SNIE 57-73-THE SHORT-TERM PROSPECT FOR CAMBODIA

Created: 5/24/1973

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NATIONALESTIMATE -

The Short-Term Prospect for Cambodia

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

The following intelligence organizations parlkipatod in ihe preparation ol

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The Central Intelligence Agency and ihe intelligenee orooisatiom of the Depart-- mentt of Stale and Defense, the NSA, and the Treasury.

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Theetot of Central

The Director ef Intelligence ond fanearch, Deportment of State

The Director, Detente Intelligence.

Tbe- Director, National Security Agency

The Directot, Division of International Security Alfoln, Atomic Energy Commhslon

The Special Assistant lo lhe Secretary of the Treasury

Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Irrigation, the subject being outside

THE SHORT-TERM PROSPECT FOR CAMBODIA

THE SHORT-TERM PROSPECT FOR CAMBODIA

NOTE

This Estimate considers the outlook foi survivalon-<oiTimunist government in Cambodia through the endhe problem is addressed under two opposing assumptiiim regarding US bombing inhe bombingnd tactical air support)more or less at present levels;he bombing is ended within the next few weeksesult of Congressional action.

PRECIS

The Khmer insurgents, with many communist leaders responsive to Hanoi's direction and control, have the military initiative inthe government's military and political position has steadily-eroded over the past year. US air support has been the major prop of tlie Cambodian Government. If US bombing continues, the chances are better than evenn-cum mi mist government in Phnom Penh will be able to last out the year.

Obviously, if the governmenl demonstrated an ability to come to grips with the military and political problems facing Camliodia- the odds would improve somewhat. But there is little basis for expecting any substantial improvement in the performance of FANK or theover the next six months. Meanwhile, the insurgents will be hard at work consolidating and expanding their control throughout the countryside. Thus, even if the present government survived the year, it would probably haveet decline in strength relative to the insurgents.

But if US support were to cease in the near term, (he Lon Noi regime could not survive for long, perhaps no moreonth or two. Most Cambodians would believe that it wasatter of time before the communists in one way or another gained control of the country. Pressureseal with the communists would increase.

The communists might decide to pressomplete militaryof Cambodia. Their chances of accomplishing this would be good. But Hanoi at least would probably want to test other alternatives before launching an all-out military effort, in part because such an effort would not be without some risks and costs and would notimprove the communist position in Southdie number one objective.

Thus, unless thereotal collapse of organized resistance, the communists would be more likely to try tooalition

merit, holding in reserve lhe option of seizing control by direct military action. Under the circumstances, ihey could more or less dictate the terms and get what they felt necessary.

However the successor regime came to power and whether or not it was headed by Sihanouk, the Khmer communists would be theforce, and Hanoi would be calling most of the shots.egime would be hostile to the interests of Washington, Saigon, and Bangkok. The non-communist aspect ofovernment would be little moreacade.

Over time, the deep Cambodian hatred of the Vietnamese might generate some resistance to Hanoi's dictates. Sihanouk would also almost certainly attempt to maneuver to undercut the communist role in the government. The odds, however, would be against him.

A communist takeover in Cambodia would be in political andterms extremely unsettling in both Saigon and Bangkok. Both capitals would be acutely concerned as to what it meant for them, particularly concerning the prospect of continued US support. Both would seek new assurances from the US and would feelisolated and beleaguered if none, or not enough, werefrom Washington.

By itself, the enhanced communist position in Cambodia would not bringajor shift in the present balance of military power in South Vietnamiew the South Vietnamese leaderst would, however, ease communist logistical burdens and give them greater flexibility in developing their strength and future strategies. The South Vietnamese would fear that the communists woidd use Cambodiaase for organizational efforts against South Vietnam as wellpringboardajor military offensive in South Vietnam.

