NOTE FOR: Richard Melton
Director, Office of Central
American Affairs/ARA Department of State
Attachedhe CIA response to National Security Study Directive on Central America.
Attachment: as stated
SUBJECT: CIA Response to National Security Study Directive on Central America
II. THE AIO TO THE NICARAGUAN RESISTANCE PROGRAM
6. Impact of the Program: The likely effect of0 Billion program on the political and Billtary capability of the Nicaraguan resistance; the prospects for the resistance, given sustained US support, by the end of this Administration.
The military outlook for insurgency in Nicaragua over the next two years is likely to be significantly affected by whether the rebels are able to obtain sustained US military aid and training assistance. Under the0 million program, US training assistance, strategic advice, and tactical planning, along with better Intelligence, are laying the groundwork for substantial Improvement in insurgent capabilities over time. With adequate logistic Support, betterand improved delivery capability to field conanders, the insurgents will tost likely be able toarge force presence Inside Nicaragua over the next six months. One important result may be the reactivation of fronts along the Atlantic Coast and southern Nicaragua, which would put further strains on Sandlnlsta resources.
Although the Insurgents are unlikely toecisive military victory within the next two years, the delivery and effective use of sustained assistance would provide the Insurgents the wherewithal to expand tneir forces--now estimated at aboutto regain and hold the initiative. Under such circumstances, the level of fighting probably would intensify considerably, and the Sandinistas will be forced to mobilize large numbers of reserve andt ia units to protect vital economic targets and logistical infrastructure, thereby raising the overall cost of the conflict. Nevertheless, the conflicttill likely to be confined primarily to the rural areas of central and eastern Nicaragua, and the insurgents probably will continue to avoid trying to control and defend large areas or to capture and hold major towns for more than short periods.
Sustained US aid shouldositive factor In helping the insurgency and its political leadership to demonstrate their viability to the general population. With better training and Intelligence support, the Insurgents should be able to conduct operations against key targets In the more heavily populated areas of western Nicaragua. They will have to significantly improve their counterintelligence capabilities, however. If they are to circumvent the Sandinistas" efforts to prevent the formation of urban support networks and avoid compromise of operational plans.
A key variable for the prospects of the insurgency will remain the ability of the political leadership to achieve greater unity,ore effective political strategy, and establish better links to the internal opposition in order to mobilize greater popular support. This hasajor weakness so far, despite growing popular dissatisfaction with the Sandinista regime. Increased insurgent military success couplediable and effective political program probably would begin to shift the balance from the current stalemate to the insurgents' favor. He believe this is unlikely to happen within the next year, but therehancehift may occur before the end
The insurgents rely heavily on the rural population for recruits, intelligence, and various kinds of support. The overall size of the insurgency and resistance commanders' reports of popular backing in the countryside attest to the considerable discontent with the Sandinistas. The peasants' resentment of the regime stems largely from its intrusion into their lives through agricultural collectivization, control over access to credit, resettlement programs, military conscription, and antichurch policies. Developing this base of potential political support is critical to the insurgents' ability to expand operations inside Nicaragua.
A stronger and more viable insurgency, along with the higher economic costs involved in fighting it, would place increased pressure on the Sandinistas to make negotiating concessions. Although initially, Managua is likely to continue toard line and refuse to make any signficant concessions either in the Contadora talks and with the Internal opposition, over time this resolve may weaken. Much will depend on the ability of the insurgency to increase its political viability and to bring the war closer to major urban areas in western Nicaragua. In the event the insurgency becomesreater political and military threat, Managua may be tempted toess advantageous Contadora Treaty or other diplomatic initiatives in an effort to end its external support. Nevertheless,reaty may fall short of minimal US objectivesegional peace settlement, especially on Internal reconciliation and democratization. Finally, there is some possibility that no amount of guerrilla military pressure will induce the Sandinistas to make fundamental concessions, and they may decide to settle the issue on the battlefield.
Weess effective insurgency, without sustained US support, would greatly reduce Sandinista incentives to make any negotiations concessions in the Contadora context, andould improve their ability to reach advantageous bilateral agreements. Although Managua publicly argues that it cannot make any concessions while subject to external aggression, we do not believe they would be significantly more conciliatory were the insurgency weakened. The Sandinistas may be willing toialogue with the internal opposition to satisfy international public opinion, but the terms would essentially be over what trappings of pluralism, private enterprise, and political nonalignment they would allow to remain. Honduras and Costa Rica, for their part, would be more likely to conclude bilateral agreements with Managua, thereby undermining the Conadora process. Alternatively, Nicaragua may be able touch more advantageous Contadora Treaty.
