HANOI'S SHORT-TERM INTENTIONS

Created: 7/3/1969

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of9

ILIGENCS MEMORANDUM

SUBJECT! Hanoi's Short-Term Intentions

Introduction

There haseries of new developments in Vietnamese Communist military and political activity during thehree months or ao. On the political side, the most conspicuous steps have been the ten-point program of the Liberation Front, the formation of the "provisional revolutionarynd tha apparent hardening of tha Communist attitude toward talks with the GVN*. On tho military side, there are tho absence of evidence of newinputs, the withdrawal of some logisticsfrom Laos, and the slackening of military prea-suros in South Vietnam. There are, in addition, less obvious signs in Communist propaganda.and in captured documents that the Communists areow phase of activity. This paper examines soma of these developments and offers possible

Not*: this memorandum uaa produced aolely by CIA.preparedhe Office of Currantand waa coordinated uith the Office of National Estimate* andDirector'a Special Assistant for Vietnamese Affaire.

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enemy documents, racen.tly taken

of war, ana | ^reports have all aug-

gested that the* Communists intend toairly high level of offensive activity in South Vietnam at least through July. Some of these sources indicate that the Communists hope toigher level of military activity in July than occurred in June,Vand that forthcoming action will include soma'attacks against major urban centers, including Saigon, These same sources, however, raise the possibility that the enemy's summer offensive will be followedull of indeterminate length.

2. Despite the heavy losses taken by Communist main forces thus far thiscale roughly' comparable to their previously unprecedented losses during the first six months ofmain force strength has been maintained at about the same level as at the end This is because many of0 men placed into the infiltrationlate last year and .early this year are stillin South Vietnam, generally offsetting enemy" losses.

The Infiltration Picture

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6* Continuing study of all tbe evidence leads to the conclusion that there has been an almoststonddown in the dispatch of replacement groups since late March. Mo regular, battalion-sizedgroups were observod entering the pipeline in April, only two were observed in May, and none has been observed since then. This means thatlow of North Vietnamese replacements will dry up sometime around mid-summer. It follows also that if tho enemy continues to stay in tho field and to take the kind of casualties he has been suffering this year, his main force strength will begin to decline rapidly during the third quarterhis probably would be the case even if infiltration were to resume immediately, because it takes from two to four months for infiltrators to make the trip from North Vietnam.

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Possible Explanations.for the Infiltration Cutback

if tho post-March standdown on theof replacement groups into the pipelinebeen as extensive and as long-lasting asIndicate, this development needs to becaro. Thereariety of explanationsaccount for the cut-off in infiltrationare on their face unsatisfactory. ForNorth Vietnam is experiencingesult of heavy casualties, it still has

a large manpower pool from which it could draw mora troops, if necessary. We find no reason, therefore, to believeanpower squeeze is by itself an-adequate explanation for the Infiltration lull.

other explanations are morethey still are not wholly satisfactoryare based on the premise that the Communists

are making their present moves almost exclusively for military purposes. For example, the cutback Incould be explained as the result, of adecision to switchower level of.tactical activity in tho South in order to conserve manpowerong, drawn-out war. The Communista might do this by restricting their operations almost entirely to shellings, sapper attacks, and guerrilla harass-ments. This course has long been open to them. But the politburo probably has agreed for years that to: return indefinitelyuch lower level of combat would be to admit defeat and to abandon any hope of extracting major concessions from the OS at an early date. The politburo seems convinced that the primary factor that might influence the. US to settle the war on acceptable terms is domestic American opinion and pressure. If this is indeed its view, and Hanoito prolong the fighting, then it probably will try to keep as much military pressure on the allies as possible, and in particular to keep the rate of US casualties as high as possible. This would entail continuing Communist casualties and replacements from North Vietnam.

another possible explanation foratanddown i3 that Hanoi intends tofocus of its attacks or to make aomo basio

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redeployments of its forces. It could, for axamole,

north to south by first reintroducing

:into the northern provinces of

llli n- *nd thQn shifting Other units The North Vietnamese have heldhth divisions just north offor months, and these units could bo shifted south

without requiring an immediate flow of replacements.

10. At tho moment, however, there are growing signs that the Communists may already be headederiod of reduced military activity. umber of unite have recently moved into base areas,ew have moved out of the northern provinces and back into North Vietnam. There are mixed indicationsommunist intentions in the DMZ area. So far these moves do not amount to the kind of wholesale unit withdrawals that occurred last autumn, and there is no way to predict the ultimate extent or duration of the developing trend.

The Possibilityrolonged Lull

When these current militarythe infiltration cutback, are examined in the

contoxt of political developments over the last fewmonths, it appears that North Vietnam is doing some-

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thing more than simply digging in for the longdecision to cut back on infiltrationmade this spring during the same strategyi ' that led to the ten-point program in oarly May and

the formation of the "provisional revolutionary,

government* in early June.

e cannot pin down precisely when these decisions were made* but thoy almost certainly came in tho period after politburo member Lo Due Tho ar-. rived in Hanoi' from Paris onebruary, and beforeprile left again. The three mainof what happened during thatten points, the PRG, and the infiltrationsuggest that tho politburothe time was growing ripeeriod omphasizing "talk" instead of "fight" in their over-all strategy.

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The most likely interpretation of Hanoi's near-term intentions, therefore, is that sometimo this summer the Communists willeriod ofmilitary activity that will be prolonged for some months. Hanoi may calculateiatus in offensive activity would yield both military and political advantages. Hard-pressed Communist units would beeriod of rest, while theirin Paris could attempt to obtain alliedconcessionseduction in alliedoperations in South Vietnam.

14. The Communists may reason that pullingof their units into out-of-countrylowering the level of fighting would, boat this time in persuading the US toto end the war, perhaps more effectivecontinuing the fighting. Thealmost certainly was not, insignal" or designedove to elicit a Hanoi almost certainly would notUS to respond to tho vagaries of infiltration TH "

that the Communists are trying to call the slowdown to our attention. Hanoi realizes,that as tho cutback in infiltration becomes public knowledge and the level of fighting declines, there will be voices raised in tho US urgingo-called Communist "signal."

IS, Thorerolonged military lull of this kind last year. Little infiltration occurred between August and late November, and over half of the enemy's main force units were pulled into out-of-country sanctuaries. At the same time, the Paris talks moved into tho crucial stages that eventually culminated in the bombing halt. Hanoi probablythat its military cutback last year helped to. bring about the US decision to stop the bombing. It may calculateimilar lull now wouldavorable climate for CIS concessions, as well as new opportunities to spilt the US and Saigon and to undermine the Thieu government,-

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Communists would still retain thomounting another round of offensive activityyear. They probably would do so if thero wereon allied military activities in Southif there were insufficient movement toward athey could accept. Replacement troopsstarted down the trails as late as SeptemberOctober in time to be ready for another go in That was what happened last yearbombing halt and the subsequent deadlock in The rate of infiltration suddenly shot up to

a record high in December, and many of the unitsbeen withdrawn from South Vietnam beganin preparation for the offensive thatmounted in late '

variant on the possibilityrolongedis that Hanoi isore permanentof tho war. It might evena callease-fire later this summer.probably would preferhird partya call, because for the Communists to do sowould be takenign of weaknessorale boost to non-Communist Southommunist-backed Initiative for amight seem quite attractive to Hanoi as aaccelerating US troop withdrawals and curbingoperations in South Vietnam. The Northwould assume that the pressuresositive-

US responsoease-fire proposal would beand that Washington would be forced toany reluctance in Saigon totep.

Communists probably would prefer thatfollow agreement on political issuesirm power base for the Communisttho South. But if they saw no chance foron such matters in the foreseeable future, might try toease-firooans ofmore pressure for allied concessions. Anyinitiativeease-fire almostbo hedgodemandull alliedstanddown be accompanied by assurances of'movement and action for Communist political cadre.-

if they could obtain an arrangement of this sort, there would be unprecedented opportunities -for political agitation designed to capitalise on the peace issue. Communist

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" undermine the Thieu government and toSBSJftSi-.ROltfeieal concessions might also bethoy could make continuationtanddown in major fighting contingent on such concessions.

any Communist-inspired callenunciated by theset up for announcementhirdcertainly be part of at least a In addition to the military andwe would expoct it to contain somegambit. This could rangeoalition governmentall for some of consultative conference in which theattend only as one participating group. predict the form of the politioal gambit,are confident that Hanoi would hold out at leastcease-fire plus--designod in thethe US would find tho cease-fire offerto turn down and the GVN would findvery difficult to accept.

Conclusion

sum, whatever the other implicationsdevelopments In South Vietnam, there isto believe that Hanoi intends to move intoof relative lull In its military actionthis summer. It might oven want to obtain It also soems likely that Hanoinow moves on the political front in Southand diplomatic moves in Paris to accompanylevel of military action. Hanoi woulda great deal of military flexibility in suchand could maintain enough pressure tothat its forces In the field are capablethe war unless the US agrees to aacceptable to the Communists. If thisto produce the rosults the Communistscould renew large-scale offensiveby first moving units just north of thointo South Vietnam and resumingsupport longer term offensive efforts.

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31. Although the Communists almost certainly have plans for prol6nging the military struggle if they fail to obtain an acceptable settlement in the next few months, thereeasonable amount of indirectwhat the Communists are telling their people in SouthHanoi has high expectations thateasonably short timo-frame, American domestic opposition to the war will compel the US to move in directions favorable to the If by early winter Hanoi should conclude that those expectations were not going to be'realized in the foreseeable future, tho strains in North Vietnam and the erosion of the Communist position in South Vietnam would enter more heavily into ita calculations. In such circumstances it is at least debatable whether Hanoi would be prepared to maintain indefinitely Its uncompromising stance on its present hard-linedemands.

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