In terms of overall implications for the future of South Vietnam, Laos, or even Thailand, the installationommunist-leaning regime in Phnom Penh could be of less significance than the circumstances which brought this abmU. If the President were forced for the first time by the VS Congress to halt military action in Indochina, this would be seenital turning point, forecasting the end of any significant US military role in this area.

the estimate

the forces at work in cambodia at present

its Communist Petition- Theinsurgents dearly have tbe military initiative in Cambodia. Tbey have relatively unoonleatcd run of most of the countryside, arc able to cut the government's supply lines with Utile difficulty, and have several major towns effectively surrounded. There are at0 regular Khmer Insurgent com lis! personnel, including separateand platoon sizen addition, the Vietnamese communists are estimated to have moreegular combai troops and0 administrative services personnel in Cambodia, though most of these arewith South Vietnam. There are. how-ever, an undetermined number of Northliaison personnel as well a* some North Vietnamese artillery and sapper units

' TheiralioLanE* dumber ol Cambodian inurniui prrnnbd. Thus linn arc poorly anwd aad ataaard. bul Oy doaao-pumt pool lor potable apcmhnz into the regular romrnututt inrni; it Is double that torn* upcradhns oiay have already occurred "itrmit bring detected.he regular cooibnt strength of the Inau'Rend in Cambodia may actually cxomnt the official Minuteen.

operating with the Khmer commiinUU. Finally, though not yet fully developed, the Khmer communists have an increasingly effectivetrutsstractuit.

2 Dcspfte their remarkable growth over tbe past few years, tbe Khmer communists are still heavily dependent on Hanoi for their military supplies. Further, the Khmermovement (historically) iiortli Vietnamese creation. Tho core of lhe insurgent apparatus is composed ofcommunists trained in North Vietnam and infiltrated into Cambodia over tbe past several years, in effect providinguih-in control mechanism. Even though tbe Khmer insurgents have attained considerable freedom of action, Hanoi probably still sets theguidelines governing insurgent policy in Cambodia. Further, so long as the fighting continues in Cambodia, there willasic commonality of interests between the Khmer insurgents and the North Vietnamese.

ht Government's Position. Themilitary' position has deteriorated markedly over the past several monthva numerical advantage and bcttrrgovernment forces (FANK) have not been able to cope with tbe communivts. i'hnom

Penh's efforts in its own behalf have become less and less effective since the ill-fated Chenla II campaign in the lata fallhen North Vietnam etc units gaverubbing from which, psychologically, ii has never recovered. Hampered by poorcorruption, paynd repeated failures in tbe field, FANK has becomedemoralized. Incidents of units breaking under flrr or refusing to fight arc irrCTeasing What littki military starch FANK has recently displayed luis been largely owing to the availability of US aoiial support.

olitically, the Lon Noi government has also been ineffective, clearly unable to face the realities of the situation. Petty intrigue and personal interests liave taken precedence over national survival. The situation hassomewhat with the departure of Lon .Vol'sn Non, from the scene; he bad persistently connived to isolate Loo Noi aad to block the participation of otherleaders in the uovertuncrtt The entry into the goverorrienl of Sirik Matak and In Tarn, both more aware than Lon Noi ofprecarious position,trengtberung move. Even so, it rcinuini ujioertain that new leaders will be able to rise above theirrivalries ami make an effective start toward addressing tho country's pressing problems. Nor would the departure of the myopic Lonpossibility that heresult in more effective governmental net inn, though it would leave more capable men in charge.

II. PROSPECTS If UNITED STATES BOMBING CONTINUES

mpact of lite bombing. USfinancial, logistical, and particularlybeen the major prop of tbe Lon Noi government. Militarily, the bombing has helped to keep the communists forces at bay by complicating their supply problems and making it difficult and costly for them to mass troops for ina)or military action. Partly for this reason, they havo not undertaken large-scale action tond hold the key areas stilt in government bands.

Politically and psychologically, thehas also bolxtiiidn NoiIt has provided the regime with time in which to try to sort out Ks many political and organizational problems It has also served to sustain government hopes tbat the military threat might be checked and the insurgent claimignificant political voice resisted. This has led Lon Noi to believe that he need not approach tbe insurgents on anything but his own terms. So long as Lon Noi does nothange of mind and remains on the scene, the odds do not favor Phnomegotiated end to the

There arc, however, those In theGovernment who, unlike Loo Noi, believeegotlati'tl settlement is the only way to resolve the situation. To the-rn, the US bombing and the time that it buys gives thehance to Improve its position so that it could enter into negotiations fromotherosition of adject weakness.

