SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
Assessment of the Situation in South Vietnam
ASSESSMENT OF THE SITUATION IN SOUTH VIETNAM
this estimate is issued by the director of central intelligence.
the united states intelligence board concurs, except as noted in the text, as follows:
The following inlelligence organizations participated in the preparation of Ihe estimate:
Ihe Cenlrol Inlelligence Agency, the intelligence orgonizotions of the Deportments of State, Defense, and Treasury, and (lie National Security Agency, and the Energy Research and Development Administration
The Deputy Director of Control Intelligence representing the Central Intelligence Agency
The Director of Intelligence and Research representing the Department of Stote The Director, Defense Intelligence Agency The Director, National Security Agency
The Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Notional Security, Energy Research and Development Administration
The Speool Assistant to the Secretary for National Security, Deportment of the Treasury
The Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Aisistanl Chief ol Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army
The Direcior of Naval Intelligence, Department of the Navy
The Asiistani Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Department of the Air Force
assessment of the situation in
The situation in South Vietnam has rapidly deteriorated since President Thieu's decision in mid-March to shifttrategy ofretrencliment. Following is an assessment of the situation and an analysis of South Vietnam's prospects for thii dry season.
THE MILITARY SITUATION The Northern Coast
situation is especially bleak iuas conceded virtually the wholethe communists, and South Vietnamesenow moving to an enclave around DaNang.of two of the four South Vietnameseinre scattered, and theharassing them as they pull back towardit is questionable if the bulk of thesereach DaNang, and the government willpressed to defend the city without them.on the other hand, have two freshwest of the city, and they are preparingDaNang, In addition, the Northof Hanoi's five remainingmoving south.
The Central Coast
government's military position in MRalso deteriorated rapidly. The Southhave abandoned five highland provinces and large parts of several others, and government hoops do not appear to be capable of standing up to tho communists. Tho Southdand two ranger groups were badly mauled in the fighting in Darlac Province, and five of the sue ranger groups withdrawing from Kontum and Pleiku arc in disarray. Large quantities ofand fuel were abandoned at Kontum and Pleiku cities. Communist attacks on the retreating column destroyed or damaged hundreds of pieces of equipment, and South Vietnamese troopslarge amounts of hardware along theall of which was needed to defend the coastal
he North Vietuamese are far stronger than the remaining government forces and are In atoecisive blow in this region. Thehas just over one effective division in MRompared to five North Vietnamese divisions; moreover, large numbers of replacements havein the highlands from North Vietnam. Nlm
the military headquarters tor the region, is lightly defended and probably will fall.
he fighting has cased somewhat north of Saigon, but the situation remains serious. Theis in the process of withdrawing from Binh Long Province and has had losses in western Binh Duong Province. The communists have thus farrontal assault on Tay Ninh City, but several communist divisions and independentare pressing against government troops from three sides. Since the city will be costly to support and defend and most of the population has already fled, serious consideration is being given tothis provincial capital and drawing newlines in the southeastern portion of the province. In addition, recent communist gains cast of Saigon have forced the GVN region commander to divert some troops from the Tay Ninh front and Saigon, and this has limited his capabilities toounterattack north and west of the capital.
n the delta, the situation is, lor the moment, relatively stable. Many of the communist main force units suffered heavy losses in the fighting around the turn of the year, but they are now rebuilding. This stable situation, however, could quickly change should Saigon move any sizable forces from the delta to bolster the defenses of MR 3.
ii. THE impact of THIEU'S STRATEGY
hieu decided to evacuate the highlands and concentrate his forces along the populated coast and around Saigon because he felt they werefacedreatly superior NorthArmy force, and confronted with theof dwindling VS aid. He clearly hoped to take the communists by surprise, extracting his forces intact and ready to fight before the communists could read. Thieu probably also calculated that by making his decision secretly and presenting it to his senior military commandersait accompli he would forestall any coup plotting by themirect refusal to carry out his orders.
