Dire* lor of Central Intelligence
Special National Intelligence Estimate
Near-Term Military Prospects for El Salvador
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NEAR-TERM MILITARY PROSPECTS FOR EL SALVADOR
this estimate is issued by the director of central intelligence.
the national foreign intelligence board concurs.
The following intelligence orgonizotiont porticipaled in the preparation of the Eitimate:
The CentralAgency, the Defeme Intefcgence Agency, the National Security Agency, ond the inteiigence orgoniiation of the Department of State.
Ihe Attiitant Chief of Staff for Inteloenee. Deportnwnt of the Army The Director of Novol Intelligence, Deportment of the Navy The Aiirttoni Chief ol Staff, Intelligence, Deportment of the Air Force The Director of Intelligence. Headquarter i. Mar me Corps
Wc believe the tactical stalemate between the Salvadoran armed forces and tbe insurgents of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) probably will continue, at least throughf outside support to both sides continues al current levels, neilher is likely toecisive advantage in tlie near term.
Wilh US support, the armed forces have expandedotal strength ofncluding defense and public security forces. The FMLN has now reached an effective combat strength of0 armed insurgents by upgrading its militia forces through training, experience, and the acquisition of weapons. These strength figures do not represent an increase in the total number of guerrillas but do reflect an important shift of those formerly regarded as "part time" guerrillas to "full time" fighters. The Salvadoran military nowanpower force ratio of onlyver the guerrillas-
The guerrillas' combat effectiveness is Judged to be high because of llieii sound war-fighting doctrine, excellent training, goodand intelligence, and un ability to incorporate lessons learned from the fighting into their tactical and strategic thinking The insurgents appear to do better at controlling the terms and pace of military engagements, use effective tactics, and are now capable of defeating isolated gmernment units of up to ibe sizehunter" battalion. Their thorough use of intelligenceajor factor behind their survival and success on the battlefield.
Nevertheless, they lack widespread popular support, in partof the popularity of agrarian rrform and other government political and economic initiatives. Moreover, the guerrillas havr not vetajor city and cannot tie down or defeat government strategic units Logistic problems and factionalism also undercut insurgent effectiveness.
The FMLN has beentrategy of military and eronomie attrition designed to cause the collapse of the armed forces and the government. The guerrillas probably view the national electionfor Marchajor test of their forces, and weampaign of increased urban attacks and terrorism. In addition, there are indications the guerrillas may attempt lo seize andiberated zone in northern or eastern Ll Salvador.
Cuba and probably Nicaragua are likely to provide adequate supplies for an election offensive. The US force presence in the region. Salvadoran and Honduran interdiction efforts, and anti-Sandinista activity in Nicaragua have slowed, but not stopped, outside support to the FMLN Logistic support, particularly from Nicaragua, mayin response to US pressure, but il probably will be adequate to sustain the guerrillas at leasteduced level of operations FMLN headquarters may move to Kl Salvador from Nicaragua, particularly if the guerrillasiberated zone II probably would be able to functionalvador at least through.
The insurgents will not be able to achieve victory withoutpopular support, but. if they should get adequate logistic support, they are likely toreater threat to US military and political objectives in El Salvador, especially live March election. The military will have to act aggressively to prevent the insurgents from seizing the initiative at the time of the election. If the guerrillas were to be successful in undermining the March election, their near-term prospects would significantly improve. Over the next year, the FMLN will betronger position to exploit discontent if extreme right terrorism continues and efforts to roll back the reform process succeed
US training and support have allowed the armed forces to grow and improve and haveajor factor in the military's present ability to prevent an insurgent victory. Four quick-reaction battalions and several special operations units have been organized, trained, and effectively used against the insurgents. Tlie number ol available junior officers has been increased significantly, and improvements have been made in the armed forces' technical skills. The armed forces can continur to expand, but the government's ability and resolve to mobilize fully against the insurgency will be seriously constrained by the military's shortcomings and by resistance from the country's military and economic elites
The armed forces' mobility 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 of the officer corps is relatively high, but attitudinal problems within the corps will have to be overcome if the guerrillas are
to be defeated Resistance totactical and political-has impaired the ability of the officer corps to 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 mosl major commands under competent leaders and should ensure the near-term unity of tlie armed forces However, these changes also havethe hand of rightist officers and will inevitably impact on national politics before and after the election in March.
Despite such problems, there is little likelihood of 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 if it moves to preempt rather than to react to guerrilla strategy. Reversing recent insurgent gains will be tlie military's most immediate challenge. The armed forces' ability to achieve needed tactical objectives will depend on continued US aid and the continued commitment of the officer corps to (he war effort. If the officers become preoccupied with partisan political maneuvers, the guerrillas might be able toajor military and psychological victory at election time.
The armed forces will be susceptible to US influence, buton human rights issues will continue lo be mixed. The military prefers tothan totactics, and it will be deeply stung by any public US criticism of its war effort.
Current levels of US assistance are adequate to enable themiliury to prevent an insurgent victory in the near term. However, the armed forces will require increased and sustained aid to overcome the present stalemate and eventually to defeat the guerrillas Givenilitary-to-guerrillais well below what historically has been required to defeat anSalvadoran armed forces' manpower and firepower will not be able to expand rapidly enough loecisive advantage in the near term However, US assistance that enhanced the military's mobility andwould increase the tactical prospects of the existing forces until these forces could be expanded over the longer term.
Nevertheless. US military assistance alone will not solve all the armed forces' problems Without improvements in Salvadoran military