anofi PenptiHoe. Although UShas been instruiiM-ntal in restrainingmilitary acttoo In Cambocba, it is not the only factor involved. Indeed, if Hanoi and its Khmer allies were willing to commit the resources and suffer considerable losses, they could probably overrun Cambodia despite US bombing. But while there are probably some within the Khmer insurgent movement who would advocateourse, Hanoi'sis Imluchina-widr and South Vietnam is the number one target.

anoi controls essentially what it needs in Cambodia to protect and support itsin Southommunist regime

in Phnom Penh might initially complicate Hanoi's position since its maintenance and management would probably requireresources, especially since the Khmer insurgents are not yet organized sufficiently to run the country. In addition, Hanoi cannot be entirely sure that the US would notagainst North Vietnam itself in the eventajor communist military effort to take PliiK'm Penh. Having regard for its relations with the US, Peking would probably advise Hanoi to forego such blataut action. Finally, the communists could not be certain that they would not face stiff resistance from some FANK elements, particularly those defending the capital.

Sum. If US bombing continues,are better than even tbat agovernment in Phnom Penhable to last through the currentand somewhat beyond. Obviously,government demonstrated an abilityto grips with tlie military andfacing Cambodia, the oddssomewhat. But tbere is littleexpecting any substantial improvementperformance of FANK or thethe next six months. Meanwhile, thewill be hard at workexpanding their control throughoutTbey would probably makein such an effort than wouldThus, even if the presentsurvived the year, itet decline in strengthto the insurgents.

III. PROSPECTS IF UNITED STATES BOMBING IS ENDED IN THE NEAR TERM

Impact. The Cambodianshown little awareness that US airmight soon be cut off. Tlie shockprofound There would be little thedo to cushion the blow; promises of continued military and economic assistance would be mistrusted. FANK's demoralization would be accelerated, and the army would cease to pose any significant impediment to communist military action, except perhaps around Pbnom Penh itself. The import of both military and civilian supplies would be severely curtailed as the communists moved to cut the major supply routes, which are now kept open primarily by the efforts of US tactical air support Even if US airwere available, in the absence of tactical air support, it is doubtful that FANK could long secure air fields oruildup of antiaircraft guns around drop zones atprovincial capitals or even at Phnom Penh itself.

umber of leadingfigures would probably try to leave the capital, and any semblance of viablewould soon disappear. Whatever political structure remained would bewaiting for forces outside its control to settle Cambodia's fate. No non-communist figure on the scene would be able to rally supportgo-it-alone" strategy. Despair would be the overwhelming reaction,by the beliefasatter of time before the communists in one way or another gained predominant, if not total,of the country.

In these circumstances. Hanoi and the Khmer insurgents might be sorely tempted to pressomplete military takeover. Their chances of accomplishing this would be good, and they might be able to pull it offignificant cpmmitmcnt of North Vietnamese forces to the effort. Even so, in the belief that time was on their side in any event, they would probably want to test other means to achieve their ends before la unci) ing

any all-out militaryariety nl factors would contribute toecision:

would hope to minimize the risk of US military reinvolvement or retaliation.

they would not think it Ukcly, they would want to minimize the risk of any Thai or South Vietnamese

light of the fact that most ol their objectives could be attained by less costly means, they might calculate that themilitary losses would outweigh the gains.

would almost certainly advise Hanoi to forego such action, claiming lhat it was unnecessary and needlessly provocative.

Thus, insteadtrictly militaryto the Cambodian situation in tbe wake of an end to US bombing, tbewould be more likely to optolitical solution, accompanied by considerablepressure. Should this approach prove unproductive or unduly lengthy, thewould be prepared to moveilitary takeover. The communists, however, would beery strong bargaining position. The US would have little leverage and the Cambodian Government even less. With the removal of the US aerial umbrella, the iron-communistcould only get worse. Pressures in Phnom Penh for some kindeal, howeverto bring the fighting to an end would mount.

The establishmentoalitionin which theuld be the dominant element would probably be ashort run outcome toeturn of Sihanouk would give the government in Phnomymbol of legitimacy. And though the North Vietnamese would still be wary about Sihanouk's reliability, they would probably calculate that he would be beholden to them and they would havetrong position in the government that he could be keptelatively tight leash. Peking, for its own ends, would also champion such aand would urge Hanoi to take this approach.

