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CIA Angola Lies Exposed 25 Years Later

From: The Independent/UK (5 Apr 2001)
Date: 07 Apr 2002


The Independent (London), April 5, 2002


By Andrew Buncombe In Washington

AMERICAN FORCES were involved in a pre-emptive covert attempt to prevent the Communist takeover of Angola, according to newly released documents that reveal the US lied about events that led to years of chaos and war in southern Africa. The revelation has also led to further criticism of the former secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

America has always claimed that it sponsored the CIA-run operation in 1975 in response to the arrival of up to 50,000 Cuban troops who came to support the Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The group held the capital, Luanda, in the months before independence from Portugal, declared in August 1975. But the documents show the American-sponsored forces arrived in Angola several weeks before the Cubans - invading via neighbouring Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the same time South African troops, posing as Western mercenaries, attacked Luanda.

Piero Gleijeses, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the documents, said: "When the United States decided to launch the covert intervention, in June and July, not only were there no Cubans in Angola, but the US government and the CIA were not even thinking about any Cuban presence in Angola.

"If you look at the CIA reports which were done at the time, the Cubans were totally out of the picture. (But in reports presented to the Senate in December 1975) what you find is really nothing less than the rewriting of history."

The American effort failed to keep Marxists from taking power but ushered in a long civil war, involving US, Chinese and Soviet interests and Cuban and South African soldiers. Washington eventually backed the rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who was killed in Angola this year on 22 February.

Dr Gleijeses' research - for his recently published history of the conflict - documents co-ordination between America and South Africa on training missions and airlifts, and bluntly contradicts congressional testimony of the era and Dr Kissinger's memoirs.

The research has led to fresh criticism of Dr Kissinger. Nathaniel Davis, who resigned as his assistant secretary of state for African affairs in July 1975 over the Angola intervention, said: "Considering that things came to a head over covert action in the US government in mid-July, there is no reason to believe we were responding to Cuban involvement in Angola."

Robert Hultslander, who served as CIA station chief in Angola from August to November 1975, said: "It was our policies which caused the destabilisation. Kissinger was determined to challenge the Soviet Union, although no vital US interests were at stake."

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