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12/10/13 -  Cuba-L Document (Albuquerque)  - National Security Archives:Interview with Robert W. Hultslander, former CIA Station Chief in Luanda, Angola



Robert Hultslander served as the last CIA station chief in Luanda, Angola
from July 1975 through to the evacuation of U.S. personnel in early
November 1975 as MPLA troops moved to take power over rival factions in the
Angolan civil war.  As part of his research for Conflicting Missions, in
1998 Piero Gleijeses sent a set of questions and drafts of sections of the
book to Mr. Hultslander regarding CIA analysis and operations in the
Angolan conflict. Hultslander's responses, sent via fax, along with the
questions, which have been reconstructed for the purpose of this posting,
are excerpted below. 
 

Background:  I had had no experience in Africa prior to my selection as
Chief in Luanda, in July 1975.  I was serving in [another] country, and had
very little time to "read in" prior to assuming the Angola command in
August. I had less than one week with the Angola Task Force in Washington,
and spent two days on my way into Luanda with officers involved in the
Angolan program. My mind was not clouded by many facts, and I had few
preconceptions prior to hitting the ground. Since I would not be directly
involved, I also had only rudimentary knowledge of our covert action
program. I volunteered to remain in Luanda after Angolan independence
(November 11,1975), although the Consulate was ordered to close. Initially
approved at the highest levels of State and CIA, Kissinger, afraid of a
potential hostage situation, decided on the day of the last refugee flight,
November 3, 1975, that every American diplomat had to leave Luanda
immediately. I strongly disagreed, and pointed out that the MPLA
desperately wanted to keep an official U.S. presence, and would protect
anyone who stayed behind. I lost the argument. The Consulate's convoy to
the airport departed without me; I arrived by motorcycle only minutes
before the flight left for Lisbon, I was only in Angola a few days over
three months, but continued to follow events from Lisbon for over three
years. 
 

QUESTION: What kind of knowledge did the CIA have of the Angolan liberation
movements prior to the outbreak of the civil war? 

An Agency office was established in Luanda in 1964, chiefly to report on
various African Liberation movements. (Since Angola was a Portuguese
colony, Lisbon had provided coverage, routinely.) This office was closed in
1967, mainly as you suggest, "to humor the Portuguese," end the Agency was
forced to rely on "off-shore" coverage, mainly from Kinshasa, Lusaka, and
Lisbon. Responding to the worsening crisis following the Portuguese
Revolution, the Agency decided to send a few officers to Luanda on
temporary duty in March 1975. I followed as quickly as possible, arriving
in early August To the best of my knowledge, the bulk of the CIA's
reporting in 1974 and 1975 did in fact come from Kinshasa. Holden Roberto
was well known to the US Government which enjoyed good access to Roberto
and his chief lieutenants, facilitated by his father-in-law, Zairian
strongman Mobuto. On the other hand, we had little contact with UNITA (or
Savimbi) until UNITA emerged as the third major power player. Also, as you
mention in your study, Savimbi was not trusted because of his Chinese
communist contacts and his flirtation with Maoist philosophy. The Luanda
Consulate reported in June 1974 that Savimbi was ideologically sympathetic
to Maoism. The Lusaka Embassy also reported Savimbi was pro-Chinese and a
racist. The CIA took issue with these reports, and argued that Savimbi was
a nationalist exploring various means to gain assistance for his own
liberation movement, The Luanda Consulate subsequently modified its
critical reporting on Savimbi, but continued to believe that he was
paranoid and self-pitying. 
 

QUESTION: What was your own assessment of Agostinho Neto and the MPLA?
UNITA and the FNLA?

I came to share [U.S. embassy Consul General Tom] Killoran's assessment
that the MPLA was the best qualified movement to govern Angola. Many of its
leaders were educated at the University of Coimbra and, a few at Patrice
Lumumba University in Moscow. Although many outwardly embraced Marxism,
they were much closer to European radical socialism than to Soviet
Marxist-Leninism. Lucio Lara, a mulatto intellectual, was probably a
convinced communist (in the old, Cold War sense). Agostinho Neto, the
undisputed leader of the MPLA, however, was more moderate. A protestant
minister, he was married to a Portuguese, and had many close Portuguese
friends. His trusted doctor, and unofficial advisor, Armenio Ferreira, was
Portuguese and lived in Lisbon. Other senior MPLA leaders were impressive:
Lopo do Nacimiento, Paula Jorge, Nito Alves, Carlos Rocha, and Iko Carreira
were smart political operatives. Chieto and Dangereux were good military
commanders, etc. In addition, the MPLA was the least tribal of the three
movements. Neto and most of the top cadre were Mbundu, but the MPLA
welcomed many different tribes, unlike the FMLN (Bakongo) and UNITA
(Ovimbundu). Despite the uncontested communist background of many of the
MPLA's leaders, they were more effective, better educated, better trained
and better motivated. The rank and file also were better motivated
(particularly the armed combatants, who fought harder and with more
determination). Portuguese Angolans overwhelmingly supported the MPLA.
Unfortunately, the CIA's association with the FNLA and UNITA tainted its
analysis. As is frequently the case when intelligence collection and
analysis are wedded to covert action programs, objectivity and truth become
victims of political expediency. I believe this was the case in Angola. No
one wanted to believe the Consulate's reporting, and Killoran's courageous
and accurate analysis was ignored. He sacrificed his career in the State
Department when he refused to bend his reporting to Kissinger's policy.