The result, however, was that Thieu took his own forces by Surprise as much as he did theHis Joint General Staff and his regional commanders have all indicated that they had no prior briefing or consultation. US officials were also not notified. Without any prior planning or clear indication of tlie limits of the withdrawal, thehave been generally disorderly. In the northern two-thirds of the country, most government forces are cut off from each otlier and seized with an evacuation mentality. Under these conditions some units have refused to fight.
The senior military leadership clearly has been caught off balance by the direction which events have taken, and their reaction has been one ofand depression. These attitudes also arethrough the ranks.
Gnimbling against Thieu's leadership has grown in the wake of military reverses, but events have moved so rapidly that there has been little coup talk. It Ls widely recognizedoup at this time would beut the situation is such that pressures for Thieu's resignation or forcible removal could quickly emerge.
A source of disorder lies in the refugeewhich has caught the government ill-prepared to cope with the massive numbers of refugeesinndccording to the latestthere may now be upwardsillionpersons crowded into DaNang awaitingto coastal MRut the government hasresources to accomplish thishort period, and thereerious risk of riots and fighting in the rush to evacuate.those who are brought out may have to be movedcreating additionalon the government.
Apart from the reverses suffered in South Vietnam, there are external factors which couldundermine the GVN. The collapse offnr example, would bring added
cai pressure on Saigon, llie continuing dclwilc in tlte US on the question of US aid to SouthIs alio an unsettling factor. Thieu probably assumes that he will have to rdy on what lielias; but if the South Vietnamese in general come to believe that the US will not respond with additional assistance lo meet the new situation, this will fuel defeatism.
The communists have the capability to exploit their gnlns. and we believe they will. In so doing, they will try to destroy the remaining government forces inndt the moment, the situa* tion iu DaNang is chaotic. Considering Ibe forces that North Vietnam can bring to bear againstthe poor state of government defenses there, and the widespread panic in the city, its defenses could simply collapse. In any event, it will be lost within two weeksorth Vietnamese attack, perhapsew days if the Marine division is removed. Thieu is already considering this move; his strategy has been to save his forces from Ix-ing destroyed in overextended positions.
In MRhe thinly stretched government forces will be no match for the five Northdivisions. There aie already indications that the communists arc planning to attack severalpopulation centers in the region. In the face nf strong communist attacks, Ihe South Vietnamese will be unable to maintain these enclaves.
Inndhe government currently has aedge in forces and is expected toa strong defense line around the heavily popu lated and rice growing areas, but some retraction of defenses is probable. Tay Ninh City hasajor goal of the commmmts this dry season. The South Vietnamese have fought hard to hold the city thus far, and we believe they can continue to do no. although they mny decide to abandon it because of the risks and costs involved in defending it.
IS- In sum. the South Vietnamese withdrawals amountajor defeat. As matters now stand, Thieu is faced with:
re-asserting effective control over his
extracting key force den>ents and equipmeni fromndnd
trong defense of the Saigon area and Mil 4.
CommunUt momentum, however, will be hard to stop, and the North Vietnamese may be tempted to commit the remaining portion of their strategic reserve to exploit the situation Even if they do so. we believe that the GVN's military strength in the southern part of the country will enable il totlie current dry season, although additional losses arc certain.
ogistic factors, for example, would probablyuick assault on Saigon since the communists now lack supply stocks in forward positions innd their proportioning will be time consuming. In addition, even the decision to commit thereserve means that forces will have to be mar-slialled and deployed. In so doing, the communists will iuii into lime and distance factors, and theof assembling units and moving them over kmg lines of communication in an environment where rapid or orderly deployment is inhibited Finally, the South Vietnamese forces inndIhe territorialintact and able toood account of themselves.
ven so, the GVN will probably be left with control over little more than the delta and Saigon and surrounding populated areas. It would thus face further communist pressureositionweaker than our previous estimates, with the result likely to be defeat byhewill keep up their military pressure totheutright defeat unless there have been political changes in Saigon that open the wayew settlement on near-surrender terms.
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