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Special Group (Counter-Insurgency)

In March 1961 early in the administration of President Kennedy, a Counter-Guerrilla Task Force under CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell was set up. In December the Bissell Task Force completed its report "Elements of US Strategy To Deal With Wars of National Liberation." NSC Staff member Robert Komer proposed to Bundy that "high-level responsibility" for coordinating counter-insurgency activities should be assigned to "Taylor and the Special Group," separate from the mechanism for implementing NSC 5412/2.

On January 18, 1962, President Kennedy signed NSAM No. 124, which established the Special Group (Counter-Insurgency) to be composed of the Military Representative of the President (Taylor) as Chairman, the Attorney General, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of Central Intelligence, the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, and the Administrator of AID. The task of Special Group (CI) would be "to assure unity of effort and the use of all available resources with maximum effectiveness in preventing and resisting subversive insurgency and related forms of indirect aggression in friendly countries." The Special Group (CI) was to confine itself to establishing broad policies and give oversight to country or regional interagency task forces. An annex to NSAM No. 124 assigned Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos to the initial cognizance of the Special Group (CI).

The Special Group (CI) held its first meeting on January 18, 1962, and subsequently held weekly 2-hour meetings with no substitute members allowed. Although members may have preferred that the Special Group (CI) act as a separate executive body to carry out its decisions, the decisions were coordinated with the various executive departments and agencies within the existing chain of command. General Taylor served as Chairman until he became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 1962 when Deputy Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson succeeded him.

Throughout much of 1962, Special Group (CI) received extensive briefings on the situations in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Iran, Indonesia, and other countries faced with what the Group regarded as "internal defense problems." After much debate and interagency drafting, an agreed Special Group (CI) policy statement on counter-insurgency was set forth in a State Department report of September 1962, entitled "United States Overseas Internal Defense Policy." The policy expressed in the report, which was approved by President Kennedy in NSAM No. 182, included the presumption that counter-insurgency programs (referred to as "internal defense programs" in the report) should not be limited to military measures but should also involve as necessary such additional dimensions as economic development, police control, and effective local government.

In the course of its existence until 1966, Special Group (CI) spurred the establishment of extensive training courses on counter-insurgency throughout the government; promoted the responsibility of inter-agency "country teams" in the countries concerned to develop "Internal Defense Plans;" examined and reshaped programs for advising, supplying, and training paramilitary and military forces in developing countries; encouraged the redirection and expansion of government programs to equip police forces in developing countries; agreed on programs to encourage the local military in these countries to undertake their own "civic action" programs; asked for additional government weapons research for counter-insurgency operations; urged the Agency for International Development to coordinate economic assistance programs with military civic action programs; and urged the CIA to increase its intelligence and counter intelligence activity in target countries.

On October 15, 1963, General Taylor, signing as Chairman of the JCS, addressed a memorandum to members of the Special Group (CI) entitled "U.S. Support of Foreign Paramilitary Forces," which concluded that U.S. policy to support the Honduran Civil Guard had resulted in the overthrow of the constitutional government. Taylor observed that the Honduras experience suggested that U.S. programs in other countries should be reviewed to determine whether similar potentially dangerous situations were being fostered, and he recommended that "interagency working groups which monitor internal defense plans" review these programs and report to the Special Group (CI).

On January 17, 1966, General Taylor wrote to President Johnson recommending that the Special Group (CI) "be converted into an agency for supporting the Secretary of State in discharging his broadened responsibilities for the direction, coordination, and supervision of overseas affairs." In NSAM No. 341, March 2, 1966, President Johnson assigned to the Secretary of State the "authority and responsibility to the full extent permitted by law for the overall direction, coordination, and supervision of interdepartmental [counter subversion] activities of the United States government overseas." A Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG), chaired by the Under Secretary of State, was established to assist the Secretary of State in discharging his responsibilities. Assistant Secretaries of State would chair interdepartmental regional groups (IRGs) within the SIG structure to coordinate regional planning and actions.

W. Averell Harriman, chairman of the former Special Group (CI), wrote on March 7, 1966, to Under Secretary George Ball that "real progress has been made in that field. We have learned from mistakes and know considerably more about the matters on which to concentrate."



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