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

Created: 10/12/1973

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

NATIONAL

INTELLIGENCE

ESTIMATE

Short-Term Prospects for Vietnam

33

Copy

THIS ESTIMATE IS SUBMITTED BY THE DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AND CONCURRED IN BY THE UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD.

The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation oi the estimate;

Tho On'rol Intelligence Agency and th* intelligent* organizations of theof Stale and Defense tho NSA and the Treasury.

Concurringi -

.Director of Control

of Intelligence and Research, Department of Slate

Defense Intelligence Ajoney

Nalior.al Security j

Generaf Manager lor Natlonol Security, Atomic Energy Commission

Assistant to lhe Secretory of the

Abstaining;

The Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the subject being outside of his [unsanction.

SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS FOR VIETNAM

PRECIS

The major judgments in this Estimate are:

actions arc 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 areare their prospects good for achieving the GVN's collapsecombination of political and clandestine warfare backed up bymililary 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's favor and willso.

forward positioning of communist forces and suppliesimproved road system give Hanoi the capabilily lo kick off a

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

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

The likelihood and extentS response; the positions of Moscow and Peking, particularly the 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 political and military situation in the South.)

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

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 ami tesl 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 without renewed VS airgains in the rest of South Vietnam would be lessand RVNAF should be able to blunt the

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

ssistant Chief of Staff, InteuJftDncc, USAF, believes mat the cuse postulatedvm

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

the estimate

introduction

current situation in Vietnam is"less fire" rather than "ceasendno real peace. Both side* have initiatedsome of tlie fighting that hassince the January accords,attempting to seize or retakestrategic. In addition, thehave replenished their southernthe Paris accords' stricturesaugmentation or equipmentbeyond ICCS-supervised exchangesmateriel. The communists haveariety of activities such aswhich, while not technically aof the Paris agreement, enhancepotential.

IOCS has been ineffective infunctions. Nor is therehope tliat the ICCS will be effective inmonths. Neither Vietnamese partyits actions solely because of theof the Paris agreement. Ifthe ICCS became weaker with theof Canada and the Substitution ofessence, 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.

il the view from hanoi

anoi has nude it clear that it clings to its ultimate goal of uniting Vietnam under communism and will pursue this goal hymeans possible. But in signing tlie Paris agreement, North Vietnam adrnittrd that it then faced formidablepressure had fulled to crack ARVN's resolve and the communist position was growing weaker; tho US would not dissolve itsto Saigon (indeed, the US response2 was greater than Hanoianoi's Soviet and Chinese allies werefor detente with Washington: and the cumulative pressures of the war werestresses and war-weariness in Northitself. The North Vietnamese were thus forced to make mafnr concessions inthey had to retreat from their longstanding demand for Thieu's removal, the formationoalition government, and an end to US military assistance.

Hanoi diil not, however, leave Paris empty-handed, llie 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 oi respectability. Military pressure on the North ceased,renewed attention to rcctmstnietion and development.agreement signaled the end of direct US mililary participation in the war.

A. Hanoi's Options

n weighing its strategy in the South, North Vietnam can choose from several courses of action.

*f tlii* aboM opiums nw-vuuilyn ociimsdiihI Hare-tip of more serious liuliluK. An Integral avpoH ofwould be tho buiM-up ol tlx-political and economic viability of the communist mdnvc bi wmtun South Vietnam.

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

Whileid on large-scaleoperations. Hanoi canoderate level of main lone 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 lonll-ottt hostilities. Essentially, this isourse oi action that Hanoi is now following.1'

Or, Hanoi can opt to renew offensive warfare no the8 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 majorthe theory thutourse would minimize the chance of US intervention.

B. Focton Influencing Hanoi's Policy Decisions

Norfh Vietnam's Internal Strengths and Weaknesses

Political leadership in North Vietnam is stable, cohesive, and unchallenged. From time lo time, however, there are indications of public and privatu debate within tliehierarchy over basicarge-scale military attacks versus guerrilla warfare tactics, teconstniction of tbe North versus liberation of the Soutli, and emphasis ontactics versus military action. Even though rivalries and policy disputes may exist within the collcgial apparatus that has ruled since Ho Chieath, they are maskedublic display of unity and an apparentof the Politburo membersall in line once decisions are made.3

Since the cease-fire, Hanoi has rebuilt and strcnghtcned its internal militaryThe country's air defenses appear stronger than ever. Hanoi has replenished its fighter inventory by bringing most of itsndome from China, is integrating Sovietissiles into its air defense network around Hanoi, and hasstreamlined, and modernised Its radar network. Tlie navy also appears strongeresult of the acquisition In2 of

nese and Soviei gunboats, including KOMARs. Tho gnmnd forces have been strengthened by tlie addition of new armor and artillery,it is not clear when this materielthe North Vietnamese inventory.

'Ihere 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 anny, 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 hulk of North 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 be kept in bounds byparticularly if external militaryforthcoming.

