AFTER eight years of mediation, Washington has a set of international accords in place to give Namibia its independence and to remove all foreign troops from Angola. But the challenge is just beginning for the Bush administration.
``Now we have to make sure they are implemented correctly,'' a top United States official says, ``and see how we can build on these accords ... fostering an end to Angola's civil war, looking for a solution to Mozambique's woes, and encouraging greater regional cooperation.''
None of the tasks promises to be easy. ``The problem we face'' in southwest Africa, a senior United States diplomat explains, ``is not only from the complexity of the accords themselves, but also from the expectations of so many outsiders that the accords won't work.''
As if to demonstrate the delicate diplomacy required, US representatives are sitting down this week in Angola with their counterparts from Angola, Cuba, South Africa, and the Soviet Union to review alleged violations of the accords.
This meeting of the ``joint commission'' established under the accords will examine Angola's charge that South African forces clashed with its troops earlier this month inside Angola.
US officials say the clashes were apparently between Angolan troops and forces of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which has been fighting the government since 1975.
The clashes took place as Angolan government forces with Cuban advisers tried to take key posts near the Namibian border in what is now UNITA-controlled territory.
ANGOLA'S civil war was not resolved by last December's accords. Under those international accords, South Africa will withdraw from Namibia, ending more than 70 years of its colonial rule. Beginning April 1, the United Nations will supervise a year-long independence process.
Cuba will also withdraw its approximately 50,000 troops in neighboring Angola over 27 months.
Cuban troops came to Angola in 1975 to support the Popular Liberation Movement of Angola. They stayed to support the MPLA government against its domestic opponents and South African incursions.
The US is actively trying to find a solution to the civil strife. But it also supplies covert military assistance to UNITA. Published reports say military assistance this year totals $30 million.
At home, the administration faces strong congressional pressure to ensure that US diplomatic and military support for UNITA does not wane and that the evacuation of Cuban troops from Angola proceeds properly.
In the UN, the US and fellow permanent Security Council members last week authorized a scaled-down version of the UN force which will oversee Namibia's move to independence.
A number of Black African states and the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), the main Namibian independence group, oppose the smaller force. They fear South Africa will try to manipulate elections for Namibia's constitutional convention.
Some US congressional liberals share the concerns about South African tampering in Namibia. They want the administration to give this careful scrutiny.
But the main domestic pressure on the administration is from moderate and conservative senators concerned about Angola. Congress must approve an estimated $129 million as the US share of the costs for the UN supervisory forces. A much smaller UN force is already in place to monitor the Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola.
The administration, officials say, would like to have this money appropriated before April 1. It will submit a formal funding request in the next several weeks.
The Angola-Namibia accords have broad support in Congress, as do UNITA and the idea of national reconciliation and free elections in Angola.
But recent press reports that the UN team in Angola would rely on Cuban and Angolan figures to monitor the troop withdrawal set off alarm bells on Capitol Hill. So did press stories that the administration was considering granting limited diplomatic recognition to Angola and supporting its entry into the International Monetary Fund.
Senate supporters of UNITA complained that the US was backing out of support for national reconciliation. ``It would be catastrophic,'' says a key Senate activist, ``to get this far and let the civil war continue.''
Sens. Dennis DeConcini (D) of Arizona, Bob Graham (D) of Florida, and others are drafting legislation that would lay out their vision of US carrots and sticks in this process and the principles which should guide their use. They have not decided whether to make the legislation binding. ``That depends on the assurances they get from the administration,'' a well-informed Senate aide says.
Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina and other conservatives are considering amendments tied to the money for the UN forces, aides say.
UNITA also sent a top official to Washington. It is worried about the Cuban withdrawal and a major government offensive which UNITA officials expect in several months. With the cutoff of about $80 million in aid from South Africa last year and the sealing of the Namibian border, UNITA is largely dependent on the US covert supply line. According to UNITA sources, the group is seeking increased covert US aid.
UNITA also wants more sophisticated weapons, such as the Stinger missile, which it says are needed to face more sophisticated aircraft recently provided to Angola by the Soviet Union.
Administration officials say they expect to satisfy congressional concerns.
Verification of the Cuban withdrawal will be possible, they say, by US technical means, the joint verification commission, and a UN force with fresh instructions from the UN Secretary-General.
Officials say that the US will not establish diplomatic relations with Angola or give away other ``carrots'' until national reconciliation is under way. They say support for UNITA will continue undiminished.
THE United States is making diplomatic presentations to energize black African states in fostering reconciliation.
But senior US officials say the process will not happen overnight. The Angolan government is still divided over the prospect of dealing with UNITA, even though there have been some direct contacts.
``It will take time for this to cook,'' a top US diplomat says. As the troop pullouts required by the international accords proceed, he says, the pressures to reconcile will increase.
Other African leaders are also still hesitant to publicly push the Angolan government to negotiate, US specialists say, since they have usually refused to negotiate with their own dissidents.
But there continues to be a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity, and several new African states are now involved, they say.
Nevertheless, it will be hard to heal the wounds of 13 years of fighting.
Timetable for Angola-Namibia Accord 1989 Jan. 22: Joint appeals commission, including the US and USSR, established to arbitrate disputes over verification of troop withdrawals. Token UN force will monitor withdrawals in Angola. April 1: UN Resolution 435 takes effect. It calls for withdrawal of South Africa from Namibia and independence for Namibia under UN-supervised elections. Cuba withdraws first 3,000 of its estimated 50,000 troops from Angola. July: South African military forces in Namibia are to be reduced to 1,500. Aug. 1: All Cuban troops in southern Angola must be stationed north of the 15th Parallel. Nov. 1: 25,000 Cuban troops must have left Angola. Remaining Cuban troops must be stationed north of 13th Parallel. Elections to be held in Namibia, and remaining S. African troops to leave that country. 1990 April 1: 8,000 Cuban troops leave Angola. Oct. 1: 5,000 Cuban troops leave Angola. 1991 July 1: All Cuban troops are out of Angola. SOURCE: CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY