SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS FOR VIETNAM

Created: 10/12/1973

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INTELLIGENCE

ESTIMATE

Short-Term Prospects for Vietnam

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SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS FOR VIETNAM

PRECIS

The major judgments in lliis Estimate are:

actions are clearly designed to insure that it canto major military action at some point to gain its objectivesmeans fail. The chances of the communists gainingthe political provisions of the Paris agreement arearo their prospects good for achieving the GVN's collapsecombination of political and clandestine warfare backed up bymilitary pressure. Hanoi may not haveinalas to the timingajor offensive. It must, however,it will ultimately have to return to the battlefield to seek itsof reunifying Vietnam. (Paras.)

current military balance in South Vietnam is onlyfavor of the GVN; with heavy infiltration and supplymay have shifted to the communists' advantage byalance, however, is clearly in the GVN'i favor and willso.

forward positioning of communist forces and suppliesimproved road system give Hanoi the capability to kick off a

major military campaign with tittle additional preparation, perhaps lessonth.)

lose choice whether Hanoi will optajoroffensive during the outran) dry seasonMaymaking its decision Hanoi must assess the following factors:

The likelihood and extentS response; the positions of Moscow and Peking, particularly ihe consequences to the North Vietnamese position if they can not be certain of enoughsupport to cover losses that would accompany prolonged heavy combat; the military balance between its forces and the RVNAF; and the overall politiciil and military situation in the South.)

The arguments for and against an offensive this dry season are presented in

there is not an offensive this dry season, Hanoi willlaunch and no doubt accelerate carefully orchestratedand limited-objective attacks in various regions ofto seize territory and test the GVN's resolution. (Paras.

the eventajor communist military effort this dryhowever, the communists would initially make substantialgains inhere they would probably commit theirassets. If the fighting were prolonged, RVNAFs continuedinould be in doubt widiout renewed US airgains in the rest of South Vietnam would be lessand RVNAF should be able to blunt the

this dry season, we believe the odds favoring aoffensive will increase significantly in the)

the long run. Hanoi may place greater weight on trends it observes in the South than on the external restraints imposed by Moscow, Peking, and Washington.

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THE ESTIMATE

INTRODUCTION

The current Ulna Hon in Vietnam is one of "less fire" rather than "ceasend there is no real peace. Both sides have initiated or provoked some of the figltlitig that hassince the January accords, primarily by attempting lo seize or retake territory deemed strategic. In addition, thehave replenished their southern forces. Ignoring the Paris accords' stitctures against personnel augmentation or equipment re-supply beyond ICCS-supervised exchanges of used materiel. The communists haveariety of activities such as road building which, while not technically aof the Patis agreement, enhance their military potential.

CS has been ineffective in its peace-keeping functions- Nor it there reason to hope that the 1CCS will bo effective inmonths. Neither Vietnamese parly will limit its actions solely because of the formal madu'nery of the Paris agreement.CS became weaker with theof Canada and tbe substitution of Iran. In essence, the governing factors for both

North and South Vietnam will remain what they have alwaysperception of both Vietnamese parties of the gains and risks involved inourse of action.

II. THE VIEW FROM HANOI

anoi has made it clear that it clings to its ultimate goal of uniting Vietnam under communism and will pursue this goal bymeans possible. Rut in signing the Paris agreement. North Vietnam admitted that it ihrn faced formidablepressure had failed to crack ARVN's resolve and Ihe communist position was growing weaker; the US would not dissolve itsto Saigon (indeed, the US response2 was greater than Hanoioviet and Chinese allies werefor detente with Washington; ami the cumulative pressures of the war werestresses and war-weariness in Northitself. The North Vietnamese were thus forced to make major concession* inthey had to retreat from their longstanding demand for Thicus removal, the formationoalition government, and an end to US military assistance.

anoi did not, liowcver. leave Paris empty-handed. Tho cease-fire and bombing halt left communist forces in control ofbut largely unpopulated, areas in South Vietnam and allowed badly hurt units an opportunity to rest and refit. Politically, the PRC gained some aura of respectability. Military pressure on lhe North ceased,renewed attention to reconstruction and development.agreement signaled (lie end of direct US military participation In the war.

in the South) from several

A. Hanoi's Options

n weighing its North Vie mam car courses of action.