Tho Communists* Position in Ihe Soulh

he communists failed io capture and hold any major popululion centers in2 offensive, hut 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. (Secho termination ofbombing ha* relieved most of theon communist logistics and infiltration. CommunUt efforts at population resettlement and ciononis, dewlopmrnt in PRC areas will be some time (if ever) in reaching fruition, hut the communists* western enclave already providesorward staging area for any future offensive.

ince the beginning of the year, North Vietnam has also substantially increased the capabilities of Its fortes in South Vietnam, notably so in Mill. Although the GVNa substantial manpower advantage in the other military regions, lithonowough parity of forces with ARVN. (Seeoreover, the expansion of NVA firepowerenthroughout the country; North Vietnamese forcesreater concentration ofthan they had at the outset of tbeinltcre have beenincreases in AAA, armor, and artillery. North Vietnamese SAMs are deployed in northern South Vietnam. In addition, thehave rebuilt, or canumber of raptured airfields.

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

Figure 2

and South Vietnamese Regular Combat Forces in South Vietnam

Vietnam Re pilar Combai Forces VCfNVA*

VC/NVA

h 2nd

MR I

0cmwc*lion

ma, IHcn

'.Ham*

RVNAf

VNMC Airborne 1st 2nd

3id

Regional Forces

Incluilri VC'NVA ptrtonnel in puunJ cotabit. combat tuppon. ind >ir defrnw units and kxaJ ton* icxnpaniei and ptiluom

L RVNAF Gran* Order of Battk.RVN/VNMC poiiod combat and coastal mppoil umli. and RcporuJ Force battaaortv Although present loi dutie about Bit. of aulancd ittcngth.

MR 3

0

h Sapper Command 9thh

MR 4

ns!

21st 9th Im

y

44th Special Tactical Zone Regional Forces

D",h

X

/Kh-nh

A

Hoa

O.irlac

KB

v

MiHjfv region boundaryProvince bovntfity

ICCS reaitn boumlary

00Ci ,

o 2i> aa

> CIA

beyond without uny overriding necessity for replenishment, 'lhe availability of POL and food is probably toon' limited. Despiteof Iheir logistical situation,communist force* would stdl face some local distribulkni problems in preparing for and sustaining major military action.

There are now considerably morecombat mnneuver batialions andin South Vietnam lhan at the onset of2ough many of the units are not totally up to strength.0 NVA combat and adminutralive serviceshave infiltrated south during tbe first nine monthshe largest portion going to Mlt-i. Infiltration of combat troops picked up in September, and we expect it to continue in the coming dry season months. The level of such movement will be one clue to Hanoi'sHeavy infiltration would bring NVA forces in the South up to full strength andeplacement pool, thus enhancing their capability to launch and sustain anA low infiltration level, on the other hand, would suggest that Hanoi did notheavy military activity in the winter and spring.

Id general, the communists still bast the advantage of being able to choose tbe time and place for military action. And withand supplies in place close to thelittle lead time is needed for preparing for an offensive, ptihaps lessapid buildup uf personnel and supplies would be detected, but small shifts ofunits, or supplies might not.

In weighing the military factors, one dear coochnion emerges: thenly slightly in favor of tbe CVN.

On the other hand, Ihe political balance is clearly in the GVN's favor and will remain so. The communist infrastructure is still weakesult of the devastating losses ofS offensive and subsequent government pacification campaigns, although there have been some improvements in the infrastructure tn atew areas. Hard intelligence on the VCI is limited, but thereenerally negative cast in reports on its status, at least to the extent of strongly suggesting lhat the rebuilding effort svill take time. Tlie most serious problem of the VCI is ils inability to maintain close contact with the population. This is most apparent in urban areas, but even in tbe countryside, comnsmist access is limited.

communist presence is stilthy terrorism, enforced taxand haravsment Much ofis not firmly comrnittrd toand remains sensitive to any showor any shift in Ihe balanceccommodations are easily arrangedprobably widespread. The Northare making open efforts towiih ARVN units to consolidatepositions. Covert arrangementscommunists and local CVN defenseisolated villages and outposts are notor prevented. These usuallythe communists* advantage by reducingon base areas, facilitating entryand hamlets for taxing andand reducing the flow ofthe govcrnriHot on communist strength

communis! enclaves providevery limited potential for developingbase in South Vietnam Theare most securely wisconccd inand western MIM, but this is notviable aitii. To build anyeconomic infrastructure In theareas oiill require heavyNorth Vietnamontinuedeivilfan specialists. trictly coo-

iiumic sense, tho communist ureas inave slightly more potential. In general,communist holdings are in isolated areas that are sparsely populated and lacking in resources. Tlie North Vietnamese leadersto realize that there is little prospectiable "Third Vietnam" in the South which could compete economically or politically with the GVN. Instead, the focus now seems lo be on using these areas as forward singing areas for communist military forces.