In the interest of candor, I must admit that Killoran and I were frequently
at loggerheads over what I initially perceived as his MPLA bias. The
briefings and orientation I received prior to arriving in Luanda emphasized
the communist orientation of the MPLA, and convinced me of the urgent need
to stop the MPLA from taking power. I fully agreed with the U.S. policy
objectives as articulated to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in
December 1995. Since the MPLA was receiving Soviet assistance, I believed
that we had no choice but to counter with our own assistance to its
opponents. It was only after three months in Luanda, that I realized what
was really happening....

I had little direct contact with UNITA. My knowledge of this movement is
rudimentary, and thus not worth your consideration. As you are aware, UNITA
had little presence in Luanda, either politically or militarily, during the
time I was there. I was deeply concerned, nevertheless, about UNITA's
purported ties with South Africa, and the resulting political liability
such carried. I was unaware at the time, of course, that the U.S. would
eventually beg South Africa to directly intervene to pull its chestnuts out
of the fire.

I admit that I developed a bias against the FNLA and its leaders, which I
never tried to hide. Its ties with Mobuto merely added to my assessment
that this organization was lead by corrupt, unprincipled men who
represented the very worst of radical black African racism. My personal
experience only served to reinforce my opinions. I was disgusted by the
briefings I received in Kinshasa, and my meetings with FNLA leaders and
contacts. As an aside, which underlines my assessment: our senior FNLA
contact in Luanda tried (unsuccessfully) to use our sensitive facilities to
transport stolen goods. 
 

QUESTION: What was your opinion about the CIA covert action program
codenamed IAFEATURE?

Simply put, I was opposed to the covert action program in Angola because I
was convinced it would not succeed, and would badly damage our ability to
work in the future with moderate elements throughout Africa. We were not
prepared to spend the necessary resources to assure victory. Or more fairly
put, we should have realized that our adversaries (Moscow and Havana) were
more determined and much better positioned than we. And, they did not have
a hostile Congress controlling the purse strings. Nat Davis said it
succinctly in his notes to Sisco on July 12, 1995: Kissinger was determined
to challenge the Soviet Union, although no vital US interests were at
stake. We held bad cards, as Davis argued. I like your conclusion, "To
`pass' when no vital interests were at stake and the cards in one's hands
were bad could be been, therefore, a sign of maturity, not of weakness. But
it was not Kissinger's style: his United States must play, and win," How
sad!  [...]

Instead of working with the moderate elements in Angola, which I believe we
could have found within the MPLA, we supported the radical, tribal,
"anti-Soviet right." You write that, "Kissinger feared that an MPLA victory
would have destabilizing effects throughout southern Africa." Of course the
opposite proved true; it was our policies which caused the
"destabilization:"  [...]

(Comment: I did my best to argue the U.S. Policy position and defend the
covert action program during my all night session with [Senator] Clark at
Killoran's Luanda residence. My heart was not in it, however, and I finally
admitted that I personally thought our support of Roberto and Savimbi would
prove disastrous. This position, as you can imagine, caused me problems
with my own superiors, and infuriated Kissinger.) 
 

QUESTION: What evidence did the CIA station have of a Cuban presence in
Angola?

I agree with the history as you present it, and with your conclusions
regarding the assistance provided by Cuban forces, which I believe did not
arrive in any numbers until after we departed. [...] Although we desperately
wanted to find Cubans under every bush, during my tenure their presence was
invisible, and undoubtedly limited to a few advisors. We knew they were on
the way, however, and I believe we knew about the Britannia flights through
Brazzaville in early November. [...] You may be interested to know that
[after we evacuated] a senior Cuban officer, believed to be the DGI Station
Chief, took over my beach apartment and confiscated all my possessions,
including several month's supply of food and my African art collection.
...Since I probably was known to MPLA intelligence, I assume this ironic
twist of fate was not coincidental. 


Source: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB67/transcript.html


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