V. THE SANDINISTA REGIME
A. The capability of the Sandinista regime to improve its countcrinsurgency efforts and to suppress the internal opposition.
he Sandinistas have anticipated an expanded Insurgency and have moved aggressively to meet the challenges of increased fighting and eroding popular support for the regime by enhancing their military capabilities, strengthening the internal security apparatus, and developing various social programs to discourage local support for the rebels.
Although the Sandinistas will almost certainly continue their military buildup in the coming year, we foresee little dramatic change in their overall force structure. They have already formedozen special countermsurgency battalions and another dozen smaller "hunter- battalions to prosecute the conflict, and rely on local militia to protect economic and logistic targets. They appear confident that their ground forces are operating effectively and we expect training to receive greater emphasis. We also expect the military to construct more forward bases and roads to enhance resupply efforts and troop mobility.
We believe military assistance from the Soviet Union and Bloc countries-especially Cuba-will keep pace with the growing insurgency.
elicopter gunships. Cuba also continues to provide adviceraining.
There are some limits, however, to the Sandinistas' ability to assimilate and maintain what they have. Pilot inexperience and poor maintenance resulted in the loss of about ten aircraft last year. Moreover, the average vehicle reportedly remains operational for only four months, helicopter maintenancenconsistent and fuel supplies stored at forward air bases are frequently contaminated. Combat units have long been undermanned and draft evasion and desertion are widespread,rolonged war would severely strain Nicaragua's ability to expand its current active
it95hthe Sandinistas would be
stretched particularly thin if they were forced to mobilize the bulkreserve and militia units to defend against an effective
We expect continued growth in the Interior Ministry's internal securitykey tn the regime's counterinsurgency strategy.
thl? Interior Ministry's ability to contain qrowinq
Domeiiic aisconiem and -arret out active rebel sympathizers expanded
ver.the ?ast tw0 yQirs- rts Informant network now numbersne third of whom are targeted against insurgent forces-and wellicaraguans were arrested last year for providing food, medicine, or intelligence to the rebels. The security forces use draconian
mp*<iirx. nftpn interroaating entire villages suspected of collaboration,
and j arrests of local sympathizers has
dlscburagec assistance ftrorrs wme image of all pervasive security forces.
Sandinista penetrations of the rebelapparentlyighcompromised numerous operations and could significantly hamper the insurgents' long-range military planning. /
The state offorce2 and recently extended following the signing of the new constitution in earlysevere constraints on domestic political opposition. The Sandinista internal security service has devoted substantial resources to undercutting the organized political opposition and by the end5 every independent political party, tabor Mfoa ajwj priveta sector group reportedly bad been penetrated and their telephones tapped. Hundreds of second echelon party officials have been detained and many have fled the country. Moreover,foreignbeen harrassed, several key church leaders have been forced into exile, and the regime oftenpecial "Catholic Police" unit to disrupt church gatherings.
The Sand1nistas--well aware of the regime's declining popularshifted their attention and resources away from the relatively secure cities to rural Nicaragua where peasant loyalties are critical to the progress of the war. Land reform has given thousands of ruraltake In the survival of the regime and nore confiscations are almost certain, with substantial assistance from Bloc and West European donors, the Sandinistas also have sustained at least in part various social programs Initiated In the. Such aid and the Sandinistas' willingness to divert resources from the cities should allow it to avoidpoliticalin the delivery of essential services.
A key Sandinista priority Is likely to be attempts to pressure Honduras and Costa Rica to deny sanctuary and support to the rebels, through both diplomatic and military means. Managua probably will launch new cross-border military operations against insurgent base camps and staging areas in Honduras, even at the risk of provoking retaliation. Finally, Nicaraguaikely to continue its covert support to neighboring radical groups and encourage other subversive acts to raise the cost of support to their external opponents. Therearticular Ganger of sabotage and terrorist attacks In Honduras in response to increased insurgent successes in Nicaragua.