External Pressures

he USSR and China. Hanoi hasthe advice of its majorin formulating its wartime strategyon forcing their support forfraternal solidarity and Sino-SovietNonetheless, the Northate onxnizant of their ultimateon their allies' materialsomewhat sensitive both to

their positions on the war and to theirwith each other and with the US.rivalry offered Hanoi somein the past that neither would abandon the field of fraternal support to the other. While this still holds true to some extent, their interest in detente with Washington hasommonality of interrst between Moscmv andestraining Hanoi'sHanoi's latitude for playing China and the I'SSll off against each other has been reduced. Tor esnmplc, since tin: cease-fire, Noith Vietnamese leaders have made their annual pilgrimages to Moscow and Peking to review their relntiuns and seek new aidnts. Unlike past years, however, there was no subsequent announcement of military aid fiom the USSR, although military aid was mentioned after Le Duan's visit to Peking. North Vietnamese public statements (al-though not the most reliable wcathervane) seem to indicate lessatisfactory

Although Hanoi is nowogistics position to launch and sustain prolonged heavy military operations in South Vietuain, ato do so in Uie face of opposition by Moscow and Peking and withoutontinued flow of supplies wouldajor gamble unless Hanoi were confident of UVNAFso do otherwise would leave Hanoi, should itseffort fail, faced with drawn down stocks and no assurance of replaceiueiit. Over the short term, POL and foodstuffs wouldthe major requirements, especially in Northitself. Since these items have civilian as well as military value, China and the USSR might find it easier to rationalize supplying them to Hanoi than would be the case for purely military equipment.

At this point, both Moscow and Peking appear to be urging restraint on Hanoi, in part because they view detente with the USriority interest. They are not prepared to abandon Hanoi and will certainly continue to provide some military aid to Norththough perhaps at reduced2 offensive, for example, while both allies seemed to point to the benefitsegotiated settlement, neither attempted to

'Kven without assurance* from their allies, tho Ninth Vietnamese might consider launching an otfeu-live limited in objectives and duiatkm.

' It isertain tliat US 'iitellufenre efforts will not be able to determine how much military equipment is actually smt to North Vietnam. fnereeasonably uood chance that the dispatch of equipment lo South Vietnam will be detected, unless themurtlier degradation of US intelligencein Indor liiiij. It will he difficult toat least in the next sevrrnlsuch equipment has only recently arrived in Noith Vietnam. For example, although recent intelligenceimitKT of armored vehicles and artillery pieces al ii military equipment triutskudiitg point northwestr.'i. it cannot he drtennined when this equipment arrived in the- country. Ncvertlu'lewi, since thishad not been noted previously, theretroni* possibility that it represents new deUreries.

"SECRET.

tho issue by drastically reducing their loglvticut an offensive launched without provocationime when moro relaxed great power relations scorned to be paying dividends would be opposed byand Peking, particularly if the offensive appeared likely to cause the US to reenter the war. Under these circn instances, Hanoi's allies would continue their aid, but would probably not increase it to cover the losses. But in view of Hanoi's sizable militarysuch reluctance on the pari of its allies would have niOre impact in political terms than on Hanoi's military capabilities in the short run.

The t'S. Judgments about the potential US reactionajor military effort by the communists wouldajor factor in Hanoi's policyarge-scale offensive wouldotal rupture of the Parisand, as such, would remove itson active American involvement. Hanoi undoubtedly views the chances of American forces reentering the war under anyus greatly reduced due to domestic political pressures. In addition, if Hanoithe US as being preoccupied withtorolonged Arab-Israeli conflict, it might calculate that the US would befrom respondingajor communist provocation in Vietnam. But the Northleaders would not dismiss theof an American reaction, in partthey have been so wrong before in gauging the impact of American politics on the war. While the "stick" of American air power would be carefully considered before deciding whether to launch an offensive, the "carrot" of American dollars would represent no moroinor factor in Hanoi's policy calculations.

Catnhitdia. Communist action inis not likely to provide clear indications of Hanoi's intentions in Soulh Vietnam since there are uncertainties about how muchtho North Vietnamese have over the Khmer insurgents. In addition.elatively low scale ofin the Cambodian quadrant would not necessarily mean that Hanoi hod decided to lie low in South Vietnam. Indeed, the North Vietnamese might not want to tip their hand hy striking out hard in Cambodia if they were contemplating maior action in South Vietnam. Conversely, prior to launching an offensive in South Vietnam, Hanoi might want to wrap up the Caiulmdian situation toore accurate indication at lower cost of how the US might react to stepped-up communist action.

ommunist victory in Cambodia would nut tiring about an immediate or major shift in the present balance of military power iu South Vietnam. Hanoi already enjoys the access it needs to the eastern Cambodianulong the South Vietnamese bolder, and the cessation of US bombing has removed most of the danger of using thisommunist controlled Cambod ia, ho we vcr, could ease communist logistical burdens by opening the port of Kompong Som toshipping. But Hanoi would probably hesitate to make great use of tho port In the short run; it would almost certainly want to wait to see Ikiw the US and South Vietnam reacted to Cambodia's collapse, and it would not want or need to reveal its strategic plans by pouring supplies tlrrough Kompong Som.

n the limit term, the major importommunist victory in Cambodia on Hanoi's intentions In South Vietnam would be more psychological than military. Hanoi might hope that the fall of Cambodia would so unnerve the South Vietnamese that tl* stage would be set fc* major actions in South Vietnam. We do not believe, however, that the CVN would bo sn rattled by Cambodia's collapse that, by Itself, this would encourage Hanoi toajor military push in South Vietnam.

