Country Listing

Angola Table of Contents


Armed Forces Organization and Mission


Figure 13. Military Regions and Principal Bases, 1987


Figure 14. Organization of the Ministry of Defense, 1988

The minister of defense served under both the political and the military authority of the president in his dual role as head of government and FAPLA commander in chief. Because defense and security matters were of extreme urgency, the minister of defense was considered second in importance only to the president. The minister was responsible for the entire defense establishment, including the army, air force, navy, and local militias. The commanders of the three major military services each held the title of vice minister of defense. Colonel Henrique Carreira (nom de guerre Iko), the first minister of defense, held the post from 1975 to 1980; as of late 1988 Pedro Maria Tonha (nom de guerre Pedalé) had been minister of defense since July 1980 (see fig. 14).

The Angolan armed forces were collectively known as FAPLA. The army was officially termed the People's Army of Angola (Exército Popular de Angola -- EPA). The government and most press reports, however, referred to the army as FAPLA. The triple mission of the military was to protect and defend the authority of the party and government from internal subversion, to defend the country from external attack, and to assist regional allies in meeting their internal and external security needs. Accordingly, FAPLA was organized and equipped to fight both counterinsurgency and conventional wars and to deploy abroad when ordered; it had engaged in all these tasks continuously since independence. Its main counterinsurgency effort was directed against UNITA in the southeast, and its conventional capabilities were demonstrated principally in the undeclared war with South Africa. FAPLA first performed its external assistance mission with the dispatch of 1,000 to 1,500 troops to São Tomé and Príncipe in 1977 to bolster the socialist regime of President Manuel Pinto da Costa. During the next several years, Angolan forces conducted joint exercises with their counterparts and exchanged technical operational visits. The Angolan expeditionary force was reduced to about 500 in early 1985. It is probable that FAPLA would have undertaken other "internationalist" missions, in Mozambique for example, had it not been absorbed in war at home.

In 1988 the strength of the Angolan armed forces was estimated at 100,000 active-duty and 50,000 reserve personnel, organized into a regular army and a supporting militia, air and air defense force, and navy. The active-duty forces had expanded greatly since independence as UNITA's insurgency spread throughout the country and South African interventions increased in frequency and magnitude. As of late 1988, Lieutenant General António dos Santos Franca (nom de guerre Ndalu) was FAPLA chief of the general staff and army commander. He had held these positions since 1982.

Data as of February 1989