It was several days before the US realised the severity of the FNLA defeat at Quifangondo, but even then had little idea of the extent of the Cuban involvement. The news from the southern front was, in their view, still positive. Kissinger, like the South Africans, was shaken by the scale of the Soviet and Cuban response. The CIA's Angolan task force at CIA headquarters at Langley had been so confident of success by the Zairian and South African regulars, that on 11 November the members had celebrated Angolan independence with wine and cheese in their crepe paper decorated offices. The US had not commented on the South African invasion of Angola but denounced the Cuban intervention when it first acknowledged Cuban troops in Angola in an official statement on 24 November 1975. Kissinger said "that US efforts at rapprochement with Cuba would end should 'Cuban armed intervention in the affairs of other nations struggling to decide their own fate' continue." On 28 February 1976, Ford called Castro "an international outlaw" and the Cuban intervention a "flagrant act of aggression".
Due to the hostility between the USA and Cuba, the Americans regarded such an air by the Cubans as a defeat which could not be accepted. The US assumed that the USSR was behind the Cuban interference. On 9 December Ford asked the Soviets to suspend the airlift, still assuming it was a Soviet-run operation. The Americans also depicted the motivations and timings of the Cubans differently: They claimed that South Africa had to intervene after Cuba sent troops in support of the MPLA and that the war in Angola was a major new challenge to US power by an expansionist Moscow newly confident following communist victories in Vietnam War. Only years later it became clear to them, that the Cubans acted on their own behalf.
Castro responded to the US reaction: "Why were they vexed? Why had they planned everything to take possession of Angola before November 11? Angola is a country rich in resources. In Cabinda there is lots of oil. Some imperialists wonder why we help the Angolans, which interests we have. They are used to thinking that one country helps another one only when it wants its oil, copper, diamonds or other resources. No, we are not after material interests and it is logical that this is not understood by the imperialist. They only know chauvinistic, nationalistic and selfish criteria. By helping the people of Angola we are fulfilling a fundamental duty ofInternationalism.
On 3 December 1975, in a meeting with officials from the US and China including Deng Xiaoping (Vice Premier and deputy of Mao Zedong), Chiao Kuan-hua (Foreign Minister), President Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State / Foreign Minister), Brent Scowcroft (Assistant to the President for NSA) and George H. W. Bush (Chief of US Liaison Office in Peking) international issues were discussed, one of them being Angola. Although China had supported the MPLA in the past, they now sided with the FNLA and UNITA. China was especially concerned about African sensitivities and pride and considered South African involvement as the primary and relative complex problem. Kissinger responded, that the US is prepared to "push out South Africa as soon as an alternative military force can be created". It is in this meeting that President Ford told the Chinese: "We had nothing to do with the South African involvement, and we will take action to get South Africa out, provided a balance can be maintained for their not being in". He also said that he had approved 35 million US dollars more (in support of the north) above what had been done before. They discussed and agreed who should support the FNLA or UNITA by which means and in what manner taking into account the sensitivities of the neighbouring countries.
It was only when the US administration asked Congress for US$28 million for IAFEATURE that Congress really paid attention to the events in Angola. By then "the evidence of the South African invasion was overwhelming and the stench of US-collusion with Pretoria hung in the air. Worse, the growing numbers of Cuban troops had derailed the CIA's plans and the administration seemed at a loss what to do next."] The money was not approved and on 20 December 1975, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment banning covert assistance to anti-Communist forces and curtailing CIA involvement in Angola. Later that winter, an amendment to the foreign aid bill sponsored by Dick Clark extended the ban. (Clark Amendment) The US administration resorted to other means of support for FNLA and UNITA of which one was raising mercenaries. The CIA initiated a covert programme to recruit Brazilians and Europeans, mostly Portuguese and British, to fight in the north of Angola. Altogether they managed to enlist around 250 men, but by the time meaningful numbers arrived in January 1975 the campaign in the north was all but over. Other ways of continued support for the FNLA and UNITA were through South Africa and other US client states such as Israel and Morocco.
A report by Henry Kissinger of 13 January 1976 gives an insight into the activities and hostilities in Angola, inter alia:
"2. There follows an updated situation report based on classified sources.
· (1) Two Cuban delegations were present in Addis Ababa. During the just concluded OAU meeting, one delegation, headed by Osmany Cienfuegos, PCC ? Official concerned with Africa and Middle East and member of the PCC Central Committee, visited the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda and Algeria prior to the OAU meeting. Another Cuban delegation was headed by Cuba's ambassador Ricardo Alarcon.
· (2) In late December early January a MPLA delegation visited Jamaica, Guyana, Venezuela and Panama to obtain support for its cause. The delegation is still in the region.
· (1) It is estimated that Cuba may now have as many as 9,000 troops in Angola, based on the number of Cuban airlifts and sealifts which have presently transited Angola. Military assistance to the MPLA may have cost Cuba the equivalent of US dollars 30 million. This figure includes the value of the military equipment that Cuba has sent to Angola, the costs of transporting men and material, and the cost of maintaining troops in the field.
· (2) Cuban troops bore the brunt of fighting in the MPLA offensive in the northern sector last week which resulted in MPLA capture of Uige (Carmona). The MPLA may be preparing for an offensive in the south, partially at the request of the SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization).
· (3) Eight Soviet fighters, probably MiG-17s, are reported being assembled in Luanda. These fighters arrived from an unknown source at the end of December. Eight MiGs, type unknown, are expected to be sent to Angola from Nigeria, numerous Cuban pilots arrived during December. The pilots are operating many aircraft now available to the MPLA including a Fokker Friendship F-27. The Cubans will operate the MiGs.
· (4) Cuban troops are in complete control of Luanda by January 9. They are conducting all security patrols, operating police checkpoints, and will apparently soon assume control of Luanda's airport complex.
· (5) Cuba may have begun to use 200 passenger capacity IL-62 aircraft (Soviet) in its airlift support operations. The IL-62 has double the capacity of Bristol Britannias and IL-18 which Cuba has previously employed and has a longer range as well. IL-62 left Havana for Luanda Jan. 10. and Jan. 11.
· All Portuguese commercial flights now landing at Luanda carry as cargo as much food as possible. Food supplies available to the general population have become tight.
"US intelligence estimated that by December 20 there were 5,000 to 6,000 Cubans in Angola." "Cuban sources, however, indicate that the number hovered around 3,500 to 4,000." This more or less would have put the Cubans at par with the South Africans on the southern front. Gabriel García Márquez wrote that Kissinger remarked to Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez: 'Our intelligence services have grown so bad that we only found out that Cubans were being sent to Angola after they were already there.' At that moment, there were many Cuban troops, military specialists and civilian technicians in Angola — more even than Kissinger imagined. Indeed, there were so many ships anchored in the bay of Luanda that by February 1976 Neto said to a functionary close to him: 'It's not right', if they go on like that, the Cubans will ruin themselves.' It is unlikely that even the Cubans had foreseen that their intervention would reach such proportions. It had been clear to them right from the start, however, that the action had to be swift, decisive, and at all costs successful. But one result of the events in Angola in 1976 was the American's heightened attention to African affairs, especially in the south of the continent. Kissinger worried, "if the Cubans are involved there, Namibia is next and after that South Africa itself." With the need to distance themselves from outcasts in the eyes of black Africa this also meant the US would drop support for the white regime in Rhodesia, a price it was willing to pay to "thwart communism".