With the withdrawal of South Africa, FNLA and UNITA resistance crumbled and the MPLA was left in sole possession of power. With the help of its Cuban allies the MPLA "not only vanquished its bitterest rivals – the FNLA and UNITA – but in the process had seen off the CIA and humbled the mighty Pretoria war machine." Whatever remained of UNITA retreated into the Angolan bush and Zaire. A number of African countries publicly discredited UNITA for its links with the apartheid regime, the CIA and white mercenaries.
The United Nations Security Council met to consider "the act of aggression committed by South Africa against the People's Republic of Angola" and on 31 March 1976, branded South Africa the aggressor, demanding it compensate Angola for war damages. Internationally South Africa found itself completely isolated and the failure of its Operation Savannah left it "without a single crumb of comfort"."The internal repercussions of the Angolan debacle were felt quickly when, on 16 June 1976 – emboldened by the FAPLA-Cuban victory – the Soweto Uprising began, inaugurating a period of civil unrest which was to continue up until and beyond the collapse of apartheid." Another setback for Pretoria within four years was the end of white minority rule in Rhodesia as it emerged as the next black-ruled nation of Zimbabwe, completing the total geographic isolation of apartheid South Africa.
Angola obtained recognition by the OAU on 10 February 1976 and was soon recognized by the majoritiy of the international community albeit not by the US. The US was unable to prevent its admittance to the UN General Assembly as its 146th member.
At the height of the deployment in 1976, Cuba had 36,000 military personnel stationed in Angola. The FNLA had all but disappeared from the scene and what remained of UNITA was hiding in the bush or had receded to Zaire. At their meeting in Conakry on 14 March 1976, when victory was already assured, Castro and Neto decided that the Cubans would withdraw gradually, leaving behind for as long as necessary enough men to organize a strong, modern army, capable of guaranteeing Angola's future internal security and national independence without outside help. The Cubans had no intention to get bogged down in a lengthy internal counter-insurgency and started to reduce their presence in Angola as planned after the retreat of the South Africans. By the end of May, more than 3,000 troops had already returned to Cuba, and many more were on the way. By the end of the year the Cuban troops had been reduced to 12,000.
The Cubans had high hopes that after their victory in Angola, in co-operation with the USSR, they could remove all of southern Africa from the influence of the US and China. In Angola, they put up dozens of training camps for Namibian (SWAPO), Rhodesian (ZAPU) and South African (ANC) guerrillas. An SADF intelligence report in 1977 concluded "that SWAPO's standard of training had improved significantly because of the training they had received from the Cuban instructors". Cuba saw its second main task in training and equipping the Angolan army FAPLA which the Soviets generously supplied with sophisticated weapons including tanks and an own air force with MiG-21 fighters.
In early 1977, the new Carter administration had in mind to recognize the MPLA-government despite of the presence of Cuban troops assuming they would be withdrawn once the Namibian issue was settled and the southern border of Angola was secure. On 25 January, UN ambassador Andrew Young said: There is a sense in which the Cubans bring a certain stability and order to Angola. The Angolan government and Cuban troops had control over all southern cities by 1977, but roads in the south faced repeated UNITA attacks. Savimbi expressed his willingness for rapprochement with the MPLA and the formation of a unity, socialist government, but he insisted on Cuban withdrawal first. "The real enemy is Cuban colonialism," Savimbi told reporters, warning, "The Cubans have taken over the country, but sooner or later they will suffer their own Vietnam in Angola."
On the international stage, Cuba's victory against South Africa boosted Castro's image as one of the top leaders in the Non-Aligned Movement of which he was secretary-general from 1979 to 1983. Although with Cuba's help the MPLA-government became firmly established, Cuban attempts to hand over the defence of the country failed and it soon became drawn into Angola's counter-insurgency war against UNITA.