M/H NIE 53/14.3-73 SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS FOR VIETNAM

Created: 11/8/1973

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MEMORANDUM TO HOLDERS

NATIONAL

INTELLIGENCE

ESTIMATE

Short-Term Prospects for Vietnam

3

this estimate is submitted by the director of central intelligence and concurred in by the united states intelligence board.

The following inlelligence organizations participated in tbe preparation of the estimates

the Central Intelligence Agency and tho intelligence oraaniiationi of Iheof Stole and Defense, and the NSA.

Tha Deputy Director of Central Intelligence

The Director of Intelligence and Research. Department of Slate

The Director, Defense Intelligence Agency

The Director. National Security Agency

The Assistant General Manager for Notional Security, Atomic Energy Commission The Special Assistant lo the Secretary of lhe Treasury

Abstaining!

The Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, tho subject being outside

SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS FOR VIETNAM

PRECIS

The principal conclusion of3 was thatmajor" communist offensive in Vietnam was not likely before the endt was an extremely close question whether there would be one in the first half' An examination of the evidence since the Estimate was published four weeks ago has not resulted hi consensus wiihin the Inlelligence Community on the likelihoodajor offensive in the4 period.

We now believe, however,harp expansion of communist and CVN military activity should be expected in the next fewbetween now and the endhe overall scale of combatsomewhat below thaiajor offensive as defined herein, but tho fighting could be heavy In certain parts of the country, particularly hi MR 1.

Hanoi's view of US and Soviet preoccupation with tlie Middle East and of lhe US domestic situation may encourage the communists to increasing aggressiveness in probing the extent of Saigon's fighting spirit and the extent of Washington's support to the CVN.

' Ay drfinau iii (iu*niujor offensive" wouldemmtrywidp offensive on thoof tw idas ojr attacksimilar level exnrrahy confined to um>woions.

"srefw.

the estimate

key conclusion of NIEthat itclose" choiceajor communist offensivebeforehere wasthat such an offensive wasthe endut there was aof views on whether one wouldthe first halfome elementsintelligence community believed aoffensive would take place inand others believed it would not.of the Estimatearious sources inside and outsideVietnam have expressed growingthat such an offensive is in thethere have been importantin Ihe Middle East and on thescene which could affectIn the following paragraphsthe validity of the Estimate'sin the light of what hasthe last four weeks both insideand in the rest of the world.

The Situation in Indochina

has been no persuasiveIndochina that of itself wouldto predict with more certainty than weweeks ago the likelihood of ain the first half1 Tliehas changed, however, with respect to the near-termnow and the endt is now clear that for the nextays or so both the communists ond Saigon willinimum undertake Increased local action* of the sort exemplified by therocketing of Bien Hoa and attacks iu Quang Due and Pleiku Provinces, and the GVN's air and ground attacks in Tay Ninh Province. While the overall scale of fighting may not reach the levelajorombat onarge scale will almostoccur in certain areas within the next few weeks.

The Effect of Developments Elsewhere in tho World

he Middle East Crisis: The lessons for Hanoi from the Middle East situation are conflicting;

On the one hand, Hanoi saw that not only was the US willing toub-

' At Annexummary of tlie most recent evidence fromandon tlirufn offensive.

' As defined in thismajor oftriwivp" wouldountrywide offensive on the scale of8 orr attacksimilar level generally confined to one or two military regions.

stantial resupply effort for Ils Israeli ally, but lhat the USough line with the Soviets as well.On the oilier hand, the Northprobably found sustenance in Mas-cow's willingness to resupply itsrlii'iits. and they might now believe that the Soviets would provide whateverthey needed.

At this stage. Hanoi would he cautious about drawing close parallels between the Vietnam and Middle Eastern situations, and probably has not reached any hard and fast conclusions about the effect of the Middle East crisis on Vietnam. Nevertheless, the North Vietnamese leaders might believe that both Washington and Moscow were so preoceirpied with the Middle last that Hanoi couldore adventuresome military policy with relative impunity. Furthermore, should the Soviets reverie tlielr present course andery attitude toward tbe US over the Arab-Israeli question, deliberately sacrificing detente iu the process, Hanoi might hetoore aggressive course of its own.

