MIAMI — Despite vows to never abandon the Contras, the Reagan Administration is drawing up a plan to withdraw the Nicaraguan rebels from combat if a Central American peace plan succeeds, it was reported Sunday.
A pullout plan was ordered after new assessments of the peace agreement suggested that it may in fact bring about a cease-fire, according to a story published in the Miami Herald.
If that were to happen, Congress probably would not approve more aid, and the CIA would have to assist the Contras in getting out of combat safely, unidentified U.S. officials told the Herald.
An Administration official who deals with the Contras said that with a successful cease-fire, he would expect most rebels to return to Nicaragua with the rest moving to large Nicaraguan enclaves in Miami, New Orleans and San Francisco.
"The idea would be to get the Contras off our payroll and back in Nicaragua or the United States as productive citizens," one official told the newspaper.
The White House, the State Department and the CIA all made no official comment. But one White House official said the Administration is not drawing contingency plans to withdraw the Contras.
A State Department official said that even if such plans existed, they could not be forced on the Contra leadership, which "has to decide for itself what it wants to do."
Contra military spokesman Bosco Matamoros agreed.
"The objectives of the United States and ours may coincide in that we are allies, but as to whether we continue the struggle, that is a decision that belongs to the Nicaraguan Resistance," he said.
This is reported to be the third time since the CIA launched the Contra program in 1981 that the Administration has worked on recall plans while facing a possible suspension of aid by Congress.
The Herald also reported Sunday that the CIA thinks the Contras are the least successful of U.S.-backed rebels.
The other foreign rebel movements that receive military support from the United States are in Afghanistan and Angola. The United States also supports rebels in Cambodia but only with logistical aid like food, medicine and uniforms.