Tlie settlement in fato* willeffect oo Hanoi's actions. It isthe cimtiiat structure in theremain essentially intact during thedry season to protect communistlines tlirough Laos. Some NVA rearunits which shifted into Souththis year have already movedthe eastern Panhandle, ami othersfollow.

III. THE VIEW FROM SAIGON

Saigon, just as to Hanoi, thea less lhanThe GVN signed the agreementand hasit wiirn suchadvantageous. The GVN believesJanuary agreement (eft it vulnerablemilitary pressure. Tho GVNmajor reservations about Iheof the agreement and will showin implementing the politicalcalled for in the accord. The GVNnot only to prevent theof tlie communists' militaryposition in South Vietnam, butit as much as possible.

A. Saigon's Options

espile its unnappincss with thesituation, Saigon's options for changing it are limited. Over tlie years, lhe basicof tho GVN has been the buildingtrong nation-state able to withstandaggiession and subversion. In this effort, the CVN has significantly improved its military ami political position. It still lacks the ability to expel communist forces from South Vietnam, and it cannot effectively carry tlie war lo the North. In sum. the CVN is still basically in the position of having to react to communist military policies and actions, while continuing its efforts totrong base ol support which will erode the communists' ability toignificant threat to South Vietnam.

not sharply defined, theseveral options in meeting tbethreat:

Quick raids could be conducted against established communist baseeven into Cambodia.

The GVN could launch air strikes on NVA base areas, hath within Southand in Laos and Cambodia

Saigon might movearge-scale and sustained basis to reduce communist-controlled territory.

If the GVN concluded that die NVA were, in fad, in tho preparatory stagesew offensive, it mightajor preemptive strike of its own*

B. Factors Influencing GVN Policy and Capabilities

Political and Economic Strength at the GVN

wlitlcal positionstronger over the past severalgroups lack the unitytohallenge, whileof thr communists to mountaction has been veryet offensive. Tbe massacre inthe An Quang Buddhists, once inopposition to the government,thoughts of accomrnodatioQ withand toward working within the

' Coocunendy with any ol the jhov, inlhtary op-boos, Thieu nould move rapidly to "tend andhis potitkal luiitrult utrli Ination-wide effort to tlindually estrnd andCVN-controlled territory by military aodmeans would bo continued.

n

system. There arc various leftist-intellectual and student groups whicli are vulnerable to comimuiisl manipulation, but these groups are small and lack publiclittle moreuisance to tbe government.

Thieu's power is based on the support of the government bureaucracy and theestablishment--the major instruments through which he has worked to extend his base of support throughout the country. Althoughoner who operateskillful blend ot patience andThieu is not unaware ol the need tu gain jxipular support. To this end. he hasonsiderable number of reforms and new programs,morehas worked to improve his ties with village leaders and provincial councils. These efforts have borne fruit; while stillopular figure, Thieu is accepted by most South Vietnamese as preferable to aalternative.

lu the process of solidifying his position. Thieu has whittled away utmost all of the political power of the individual mililaryleaving them frequently beholden to him in the process. Thus, even though there are occasional grumblings within the mili-tary hierarchy over Thieu's political actions, there is no iigurc in the military who appears capable of seriously challenging him. There is little prospect of this situation changing SO long as Thieu maintains the imageirm and effective auticomiminist leader who commands continuing US support, although ambitious men remain in the wings.

The government structure is becoming increasingly centralized and personalized, with loyalty torime prerequisite for any significant government assignment. TheDemocracyen-cadicd by military officers andbas emerged as Thieu's instrument forhis authority both at national and local levels. The new parlyantile!apparatus within the party ni-gani/ation which servesotential vehicle forami enforcing the loyalty of itsWhile the forms of repfcscutativcmay lie preserved,bviously aiming for, and already has largelyolitical apparatus tbat is wholly responsive to his direction.

Altlmugh the GVN will have little trouble in coping with overt communistaction, dealing with the communists' covert activities will be difficult. This task falls largely to the CVXs kieal paramilitary and police forces, whose effectiveness varies widely from place to place. Police elfcctive-ness is generally good in the larger urban areas, but falls off rapidly the further one goes into tlie countryside. Popular Forces (PF) units and Pooples'frase Forcesnight watchmen of the ruralfail to resist when Viet Cong finance cadre or prosclyters and theirescortsillage by night,il there is no ARVN unit in the area.

Altliotigh tbe South Vietnamesehas good long-term growth potential, key connnodity slmrtages, inflation, and declining foreign exchange reserves are serious'lhe US military withdrawal has reduced both dollar inflow and employmentand the tic facto reduction of American aid caused by the devaluation of the dollar aitd rising commodity prices in world markets have compounded the problem. Increased foreign und doinc&tic investment couldthe situation, but, for lhe short run. it is limited because of the uncertainties of the GVN's long-term viability. Ihe basicol inflation ami stagnation defy quick solutions and could come to have adverse political ramifications. But for the short run. as long as US economic assistance is available, such problems are not likely lo reach critical dimensions.

