Cuban soldiers start their withdrawal from the nation of Africa as part of an agreement to end a brutal war in Angola and to lessen Cold War tensions. The plan was a part of a multilateral diplomatic attempt to stop in Angola years of bloodshed in which the conflict, at one time or another involved South Africa, the Soviet Union, Portugal and the United States.
Angola became officially a nation that was independent in 1975 but prior to the date that independence was declared, a variety of groups within the former Portuguese colony fought for control. The United States gave support to the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), the Soviet Union and Cuba gave much of their support to the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the last group known as the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) pragmatically took assistance from whatever source it could find which included China and South Africa. China, the United States and the Soviet Union each felt that Angola was a very important battlefield for dominance politically due to it being strategically important in southern Africa as well as being rich in minerals.
South African soldiers were helping UNITA forces in Angola by September of 1975. Since Cuba started being involved in Angola due to Fidel Castro’s foreign policy that was aggressive in order to assert Cuba’s role in anticolonial difficulties, Cuba responded in November by flying in thousands of soldiers to assist the MPLA. South Africa forces had to withdraw because of Cuba’s powerful aid.
South Africans looked at a MPLA regime in Angola as endangering to its control politically of neighboring Namibia and decided in 1981 to once again invade Angola as well as increasing their assistance to UNITA. Jonas Savimbi, leader of the UNITA, courted U.S. aid and made a visit in 1986 to see President Ronald Reagan. The United States responded by demanding Cuban soldiers to leave Angola while supplying military assistance for UNITA’s forces. Castro sent 15,000 additional soldiers to Africa as the conflict escalated.
Increasingly bloody engagements occurred throughout 1987 and 1988 between MPLA and UNITA forces as well as their respective allies. The United States began realizing that the conflict was getting dangerously out of hand; therefore, assisted in December of 1988 to broker an arrangement between South Africa, Angola and Cuba where the three nations promised to have all foreign forces retreat out of Angola. The three nations had deployed huge amounts of money and manpower in what seemed to be and endless struggle with Cuba, in particular, being eager to find a way to exit gracefully. Several weeks later, Cuba started to withdraw their forces and everyone had departed by 1991.
The events in Angola had indicated again that Africa was beginning to become more of a significant role in the geopolitics of the Cold War; this became clear during the 1970s and 1980s. Also, the conflict which showed intervention by Cuba was another example that played into relations chilling between Cuba and the United States.