SChtncie ContoeiM: The Chinese, like the Soviets, are currently viewed with some nervousness in Hanoi, and never more thanisit to Peking by Dr. Kissinger is in the offing. Hanoiesidual fearew US-Chinese agreement may emerge which limits fti oirfions in Vietnam. The experience of the part year or so, however, has given the North Vietnamese considerable insight into the amount ami type of restraint Peking will try to impose on them. While they mighteluctance by Peking to support increased military action in tlie next few

weeks, liny probably believe that Peking would not repudiateilitary initiative or block it in any effective way.

vents in the US: It seems likely that the

Ninth Vietnamese are having troublethe current domestic situation in the US. Ihe Politburo members cannot regard recent events ai providing evidence that the US has lost the power to act decisively. They also can have no great confidence in their ability to predict tlie reactions of the US to new situations. At the same time. Hanoi's leaders doubtless wonder about the extent to which the US Government can now meet achallenge in Vietnam. They are doubtless also hoping their two big communist patrons will try to take advantage of the disarray in Washington in ways that favor Hanoi's cause, and tlwry may be tempted to probe for some advantage on their own. The Politburo will certaintyharp eye on furtherin US doovestlc politics. Hanoi'sof US strengths will obviously be affected by its reading of the next few weeks' and iimmiUis' events.

Conclusion

n examination of the evidence over the past four weeks has not resulted in consensus within the Intelligence Community on Uie liko-lilioodajor North Vietnamese offensive in the first halfo those elements of the Community which believed the Vietnamese communists were already planning majornotion, both the preoccupation of the great powers with the Middle East anddomestic problems give furtherto these plans. To other elements of the community which did not believe aoffensive was in the works when3 was published, developments in the Middle East and in the US are regardednsufficient by themselves to Cause Hanoi to launch such as offensive in the first lialf ol next year.

c would reiterate, however,haip expansion of communist military ac-

"Sretwr.

is to he expected between now and tlie endow "sharp" is something lhal may well now ho under active debate io Hanoi- Tho Vietnamese Communist Party's inteution to gain control over the south, by mililary force if necessary, remains unchanged. The North Vietnamese already have inonsiderable capability for offensive action in South Vietnam, particularly in MRhe Hanoi Politburo may find it impossible to resist the temptations of opportunisticwhile the US iseriod of domestic stress and has its internationalfocused on oil and tho Middle East.

ANNEX

CURRENT EVIDENCE PRO AND CONOMMUNIST OFFENSIVE THIS DRY SEASON

CURRENT EVIDENCE PRO AND CONOMMUNIST OFFENSIVE THIS DRY SEASON

Evidence arguing for an offensive this dry season incUuies:

A continuing buildup of logistics futilities and stockpiles of materiel just north and south of the DMZ, including theof large truck parks,ry season logistics push;

Tho continuing flow of personnel Lo posts along the infiltrationflow that cxmld support the dispatch ofnumbers of combat troops to South Viebiam;

A tougher communist propaganda line, highlighted by unusual public orders from various southern communistthat tell the troops to heighten their vigilance and 'Tight back" against their opponents;

Numerous rallicr and agent reports, most of them low-level, referring to plans for main force offensive action in3 or

Further evidence of very large heavy weapons inventories in Northpart of which has probably been brought into the country sinceanuary.

an offensive this

B. Evidence arguing dry season includes;

-The continuing absence of any firmof substantial combat troopthis fall to most of central and southern South Vietnam;

Indications

jthat at lea<it some recruits in-

ducted this fall do not expect to he in South Vietnam untilry

-The absence of any reliable evidence that Hanoi is preparing the Northpeople for the sacrifices they would have to anticipate if an offensive was launched;

A report

t COSVN has issued instructions heavily emphasizingeneral offensive is not in the worksnd implying thai rice shortages may limit communist military options in the first part of next year.

- Despite the impressive quantities of men and materiel that have been sent Smith in the last year, Hanoi still faces some manpower gaps in curtain areas.

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