A more in:.li.rti problem, however, and one which could lead to some popular resentment against tlie government, is the availability of rice. Tho fighling in the Delta last spring conlrihuteclhortfall in rice production in South Vietnam. Ihis, coupled with difficulties in obtaining immediate rice imports becauseorld shortage, raises the spectreerious rice shortage in the late fall.ikely toemporaryhowever, since additional quantities of American rice should arrive in South Vietnam by late December.

The communists are actively seeking to exploit tho GVN's economic difficulties, while trying to reduce the economic burden on the North. Apart from enforced taxation, thehave alwayshadow supply system in South Vietnam, buyingfuel, and pharmaceuticals on tbe local economy. Their recent purchases of rice and kerosene at inflated prices not only helptheir military forces and civilian residents in communist-control led areas, but also tend to aggravate shortages and price spiraling in GVN areas, lhe CVN is taking stringent measures to interrupt trude with thebut their effectiveness has been spotty. On balance, however, it is highly unlikely over the short term that the communists will make significant gains in exploiting or even seriously aggravating Saigon's economic problems. Moreover, the severely restricted economic situation in PRC areas will reinforce theneed for continued taxation andpurchases in the CVN areas.

Con RVNAF AW Ihc Challenge?

political strength of the GVNadequate to cope with communistbut its military' adequacy is aconcern, particularly in Mlt-1.

The South Vietnamese have Urge and well-CO,nipped armed forces. Tlicir combat effectiveness is undercut, however, by logistic and maintenance deficiencies and shortfalls in training, command and control, andof units. Corruption and desertion in the armed forces continue to he problems. In addition, the ground forces, including mobile reserves, are fully deployed. Facedommunist adversary iu Soulh Vietnam wliich is larger and stronger than at its peakVNAF would probably yield substantialat least initially, should the communists launch an all-out attack.

On the other hand, RVNAF hassignificantly in recent years, especially since the start of2 campaign, as Thieu has cashiered many inept officers. Further, front-line units have gained valuable combat experience and confidence. For example, in2 offensive, RVNAF (albeit withnefit of US air support) was able toand reverse many of the communists'ven mediocre units bung togetherthe dlsasler-struck 3rd Division) and maintained stiff resistance to the NVA. KVNAF's problems would be al least partially offset by the frequently poor tactics and per-fon nance of communist forces.

In terms of overall military manpower, tlie CVNubstantial edge.egular combat ground forces compareommunist regular combat strength ofen. (Sec Figurenowever, no numerical advantageas South0 troopsomparable communist force. Moreover, with the withdrawal of US air assets, the GVN's firepower advantage in many parts of the country is less impressive. The amount of CVN artillery tubes currently exceeds that of the communists, but the North Vietnamese liave demonstrated greater proficiency in the use of such firepower. The communist tank

inventory' slightly exceeds the GVN's, bul thisargely offset by greater KVNAF crew proficiency. It shimld be noted,that communist inventories of tanks and field and antiaircraft artillery are now at their highest level of tlte war owingignificant deployment of such firepower to Southduringnfiltration cycle,

Massive air support and exclusiveof the sky have born crucial factors in AKVN's defensive und offensive capabilities. Most of this support was American; thequestion now is whether the GVN ground forces could manage without it. The South Vietnamese Air Force cannot begin to provide the abundance of air support that ground commanders were accustomed to prior to the cease-fire. Even so. VNAF ground support capabilities have improved considerably and should help to counterbalance communistin most of the country.

In northernowever, where RVNAF is clearly most vulnerable, VNAF air operations would be severely hampered by the heavy concentration of NVA AAA/SAM forces. In addition, the North Vietnamese areosition to mount air operations ol their own inn the event of an all-outoffensive, we believe that they would do so. Tbe effectiveness of North Vietnamese close air support, however, would be curtailed by Inexperience in ground support operations and the paucity of ground radar controlIn terms of air defense. North Vietnam's superior air-to-air combat experience, defense in depth, and totally Integrated air defense system would probably result in anVNAF loss rate if it attempted sustained operations over coirjmunfrt-controlled northernoreover, in (lie eventajorpush inncluding the forward deployment of AAA and SAMs and theuse of Migs, VNAF would alsoserious problem* in providing effective ground support.

Successful pn-cmptive offensiveof any magnitude seem well beyond GVNoinmunisl Mouldbe aware of South Virtnamcsc planning (as in the pjst) and be prepared for an attack. KVNAF could not sustain large-scale operationsignificantof IS military aid shipments to cover losses. Moreover, tbe GVN would prohahly he most reluctant to launch major offensive operations without the assurance of US air support.

