EL SALVADOR: EVALUATION OF THE PERQUIN OPERATION

Created: 7/15/1982

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

are garrisoned (see up). Tha only bridge Into tha ares waa daatroyad by tha insurgents before their offensive.

During the rainy aeaaoa that begins in Hay, thasually cloud covered, hindering government observation and alt support. Streams ara flooded, and off-road mobility la Halted.

The population ia poor, isolated, and after several yaara of guerrilla presence and indoctrination, basically Hynpathntir: to tha lnaargant causa.

9 war betweenalvador and Honduras bad resultedarge pocket of disputed territory, or

bo1son, along the border. The area waa demilitarized and haa offered tbeafehaven. j

In abort, tba area ia ideal guerrilla territory and haaa major insurgent- stronghold. One of tba largest the People's Revolutionary Amy (BRP), iawithell organlied and equipped guerrillasheavily defended baae camps. Tbe area la soear it has been the location of Radio Veneeremos,main propaganda atatlon.

Tha few government forces In tbe region normally conalst of snail detachments In the major towna, which are outnumbered and do no dafensive patrolling for fear of being anbuahed. The Insurgents ara able to overrun any of tbe towna at will. Barely by concentrating superior forces. They have done so on several occasions, most notably in1 when they held Perquin forealt. Tbe guerrillas were also able to prevent balloting in tha2 election In every town of northern Moracan.

Th* government has launched aaveral major offenaiveeinmcgent baoen in northern Moraian, but none hassuccessful. Xn1 tbe governmentthe site of Radio veneerpreventing itguerrillas could bring in

aant. During -most government offensives, the guerrillaa are able to pot up stiff raslstahoe from ^all-prepared defensive

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sltlons and Inflict heavy casual ties. the lnaurgentsn ammunition and their position baecaaas wfttatiibla, they gnprslly ara abla to slip serosa tha bordar.

Tha government became aware oC Insurgent intentions In northern Horazan and in late Aprilweep of the area to preempt than. The operation was poorly coordinated, however, and ona unit suffered heavy lossesuerrilla ambush. The sweep apparently upset the insurgents' timing, but It did little damage to their Infrastructure in the region.

The Inaurgenta bided their time, and when the governmentajor offensive elsewhere In late Hay that tied up all

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quick-reaction battalions, tharack la Moxaian. They seised tha town of Perqulu on 9tha smalland than prepared to ambush relief forces.

Tba Initial government effort to rataka Perqoln fall Into

' trap. ' ner.t ort!- m 5ar,

Pranclaoo vara badly mauled. Tba government raahad additional reinforcements to raaooa onita trapped north of the Torola River, bat their advance mi slowed by ragged terrain, bad weather, date rained guerrilla resistance. The lack of adequate air

supportaaiinis added to tbe general confusion, | |

Tbe government finally was forced to send lta tbraa quick-reeotlon battalions to the area, bat even tbelr advance waa alow. One of tha Major problema was logistical, aa large amounts of supplies had to be moved to tbe area before tbe unite could advance, In addition, command and control problema were compounded by the large number of troops oommltted. The situation waa further complicated when the Deputy Defense Nlnlater was captured and tbe local brigade commander was killed after tbelr helicopter waa shot down in the area on IT June.

Tba insurgents' naraeelng attacks and sabotage operations elsewhere InSalvador created additional problems.

The government waa determined not only to recapturebut to sweep northern Horasan of enemy forces. military provided three battalloaajorto block enemy escape across tbe border. Newly arrivedattack aircraft also were rushed into action,good

June--faced with overwhelming government forces and

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rehebly running short oflnaurgente announced hey had achieved their objectives and would withdraw. It took

qovarneaent focoes eevarel more days to edvamoe oa fx vain, andinally enteredanown on tbab.

bA military than thotocghly mpr tba tn-.ira region, even allowing bonder aa for one to an tar tbe disputed borderaaplte these efforts, tba insurgents again Managed to eeoape, aad there aaa little further oontaot. uly, tbe entire operation ended, and aoat major onIts were withdrawn. Slightly lagans aeooxlty foroas, however, have bean laft to garrlaon tha towna In tba area. |^

Strengths and

The Perqeln operation baa revealed several new Strang tha and confirmed continuing weaknesses of the Salvadoran armed foroea. The plaaaa includet

The military demonstratad that It can still deny tbe Insurgents lengthy enough control of an area for the guerrlllaa to declareliberated" zone. This is why tba government ohose to retake Perquin at all ooete rather than simply abandon an economically insignificant region to the enemy.

