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Author: Piero Gleijeses
Cape Town, South Africa 2002
Hardcover, dustjacket, 16x24 cm, 504 pages, several photos and maps, English
Conflicting Missions is a compelling and dramatic account of Cuban policy in Africa and of its escalating clash with US policy and later its direct military clashes with the South African Defence Force in Angola. Gleijeses' narrative gallops from Cuba's first hesitant steps in rendering assistance to Algerian rebels fighting France in 1961, to the war in the Congo in 1964-65, when 100 Cubans led by Che Guevara, acting in support of the Simba rebels, were confronted by white mercenaries from South Africa, Rhodesia, Britain and elsewhere, supported and controlled by America's Central Intelligence Agency.
Gleijeses writes about the dramatic despatch to Angola of Cuban troops to aid the communist-inclined rebel MPLA movement in 1975. And how, being the rainy season, their destruction of the major river bridges in Angola's north contributed to halting the rapid and victorious advance of the seemingly unstoppable Battle Group Zulu of South Africa's SADF. The blocking of Battle Group Zulu from reaching Luanda led to political decisions by the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to call off the CIA's IAFEATURE operations in support of UNITA and the FNLA and to South African Prime Minister John Vorster withdrawing all South African forces from Angola.
This left the MPLA and its Cuban and other communist allies in control. This was undoubtedly the most significant domino that would soon lead to the fall of white Rhodesia and ultimately to the handover of Namibia to SWAPO and finally to black rule in the Republic South Africa. Piero Gleijeses analysis is clear, rigorous and balanced; the archival research supporting it is unprecedented. Not only is he the first historian to have gained access to closed Cuban archives, he also worked extensively in the archives of the United States, Belgium, Great Britain and East and West Germany.
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