Meeting lower levels of communistslmuld be well within RVNAKsBut the South Vietnamese are not likely tu improve theirsubstantially. The communists obviously would puletermined defense against any moves byforces against tlieir enclaves. As the communists continue to strengthen andtheir western base areas. Southchances of successful pcuutration will diminish.

ampaign of terrorism,warfare, and covert action would fall more to the GVN's territorial forces (the RF, PF, PS1>F. and NI'FF) und municipal police than to the regular forces. As in tlte past, certain areas can be expected to prove very resistant to communist penetration. Inthe communists are not well-prepared toignificant increase in such activities.

Even so. the GVN's ability toradual extension of communist influence is uncertain. The communists cannot be satisfied penned up against the Iwrders of SouthThey clearly are determined to extend tendrils Into GVN-control led areas, especially in southernnd northernhich they must do if they are toesurgent infrastructure. And Saigon is just as

mined lo prcvciil this. Over the short nin, the struggle for lhe "contested" areas will remain more or loss stalemated.

IV. PROSPECTS THROUGH THE DRY SEASON

A, The GVN

Prospects for the CVN over the next nine mouths arcOn the one hand. Thieu's political position will probably grow stronger, and the communists are unlikely to make significant political gains. On the other hand, by next summer, the GVN may no longerilitary edge over theif Hanoi continues its current level of buildup in thewe believe it will do.

The GVN. facedituation where its real options are limited, will basically de-vole its efforts to strengthening the country's infrastructure, maintaining and building up its military defenses, and attempting to counter Hanoi's thrusts. Continued US military and economic support will be crucial to the GVN's performance and prospects during this period.

Tbe GVN will push with equal force to forestall the resurgence of the communist infrastructure, but will be facedilemma. Aggressive localchiefs can often interrupt communist efforts to build bridges to the local population, bul government harassment often prompts communist retaliation. The ensuing rash of terrorism and military activity upsels the local population, whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the lack of security.esult, the local chief often loses his popularand Is hard pressed to prove that he indeed has "pacified'" his territory. Caught in this situation, tlie local officials frequently find it preferable to seek the apparent quiet provided hy accommodation. There is little reason to liellevc that the GVN canbreak ihis longstanding pattern, although tliis is unlikely toerious problem over the short run.

he GVN can and will ensure that the PRC does not enhance its internal legalthrough the vehicle of theational Council ofand Concord may eventually be formed, it will play no substantive role; the local councils will probablyormed.

Militarily, RVNAF can be expected to continue its operations against communist positions. especially against enclaves notto the western corridor, and against NVA efforts to move into new areas. Main force maneuvering in areas that are nut clearly controlled by either side could easily result in sporadic surges of heavyore volatile situation could arise should tm- GVN, fearfulommunist military offensive was in tlie offing, attempt toajor preemptive strike against conummist forces. Inituation, there wouldigh-risk that the communists would retaliate in kind, and the fighting could get out of hand. It is unlikely, however, that the CVN would undertake such an action prior to consulting its American ally.

B. The Communists

n assessing Hanoi's military Intentions, we are hobbledack of firm intelligence. In fact, the communists have probably not yet

*3tcnH.

a final decision whether to attempt niajnr military action next spring. It is clear,that Hanoi is acting to preserve an option to resume major military action in Southat someThe chances fur theaspects of the Paris agreements being realized an? negligible; nor can Hanoi have much hope of achieving the GVN's collapseombination of political andwartare backed up by only moderate military pressure. Ultimately then, Hanoi must believe that it will again have to turn to the battlefield tonot the Immediatedefeat ofituation where new political arrangements will have to be madeoalition government) that would give the communists sufficient political leverage in the South tohift to their domination. The question, however, is when?

The forward positioning of communist forces and supplies and the improved road .system give Hanoi the capability to kickajor military campaign with littlepreparation. As Hanoi continues to augment its forces in South Vietnam during the coming dry season, the military balance may tilt to the communists' advantage unless there is countervailing US support for the GVN.hift in the military balance could encourage Hanoi to launch majoraction. In any event, with heavyit appears likely that Hanoi would beosition tolittleand sustain such action by4 if it so chose.

This means that Hanoi will probably beosition to choose among the full range of options to attain its goals in South Vietnam. In the absence of linn information on Hanoi's short-term intentions, itlose choice whether Hanoi will optajor military offensive sooner rather than later, ft islose choice that the only prudent assessment must allow for either. This bso since the US role in the situationajor one, and its position as perceived in Hanoi could well determine whether such an offensive will occur this dry season, 'loe other major factors are the positions ofand Peking. flanoTi assessment of the military balance between its forces and RVNAF, and Hanoi's calculations about its overall mililary and politicalexternalit launch or notilitary offensive this dry season."