Tha sweep operation should at leaat temporarily disrupt Eh? operations in northern Morazan.

The military demonstrated etrengthened offensive capabilities, especially by deploying all three quick-reaction battalions in two consecutive major operationa. Furthermore, the arrival of the7 sttack aircraft greatly improved close sir support capabilities.

The Improved coordination with Honduras offers tbe hope that tbe border ares will become much laaa aecureuerrilla base.

Finally, tba fact that tbe EXP essentially launched an offenalva*on Its own with little initial coordination from other factions indicates that insurgent disunityignificant weakneee. Even after tbe other factions began to asslet, they could undertake little more than harassment and sabotage elsewhere in the country, f '

arsonhe shortcomings revealed arei

and control lu atlll wash. Tbe General Staff wee abla to provide littla oentcal direction for tba operation, and tha local brigade oceanander bad difficulty controlling the many different on itsto tba area.

support waa haapered by tbe Halted road access to northern Morsxan and by tba need toemporary bridge over tha Torola River. Despite an Inventory ofelicopters, allitary off-road loglatioal support still sppeara Inadequate for large operations.

Interdiction of guerrilla supply deliveries remains poor. The inaurgenta ware able to move aupplias to Moraian overland froa coastal delivery areas and via Honduras with little governaent interference. Aerial deliveries also were unhindered.

Despite early warning of tha Moraian buildup, Salvadoran allitary intelligence appeared to miscalculate tbe guerrilla threat and Intentions in the area. Tactical units also apparently were poorly briefed about the Insurgent situation, resulting in numerous ambushea.

finally, tbe government atlll lacks sufficient forces to permanently garrisonva urgent-dominated areas following sweep operations. The government-guerrilla manpower ratio is onlyoar lass than theorce advantage generally considered necessary to defeat an insurgency. | |

Strategy *aot*qj

'if-

In addition to the Salvadoran military's strengths and weakneieaa evident in the operation, the entire aplaode raises questions about tha general strategy and taofcloa of the counter insurgencyabout tha value of large-scale sweap operations. The Insurgents obviously retain

considerablestrength despite repeated government offensives. Cntli the milltsry can improve its small unit tactics through batter training andthereby counter the guerrilla war ofbelieve It has little choice but to resort to larga-aoala operatlona tooncentration of guerrilla foroes large enough toerioua and immediate threat in any area. In some cases, such as laat year in Cabanas Department, sweep operatlona have scored soa* significant successes and seriously weakened insurgent strongholds. They have also preempted any inaurgant attempts to creste asons. [|

The government fears than an Insurgent declaration oftone would challenge lta olalm to controlterritory. XL would also attractsupport for tbe insurgents and leadrevolutionary* government inside

To eliminate permanently major Insurgent base areas, especially in northern and eastern El Salvador, we believe the government will have to reduce or overcome Ite basic weaknesses in leadarahlp, organisation, and training. It will also have to Improve Interdiction of foreign arms shipments and other aid to tha guerrillas. And it needs to offer the population of contested areas greater inducement not to support the insurgents. This will have to include not only better security, butesningful amnesty program and some hope of future economic well-being.

The government's progress In correcting its major military weaknesses has been agonisingly slow, and haselatively aigniflcant input of OS weapons and training assistance, tor tbe military to make further progress, we believe It will require at leaat the eame level of assistance for tbe nest several years. reatly increased level of OS aid would be difficult for the salvadoran armed forces to absorb, and would probablyorresponding incresse in the OS training presence. |" "j

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