73. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Horn of Africa


  • State

    • Cyrus Vance
    • Warren Christopher (Deputy Secretary of State)
    • Richard Moose (Asst. Sec/African Affairs)
    • James Leonard (USUN)
  • Defense

    • Harold Brown
    • David McGiffert (Asst. Sec/ISA)
  • JCS

    • General David Jones (Acting Chirman, JCS)
    • General W.Y. Smith (Asst. to Chairman, JCS)
  • CIA

    • Stansfield Turner
    • William Parmenter (NIO/Africa)
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski (Chairman)
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Paul Henze (Notetaker)


Discussion focussed around three principal topics:

• Problems relating to the ongoing conflict and the Somali withdrawal

• Measures to reinforce regional security, stability and self-confidence

• Measures and initiatives vis-a-vis the Soviets and Cubans

The following decisions relating to current matters were taken:

• SR–71 missions will be flown only with permission of the British, and the Somalis and Ethiopians in respect to their own territory, and State will secure the necessary authorizations. Admiral Turner pointed out that as of now SR–71 missions cannot be justified on the basis of intelligence need. The group recognized this fact but felt that SR–71 flights could be politically advantageous and both Ethiopia and Somalia could be offered briefings on the status of the withdrawal/ceasefire from information derived from them.

• Everyone agreed that we should encourage the OAU to take initiative in respect to ceasefire arrangements, observers, measures to protect the civil population and related matters and that we should stay in close contact with the Nigerians and Gabonese. In respect to UN initiatives, it was agreed that this would be desirable but that it would be unlikely to succeed unless it could be done at OAU request or with OAU concurrence.

• The President’s 9 March statement, it was noted, conditions future economic and military aid on a Somali commitment to respect its neighbors’ territorial integrity.2 It was felt that this condition should not be applied to a PL–480 agreement about to be signed but that any further economic aid should be reviewed in the light of this condition. The idea of providing economic aid to facilitate rehabilitation to be administered by the OAU was advanced and will be further investigated.

• The group saw too many potential pitfalls in a Siad visit to Washington but felt that a special emissary to Siad, who could also visit some of the other capitals in the area, would be a very good idea, and a more specific plan will be developed.

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• The idea of a regional conference was discussed at length. It was felt that it would have to be very carefully put together to bring in Africans and not appear hostile to the Ethiopians. The idea will be examined further in connection with the special emissary’s mission.

• The group agreed that more briefings and consultation with the Congress was desirable. It will be done soon.

• Everyone felt it was too early to consider a port call in Somalia.

Discussion of measures that could be taken to demonstrate to the Soviets that there is a price to pay for their intervention in Ethiopia brought out one new idea: the possibility of tightening port security regulations as a retaliatory measure against Soviet shipping; but the group tended to feel that no new actions should be taken until Secretary Vance took serious soundings with Ambassador Dobrynin on several immediate issues:

• Soviet support for a ceasefire and a neutral observer group.

• Halt to inflow of Soviet and Cuban combat personnel.

• Suggestion that Soviets urge Cubans to begin planning withdrawal of combat presence from Ethiopia.

• Warning to Soviets against redeployment of Cubans against Eritreans because of the unsettling effect this would have on the Sudanese and other Muslim supporters of the Eritrean insurgency.

• Urge Soviets to take other measures and gestures to reduce tension in the area and promote settlement; also urge them to press Mengistu to do the same.

Secretary Vance will talk to Dobrynin as soon as possible on these matters.3

In respect to Cuba, the group felt that the possibility of bringing pressure by limiting economic credits which Cuba is seeking from a great many Western countries should be further examined. CIA will do a study. Since the analysis of questions relating to the possibility of support for Savimbi was not completed, this question was deferred to the next SCC Horn meeting.

It was decided that we should prod Mengistu on agrément for our Ambassador. David Aaron will send a thank-you letter for his visit and bring up the issue in it.

The group was informed of the President’s desire to have the Eritrean problem thoroughly examined. Everyone agreed that this was now likely to become a key issue because of its implications for Ethiopian-Sudanese relations and the interest of key Muslim countries in [Page 194] the Eritreans. CIA will prepare a briefing for the President and Eritrea will be discussed in depth at the next SCC meeting.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files 1977–1981, Box 184, PRC 064 Horn of Africa, 3/10/78. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. No minutes of the meeting were found.
  2. For the text of Carter’s statement, see Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, p. 490.
  3. Vance met with Dobrynin on March 11 to discuss the Horn of Africa. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 89.