Thr ii mi

analyiUajor Sorth Vietnamese offensive early next year is more Hkehj

titan not arm as follows:

he buildup of Northur materiel in South Vietnam and adjacent border arras since3 should be seen not only as an expansion of

'The AMiitnut Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, believes that tlie ease postulated in favororth Vietnamese offensivearlier rather than later. merits greater weight than tlie ease miHinst such an offensive. Inlk-ithly. Hanoi hiss always chosen to puisne thepcrmltling.prefwraUocn In ihr three nwthcrnmott provinces of MM (QuutR Tri. Thusng Nans) are now virtuallyajor offenusr toand sever tbe noitliein providerIs almost annd will likely come earlier mihir than later -especiallyriods when weailni would inhibit South Vietnamese air power- Tho South Viemamese Air Forcelour weather force-act whichit atpronrute tame. Un cerUioiy, an eaeny usnsst in MM would entail (hviftiofMiy offensive arboas Inpatb af thr RVN to Inhibit RVHAFJ thettic areas. Hanoi probalily brlirvrsaior elfoil tn toko the notthctn nnwlnccs entails llie least rilk oi American reinvulvoniont.

communist capabilities in the South, but alsorobable sign of an intent to use these capabilities sooner rather than later. Recent Indications that the beginning of the new dry season will bring additional movements of men and equipment to the South further strengthen Ibe case that Hanoi may be preparingaior offensive during this dry season.

With sufficient stocks of equipment and munitions in the South to engage in heavy combat for the duration of an entire dryit is unlikely that pressure from Moscow Or Peking willecisive factor inthe North Vietnamese Irom starting un offensive.omplete cutoff of Soviet and Chinese exports to North Vietnam would affect Hanoi's domestic economy long before it affected the war in the South, and it is highly unlikely tliat Moscow or Peking would taketep.

Further, Hanoi may well now regard the risk of the reinvolvement of US combat forces (air as well as ground) as fairly small. North Vietnam's view of the risk probably would not restrain its leaders fromajor offensive if they felt Other factors were favorable. Throughout the coming months, Hanoi will be constantlyits views on this matter. Political trends in the US that seemed to further restrict or to liberalize; tbe President's power to react, would of course affect Hanoi's assessment of the risks.

inally, the North Vietnamesemay see its chances ofajor military victory as being greater in the springhan later. There is an appreciable volume of evidence that the communistsbelieve they are doing badly in the political struggle in South Vietnam, and that in this struggle time is on the side of the GVN, not the communists. If this is the case, ihere are almost certainly elements within the Hanoi leadership which favor aof military notion stumer rather than later. North Vietnam's leaders might alsothat US domestic problems are likely to bethe restraints on theactions morethe next six to nine months than would be theear or two later. Moreover, if the Soviet Union and China are reducing arms aid to Hanoi, the North Vietnamese might consider that they would be at their maximum strength for an offensive during the coining dry season.

The arguments uhieh persuatte other analysts that the North Vietnamese Will delay an offenthv Ixyond the current dry season are an follows:

anoi willumber ofno one of which is likely to bein deciding on tlie liming and scope ofital Judgment will be what Hanoi gaugw it can get away with and stillrushingspouse with air power. The North Vietnamese leaders almostentertain major reservations on this score. Faced with uncertainties onS military response-oiiimurnst offensive, the North Vietnamese wouldprefer to wait for the passage of time to provideetter indication of the depth of the US commitment to South Vietnam.

n contemplating prolonged heavy corn-kit. Hanoi would also want to be assured of enough continued material support from Moscow and Peking to cover losses. Such assurances are unlikely over the short term. Despite the heavy stockpiles in or adjacent to South Vietnam, it would be exceedingly dangerous for Hanoi loo-it-alone strategy. Given the close military balance between communist forces and RVNAF,nothingdictate to tbe North Vietnamese loaders that they would

haviT Em Im1 preparedossible failure oiffensive. AikI without assurances ofl supplies from Moscow and Peking Io replenish battlefield losses, the' communist* wouldt, shouldoffensive fail,eakened and vulnerable position.

he situation in Soulh Vietnam will alsoompelling factor in Hanoi's policy choice. Although the communists have made signifieiiut strides in building up their military forces. Iheir progress in the political field has been very limited. Aware of their past andshortcomings in the political sphere, the comimuiists arc placing high prions on some strengthening of their politicalo tl.itr, however. I'fr'iuts .il tcf middling and expanding the communist infrastructure have fallen far sliort of party goals, andleaders do not expect rapid orgains over the short term. Thestate of the communist politicalwould argue for the communistsa ma jo* military offensive until they areetter position to take advantage of it politically.

inally, there is no apparent requiie-mi ui for Hanoi lo act in haste in SouthCertainly the GVN will not make such rapid progress in strengthening the economic, political, and military fabric of Ihe South over the next year or two as toater, large-scale communistThe commiiilists areosition totlicirto strengtheninside thr biise areas in the South for thefuture. Thus, tbe communists will beosition to carefully weigh allto entertain extended internal de-hale -as ihey shape their strategy Iwynnd the current diy season.