It can forego large-scale militaryand attempt to compete primarily through open political competition and clandestine warfare. Displays of military muscle would be designed primarily to protect communist personnel in the field.

- Whileid on large-scaleoperations, Hanoi canoderate level of main-force pressure to assess the capabilities and reactions of the other side. At the same time, it can continue to build up its forces toward the time when it might be feasible toall-out hostilities. Essentially, this is the course of action that Hanoi is now following.1

-Or, Hanoi can opt to renew offensive warfare on the scale of8 orither countrywide or in one or two military regions with lower levels of action elsewhere. Such actions could be precededradual escalation ofthan an abrupt series of ma forthe theory thatourse would minimize tbe chance of US intervention.

B. Factors Influencing Hanoi's Policy Decisions

North Vietnam's Internal Sfrengfhs and Weaknesses

leadership in North Vietnamcohesive, and unchallenged.to time, however, there arepublic and private debate within thehierarchy over basic issues, eg.,military attacks versus guerrillareconstruction of the Northof the South, and emphasis ontactics versus military action. Evenand policy disputes may existcollegia! apparatus that has ruledChi Minn's death, they are masked bydisplay of unity and an apparentof the Politburo members to fallonce decisions arc made."1

the cease-fire, Hanoi basstrengthened its internal militaryThe country's air defensesthan ever. Hanoi has replenishedinventory by bringing most ofandome from3 missiles into itsnetwork around Hanoi, and hasstreamlined, and modemircd itsTbe navy also appears stronger asof the acquisition in2 of Chi-

Neither of tlie above options Recesnrily exclude* an occarionnl flaic-up of more ierlous fighting. An Integral aspect of both would be the build-up of tlwud economic viability of tho communist enclave in western South Vietnam.

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and Soviet gunboats, including KOMARs. The ground forces have been strengthened by the addition of new armor and artillery,it is not clear when this materielthe North Vietnamese inventory.

There is evidence as well that North Vietnamese training programs have been tailored to correct the weaknesses indiscipline and tactics that hampered its army throughout last year's offensive,to North Vietnamese military journals, conventional warfare doctrine emphasizing the combined use of armor, artillery, andforces is still being stressed.between armor and infantry was markedly lacking in the2s in previous years, the North Vietnamesetheir fall military conscriptionduringhere is no doubt that North Vietnam has adequate manpower resources forarge standing army, and the number of men reaching draft age each year is more than sufficient forontinuing high rate of casualties if major military action were resumed.

Communist propaganda continues to list reconstruction as the nation's foremostThe bulk of Norlh Vietnam's efforts to date, however, has gone into activities which serve both war-related and civilian needs.

making its policy decisions,might give somepopular attitudes. There is nohowever, of significant popularserious opposition to the government'sThe populace would fear thatbombing wouldajorSuch potential problems, however,certainly lie kept in bounds byparticularly if external militaryforthcoming.

7he Communists' Position in ihe South

The communists failed to capture and hold any major population centers in2 offensive, but did seize territory which they are turning into relatively secure base areas in which an extensive and heavily defended interlocking road system is being constructed. (Seehe termination ofbombing has relieved most of theon communist logistics and infiltration. Communist efforts at population resettlement and economic development in PRC areas will be some time (if ever) in reaching fruition, but the communists' western enclave already providesorward staging area for any future offensive.

Since the beginning of the year, North Vietnam has also substantially increased the capabilities of its forces in South Vietnam, notably so inlthough tlie GVNa substantial manpower advantage in the other military regions, inhenowough parity of forces with ARVX. (Seeoreover, the expansion of NVA firc[>owcr has beenthroughout the country; North Vietnamese forcesreater concentration ofthan they had at the outset of theinhere have beenincreases in AAA, armor, and artillery. North Vietnamese SAMs are deployed in northern South Vietnam. In addition, thehave rebuilt, Or canumber of captured airfields.

Perhaps the most ominous aspect of the communist buildup is the positioning of huge stockpiles in or near South Vietnam.trictly materiel standpoint, stockpiles of major categories of equipment in place in the North Vietnamese Panhandle. South Vietnam, and adjacent border areas would allowforces to maintain heavy combatthroughout an entire dry season and

Communist and South Vietnamese Regular Combat Forces in South Vietnam

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