Sapper 1984


Published on Dec 24, 2008

A Batalha de Cuito Canavale

In 1988 the Angolan Minister of Defence and other official Angolan and Cuban sources claimed that a South African offensive consisting of up to 9,000 troops with 500 tanks, 600 artillery field guns and scores of aircraft had attacked the town of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola. According to their version the attack had failed thanks to a valiant defense effort by Cuban and Angolan troops, and the South Africans had lost 50 aircraft, 47 tanks and hundreds of men.
The Cuban propaganda version of this "heroic battle" was widely believed in the west, and it was not until after the war had ended that the facts emerged. By the end of 1987, when the Cubans and Angolans were supposed to have achieved their great victory, they were already suing for peace in Angola, with their Soviet backers openly stating that the war there could not be won. In the negotiations that followed, one of the conditions of the Cubans was that they be allowed to make an honourable withdrawal from the war, an unusual demand to be made by a victorious army, to say the least. The fact is, the Cubans knew that they were losing but did not want to withdraw from Angola in disgrace. The South Africans, who had been the real victors in the Cuito campaign, realised that making the full facts known at that delicate stage in the peace negotiations would humiliate the Cubans and their Soviet backers and perhaps spur them into sending yet more troops to Angola in an effort to save their reputation. Making the Cubans look ridiculous would serve no useful purpose.

However, once the Cuban and Soviet involvement in the war had ended and the South Africans had withdrawn their troops, it did not take long for the real story of the battle to emerge.

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