IV. the characteruccessor regime

No matterollapse of the Phnom Penh government cameorsticcessor regime would he under strong communist influence and hostile to the interests of Washington, Saigon, and Bangkok. If be had not already left the country or been pushed aside, Lon Noi would have to go; the communists will not deal with him. Even if Sihanouk became the titular headoaUtion government, the communists would be the predominant force and Hanoi would be calling most of the shots.

The emergence of historically deep Cambodian hatred of tbe Vietnamese could eventually serve to limit Hanoi's influence by leading the relatively well-organized Khmer insurgents to try to assert some degree of Independence from Hanoi. Moreover,despite bis professions of beingymbolic figurehead in any newisoady and beluner nationalist. It is not his style to sit meekly on the sidelines while someone else controls the levers of power. In time, he would almosi certainly attempt to maneuver to undermine North Vietnam's role in the government,Peking off against Hanoi if possible and maneuvering in other ways among tlie powers to gain some independence of action. The odds would be against him but, over time, he might have some success.

V. THE IMPACT ON SOUTH VIETNAM. IAOS, AND THAILAND

In terms of overall implications for the future ofnos, or etenthe installationommunist-leaning regime in Phnom Penh couUi lie of lessthan the circumstances which brought it about. If the Preeldent were forced for the first time by the US Congress to hall military action init would be teenital turning point, forecasting, the end of any significant US military nJe In thi* area

Soulh Vietnam Th* existenceom-munist-dominated governmentPhnom Penh corning aboutessation of US bombing would be rn political and psychological teims extremely unsettling to Saigon,eeling within the government 'if vuliierability and isolation. It would fear tin: growth ofwithin the population that the scales were tipping in favor of tlie communists inThicu wuuid want to test what the turn of events in Cambodia meant fur SouthA request for new US guarantees ofand military support would be almost certain, and Saigon would press for advance assurances of US air support in die eventommunist offensive into South Vietnam from Cambodia.

Bytrong communist position in Cambodia would not bringafor shift in the present balance of military power in South Vietnam1 Under current conditions of Limited combat, the immediate impactall of Cambodia would be primarilyalthough In time it would give the

'TV Director of Nivalbelieve* thW rttlmntc undrutatc (he Impact that the fall ofwould have on South Vietnam, particularly tlieopulatedDeltn.n judgment that the Impact would beand that Ihe ir.iira.frd level nf liwur(rticybr such that there would, in fact,ufx ihilt in the pre*ut balance of power communists more flexibility in working totheir milltaiy iHisition and Intheir future strategy. The greatestgain accruing to the commuulsts would be the easing of their logistical burden,in South Vietnam's Militaryndanoi would have the option of shifting more of its supply effortea route using Cam both an ports. This ispossiblemall scale,arger effort would he easier with the access toport facilraw Bul Hanoi's abibty to make extensive use of this route would depend oa tbe willingness of Peking and Moscow to provide the material and possibly lite shipping for such an effort. It would also depend on the vulnerability of tlie Cambodian ports to air attack or naval quarantine by tlie South Vietnamese.

The communists would also gain accessubstantial inventory of Cambodianequipment and supplies, some of which could be made available to communist forces in South Vietnam. But uitleii Hanoi were EontcmpUting major military action in South Vietnam, it already has more or less what it needs in Cambodia for continuing tbe struggle in South Vietnam along present lines.

Loot and Thailand. The nun-communists in Laos would be discouraged by the turn of events in Cambodia, but tbe immediateon events in Laos would be minimal. The Vientiane government, however, would be concerned that the US unwillingness totbe Lon No) regimeimilar attitude toward die situation in Laos.*

The political and psychological impact in Thailand would be greater than in Laos. Bangkok has made it clear that it looks to the US toon-communist Cam-

bodiaesult, Thailand tend* to view US policy in Cambodiaauge of theof the US commitment to Thailand If Cambodia wen* underesultack of US nrpport. tbe Thai leadership would waul to olttain some new and concreteIrom Washington. If (he US did not or could not respondaimerto the Thai leaders, they might be prompted to accelerate the ongoing process of searching for alternatives to the closewith the US. They would be very slow, however, lo actually disengage from the US until they were confident that any other arrangement would in fact protect their national Interests.

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