CIA activities in Cambodia
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President Richard Nixon asked Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger to explore two potential CIA actions in Cambodia:
- Creating covert paramilitary harassing operations directed against North Vietnamese Regular Forces in the sanctuary areas just over the Cambodian border
- CIA capability for eliminating or reducing the arms traffic through Cambodia to communist forces in South Vietnam.
After discussion in the 303 Committee, which was then the approval group for US covert actions, the committee endorsed the first, although the CIA recommended against it for two reasons. They believed it would take effort away from operations in South Vietnam, and also would have questionable effectiveness but high cost against the large North Vietnamese forces in Cambodia.
As far as the second, CIA has identified a number of Cambodian army officers who are actively involved in supporting communist forces in South Vietnam, but does not now have direct, secure and controlled access to any of these officers. They doubt any of the officers involved in the arms traffic would be now susceptible to bribery both because of the profits accruing to them from such operations as well as the personal political risks entailed in a relationship involving the United States. Further, they pointed out that if recent U.S. diplomatic approaches to Cambodia result in the formal resumption of full diplomatic relations, CIA will gain an operating base for improved intelligence collection and covert action. With such a base, they would have a better chance to convince Prince Sihanouk that it is in his best interest to make an honest effort to reduce or halt the arms traffic.
Kissinger recommended continuing to monitor rather than taking action. There is no record on file of a Presidential decision on these matters.
A February 19 memorandum from Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger to President Richard Nixon proposed a bombing attack by B-52 aircraft against what was believed to be COSVN in Cambodia. In this discussion, specific CIA analysis was not discussed, but Kissinger indicated that he believed the target information to be correct:
On February 18, 1969, Mr. H.A. Kissinger, Secretary of Defense Laird, Deputy Secretary of Defense Packard, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wheeler, and Colonels Pursley and Haig met in the Secretary of Defense’s conference room and were briefed by a two-officer team from Saigon on the conduct of the proposed Arc Light strike against the reported location of COSVN Headquarters.
Note that no intelligence personnel were present.
At a 11 October 1969 meeting with Nixon, Kissinger, United States Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, Attorney General John Mitchell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (i.e., no CIA personnel), several pertinent observations were made.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Earle Wheeler cited two COSVN Resolutions, with the inference that COSVN existed as an organizational entity. In the subsequent discussion of bombing options, there were no mention of COSVN's physical location.
In December 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and overthrew the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, installing a puppet dictatorship led by Khmer Rouge defectors. The Reagan administration authorized the provision of aid to a coalition called the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, known as the KPNLF and then run by Son Sann. Vietnam withdrew its forces in 1989.
- Central Intelligence Agency (3 August 1954). "NIE 63-5-54: Post-Geneva Outlook in Indochina" (PDF)
- Henry A. Kissinger (March 17, 1969). "Memorandum for the President on Possible CIA Courses of Action in Cambodia".
- Kissinger, Henry (19 February 1969). Consideration of B–52 Options Against COSVN Headquarters (PDF). Foreign Relations of the United States, Nixon-Ford Administrations. Volume VI. Foreign Relations, 1969-1976. Vietnam, January 1969-July 1970. United States Department of State. FRUS Document 22
- JCS Meeting with the President (PDF). Foreign Relations of the United States, Nixon-Ford Administrations. Volume VI. Foreign Relations, 1969-1976. Vietnam, January 1969-July 1970. United States Department of State. 11 October 1969. FRUS Document 136
- Sihanouk, Norodom (1973). My war with the CIA: The memoirs of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-48543-2.
- Clymer, K. J., The United States and Cambodia, Routledge, 2004, p.22.
- Far Eastern Economic Review, December 22, 1988, details the extensive fighting between the U.S.-backed forces and the Khmer Rouge.