or mini-Summit to follow in Tripoli. We also wish to avoid impression of quick submission to LARG demands for withdrawal from agreed areas which might affect our base structure elsewhere. We will require from LARG the conditions precedent to an orderly withdrawal. At this point we see little possibility resumption interim training but wish hold out possibility of resuming WTD training on reduced scale in post-withdrawal arrangement which would include continuing relationship LARAF. Finally, we will be negotiating LARG demands for our withdrawal in the context of preserving other major interests in Libya.
Strategy. Initial Libyan position will be to require from us a firm date for our withdrawal as a condition for discussion of any other subjects. We hope, however, at some point focus [Page 4] LARG attention on ongoing utility of Wheelus to Libyan military.
In this context, we believe Ambassador’s opening statement should be keyed to explaining serious problems both sides will face in precipitous withdrawal. We desire also emphasize fact base relationship has benefits Libya as well which we hope will be considered in context negotiations. He may affirm that we have begun to phase down at base (e.g., withdrawal of critical WRM) and that we will be continuing this process (e.g., Harvest Eagle, Sites 4 & 6, etc.). He should remind LARG negotiators that present Agreement provides for one-yeare period of notice of intent to terminate its provisions; that this period set advisedly in light complexities of phasing down complex installation; that assuming satisfactory agreement can be reached and carried out on withdrawal arrangements we undertake to complete withdrawal process within that time frame.
If, as we anticipate, LARG negotiators state that this is not acceptable, Ambassador should stress that orderly withdrawal from base depends on full cooperation both sides including LARG willingness to cooperate on customs, immigration, base security, introduction of TDY personnel and general freedom from harassment or abuse. We desire stress insofar as possible complexity problems to be faced. For example we will require LARG agreement to assume existing real estate leases in toto and to accept responsibility for any claims arising therefrom. Without full examination these issues we cannot be more specific about time frame within which withdrawal would be physically [Page 5] possible. Accordingly, we should insist on creation subcommittees which would set parameters for LARG cooperation. You may suggest that it should not take long for subcommittees to define cooperation we require and propose that they be directed to report back to principal negotiators within one week (or any other agreed period). You may indicate that if their reports meet our requirements, we would thereafter be willing to set a planning date for our final withdrawal. In this regard, we will not rpt not entertain probable LARG suggestion (made to British) that we withdraw military personnel immediately and leave to LARG the processing of civilians, dependents and “equipment.”
If LARG raises subject of equipment on base and indicates desire for some or all thereof, Ambassador should indicate that we are not rpt not now prepared to discuss this subject; that important items will be required to equip training facilities we must establish elsewhere; that there are strict legal requirements for disposal of USG property, including requirement to survey it in light needs other USG agencies. Surveys will require time, without which we will be required to withdraw all non-permanent constructions for subsequent survey and disposal.
We would hope that after initial, expected rhetoric and some bargaining on subject of specific date during first few sessions, implications precipitous withdrawal for its interests would become clearer to LARG. At that point we can indicate our willingness to enter into discussions of property we will [Page 6] be able to dispose of to LARG if time is available to us to meet our own legal requirements. In this context we should sound LARG intentions re future uses to which base will be put by LARG. We will then face a decision as to training and other assistance they may wish from us and/or others. If our decision is affirmative, we would hope to lead LARG on into examination of relationship between USAF presence and our ability to provide training and other services LARG may require. It is in this context that we should raise subject of post-withdrawal training arrangement.
[text not declassified]
US Requirements. To maintain maximum control of agreed areas we will require, and should insist on, continued validity of present Agreement until all personnel and operations thereunder have been withdrawn or ceased. This will, for example, entail substantial relaxation of present LARG customs controls. More importantly from point of view of preventing potentially serious incidents, it will entail reversion of base security (including both gates) to effective US contol; indeed, we should make maximum effort to this end, even though it may mean denying entry to base of non-official Americans (other than school children) or exit from base of all personnel who are not on official duty strictly defined.
Negotiating team DOD and Air Force sending representatives join you in discussions December 15. Further details will follow.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 738, Country Files, Africa, Libya, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for action. A note on the memorandum indicates Haig approved it. The notes on the attached December 11 memorandum from Johnson to Kissinger read: “Word received by phone that Mr. Packard concurs. H.H.S.”; “O.K. Haig for HAK 2/12/69”; and “Cleared cable with Jan Barbieri, S/S, 2100–2/12/69. SS.” The instructions were transmitted in telegram 206408 to Tripoli, December 12. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15 LIBYA–US)
  2. Saunders transmitted negotiating instructions on the Wheelus base prepared by State and Defense.