U There is an Offensive

u the event of an all-out offensive this diy season, the communists would initially make substantial territorial gains hilthough GVN forces might bo routed,ore Ukely that they would fall back ingood order, and they could probably hold out for some time around the ma|or cities of Danang and Hue, though the latter would be geographically more vulnerable. Prolonged fighting would raise the crucial question of the rapidity of outside assistance for the GVN. Without renewed US air support, RVNAFs continued resistance inould be in doubt.

gains in tin- restess dramatic, unlesswere significantly upgraded fromstrengths. Tlie CVN forcesgive ground, particularly inNVA unils are coucentnited, butable toommunist assault.

If Tfiert fs Not on Offensive

Hanoi does notajorthis dry season, there will probablyperiod of internal building and testinRsides with military actionrestricted. Hanoi will continueand no dnubt accelerate carefullyrated, significant localized, andattacks in various regions ofduring this dry seasonesponse to prior GVNwill limit the type and scope ofto that which it believes will nota US military response or afrom Peking or Moscow.bo designed to seize more territory,GVN resolution, and for theirimpact.

Hanoi will also continue toajor effort to rebuild Uie communistinfrastructure, immediately in contested rural areas and ntore gradually in towns and cities; however, we anticipate only limited

success in ihis effort. The commiitiists will, moreover, attempt to entice the population to move to PRC areas, and governmentwill be approached to arrange local ad hoc trade agreements and "peacet the same time, the communists will continue trying to infiltrate the government's ranks for intelligence and subversive purposes. Some increase in terrorist and guerrilla activity is likely as the communists try to break down CVN control at the grass roots and enforce popular tolerance of their own presence.

v. over the longer term

GO. The foregoing summary of prospects over the short term reflects the impossibility of offering confident judgments on the timing and shape of future communist militaryNorth Vietnam'sover the shortbe influenced by itsof shifts in the relative balance of power, military or political, in Vietnam or in the positions of ils own allies or the US. If Hanoi does notajor offensive during the upcoming dry season, the question remains whether the communists are likely to opteturn to major hostilities ot some point relatively soon thereafter.

lie strength of the Americanto South Vietnam will continue toital factor for the CVN's survival. Not only will it influence Hanoi's policy decisions, but it will alsoritical political andfactor in maintaining GVN confidence. Continued US military aid will be essential,tltough tlie amounts allowed by the Paris agreement are not likely to offset the expansion of NVA strength in the South. Further large-scale US economic aid will also be required if the GVN is tohance to solve its economic problems. Other sources of external financing, such as offshore oil and foreign investment, offer good potential but will require several years to make adent In South Vietnam's foreign aid requirements.

Apart from US support to Souththe overall American military posture in the Far East will also Ih' carefully noted byajor US disengagenvent from the area,ulling apart of tlie American alliance withthe site of American reserve forces potentially available tobe demoralizing toand would encourage Hanoi (and pussihly its allies) lo fed that the risk of confrontation with tbe US was negligible. Even in theof such signals, however, it cannot be assumed what conclusions Hanoi would draw concerning US intentions. Hi record forthe depth .tml duration of the US commitment to the CVN is well established.

At the same time, the willingness or reluctance of Peking and Moscow toanother major military effort to topple the GVN will condition North Vietnam's strategy. At some point, the North Vietnamese are likely to press China and the USSR for substantially increased military aid. This will force these countries to weigh the impact of responding on tlielr relationship with the US and with each other. Great power detente has contributedampening of tbeconflict; ft hu also served to undercut the North Vietnamese ability to play tlieir alhes off against each otlser. There are no indications now that these conditions will not continue for some time.

ut there are conceivable developments that might make the Chinese or the Soviets (or both) more receptive to Hanoi's unpor-tunings. For example, if the Chinese andcame to lx-llcvo that Washington was no longer so devoted to the GVN's survival as to risk progress in furthering detente, Hanoi's allies might think it safe to provide

"SCCUfcr-

stcppcd-up aid requited loajor cutnmunUt offensive in South Vietnam.if Moscow and Peking become lessin detente with tbe US. they might be more willing to provide Increased military' assistance to Hanoi On tbe other baud, should the Sino-Soviet split widen, either Moscow or Peking might step up its aid tn Hanoi to undercut the others influence In Southeast Asia. Nunc of these possibilities appears likely,. they occur, they would isolate the American commitment to Saigon as the major external restraining force on Hanoi

n weighing its longer-term strategy, Hanoi will also be sensitive to political and military trends in Southteady consolidation of power by Thieu. with little obvious deterioration of RVNAF capabilities,ailure of the communists infrastructure to make inroads of any significance into the GVN's control of the population wouldHanoi's determination to reunify

a bolel military stroke oven though tho risks in such an offensive would be high

In Sum. The key factor shaping Hanoi's policies will remain its iwrccption of the likely US response, the availability of externalthe pressure imposed by Moscow and Peking, and military and political trends in Soulh Vietnam. Over the longer run,Hanoi may place greater weight on the trends Jl observes In lhe Smith than on the external restraints imposed by Moscow.anel Washington.

In any event. Hanoi's actions arc clearly designed to insure that it can again resort to major military action to gain its objectives if other means fail.ajor communistoffensive does not occur in the upcoming dry season, we believe that tbe odds favoring such iin -iction will increase significantly asry season approaches.

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA