EL SALVADOR: Near-Term Military Prospects
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Trio Dally today prints the key judgments ot the Special National intelligence Estimate "Neat-Term Military Prospects for El Salvador."
We believe the tactical siaiemate between the Salvadoran armed forces and the Insurgents of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) probably will continue, at least im roughf outslde'support to both sides continues al current levels, neither is likely toecisive advantage In the near term. | j
With US support, the armed forces have expandedotal strength ofncluding defense and public security forces. The FMLN has now reached an e'tective combat strength of0 armed Insurgents by upgrading Its mllltla forces through training, experience, and the acquisition of weapons. These strenglh figures do not represent an Increase In the total number of guerrillas but do reflect an Important shift ol those formerly regarded as "pan-time" guerrillas to "full-time" fighters. The Salvadoran military nowanpower force ratio of onlyver the |
The guerrillas' combai effectiveness Is Judged to be high because of Iheir sound war-flghtlng doct-lne. excellent training,ommunlcaHons and Intelligence, and an ability to incorporate lessons learned from ihe fighting Into their tactical and strategic thinking. The Insurgents appear to do better at controlling the terms and pace of military engagements, use elfeclive tacllcs, and are now capable ol defeating Isolated government units of up to Ihe sizehunter" battalion. Their thorough use of intelligenceajor factor behind Iheir survival and success on the battlefiidf
evertheless, they lack widespreadwort. Inof the popularity of agrarian reform nnd otherand economic Initiatives. Moreover; lio guerrillasajor city and cannot tie down or defeatunits. Logistic: problems and factionalism also undercuteffectiveness.jl
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The FMLN has Beentrategy of military and economic attrition designed to cause the collapse ot the armed forces and the government. The guerrillas probably view the national election scheduled tor Marchajor test of their forces, andampaign ot Increased urban attacks and terrorism. In addition, there are indications the guerrillas may allempt lo seize andiberated zona In horthern or eastern El Salvador.|
Cuba and probably Nicaragua are likely to providefor an election offensive. The US force presence InSalvadoran and Honduran Interdiction efforts, andactivity in Nicaragua have slowed, but notsupport to the FMLN. Logistic support, particularlymay diminish In response to US pressure, but Itbe adequate to sustain the guerrillas at leasteduced levelFMLN headquarters may move to El Salvadorparticularly it the guerrillasiberated zone.would be able to function within El Salvador at least
The insurgents will not be able to achieve victory without Increased popular support, but. II they should get adequate logistic support, they are likely toreater threat to US military and political obfectives In El Salvador, especially the March elecllon. The military will have to act aggressively lo prevent the Insurgents from seizing the Initiative at the time ot the election. If lha guerrillas were to be successful In undermining the March election, their near-term prospects would significantly Impro/e. Over the next year, the FMLN will betronger position to exploit discontent II extreme right terrorism continues and efforts to roll back the reform process succeed.! [ |j > ! |
US training and support have allowed the armed forces to grow and Improve and havea|or lector In the military's present ability to prevent an Insurgent victory. Four quick-reaction battalions and several speclel operations units have been organized, trained, and effectively used against the Insurgents. The number of available junior officers has been Increased significantly, and Improvements have been made In the armed forces' technical skids. The armed forces can continue lo expand, but the government's ability and resolve to mobilize fully against the Insurgency will beonstrained by the military's shortcomings and by resistance from the country's military and economic
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The armedobility and logistic support, though Increased, have not kept pace with operational and force requirements, and more ground and air transport Is needed. More training for departmental and security forces Is also needed, and communications assets and command and control concepts are still antiquated. Uncertainty concerning the adequacy and level of US assistance also has Inhibited the armed forces' conduct of the war.
The quality ol the officer corps is relatively high, but attltudlnal problems within the corps will have to be overcome if the guerrillas are to be defeated. Resistance totactical andimpaired the ability of the officer corps lo pursue the war effort optimally.!
Most of the officer corps, while not opposed to reforms, distrusts the Christian Democratic Party and Is susceptible to rightist political machinations that undercut its leadership and divert attention from military operations. Recent sweeping changes have placed most major commands under competent leaders and should ensure the near-term unity ol the armed forces. However, these changes also have strengthened the hand of rightist officers and will inevitably Imoact on national politics before and after the election in March.
Despite such problems, there Is little likelihood ol an armed forces collapse in the near term. The officer corps is determined to defeat the guerrillas, and the enlisted ranks will fight well when properly supplied and led.[^
In the near term, the military Is more likely to be successful ifto preempt rather than to react to guerrilla strategy.insurgent gains will be the military's most Immediatearmed forces' ability to achieve needed tactical objectiveson continued US aid and the continued commitment ofcorps to the war effort. If the officers become preoccupiedpolitical maneuvers, the guerrillas might be able to scoremilitary and psychological victory at election
The armed forces will be susceptible to US Influence, but performance on human rights Issues will continue to be mixed. The military prefers tothan totactics, and It will be deeply etung by any public US criticism ot Its war
Current levels of US assistance aro adequate to enable tha Salvadoran military to prevent an Insurgent victory in the near term. However, the armed lorces will require Increased and sustained aid to overcome the present stalemate and eventually lo deteat the guerrillas. Giveniiitary-to-guerrlilais well below what historically has been required tn defeat anthe Salvadoran armed forces' manpower and firepower will not be
able to expand rapidly enough toecisive advaniage In the near term. However. US assistance that enhanced Ihe military's mobility and communications would Increase the tactical prospects of the existing forces until Ihese forces could be expanded over the longer lermJ
Nevertheless, US military assistance alone will not solve oilforces' problems. Without Improvements Incapabilities, some resolution of ettltudlnal problems incorps, preservation of economic and political reforms,of extreme right Influences, the country's prospectsthe war will be poor over the long torm.Original document.