CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY OFFICE OF NATIONAL ESTIMATES
!<LMCRANDUM FOR THE DIRECTOR SUBJECT: The Outlook In Vietnam
1. Thi* Memorandum does not seek to explore all aspects of the situation in Vietnam, or Its probable developmentong tens. It is addressed only to the specific question put tohether developments in Vietnam are apt toontinuation of combat into the indefinite futureevel comparable or higher than current levels, or whether lt
is more probable that either the VC or the GVW will be unable to sustainevelew months.
2. The current phase of ccmbat willritical bearing on the further course of the war and may even prove to be decisive. We cannot be sure hov long this phase will last, but it seems likely that by early sumoer the immediate results and the longer term Implications will be fairly clear to Hanoi, Saigon, and Washington. At present, the key questions concero:
(l) the capabilities of the Comounist forces to sustain their current challenge, nnd whether they can continue the fighting thereafter,he capabilities of the South Vietnamese political and military establishment to cope with the tasks ioposed by the present Communist offensive.
C'-craunist Plans and Prospects
3. Hanoi's aims in the present offensive phase are: to register significant military successes against US and especially ABVH forces, and to inflict such heavy losses, physical destruction and disorganization on the GVN aa tootal situation favorableegotiated settlement on C'list terms. The Communists are not likely toigid timetable, but they probably hope to achieve decisive results during the course of the summer. The high importance which Hanoi cow attaches to forcing the issue is evident from the risks and costs of the enterprise.
The toll on Ccccucist forces has been considerable, even if reported casualties axe greatly inflated by inclusion of low level recruits nnd impressed civilians. To some extent these losses have been offset by measures already taken. Heavy
infiltration of both new units and replacements from the North is continuing. trenuous, last minute recruitment effort was made prior to the Tet attacks. ignificant part of the guerrilla and Main forces could still be committed. And, at present, the Communists enjoy fuller access to the rural areas, where they are recruiting heavily. They will probably be able to recoup their recent losses, though at some sacrifice in quality.
In any case, the Coramunists probably will maintain their offensive for the next several months and be prepared to accept the high losses this entails. They cannot accept such losses indefinitely, however, and they probably will not be capable soon again of launching repeated mass attacks of the magnitude and widespread scaleanuary. But they are almost certainly capable ofigh level of combat, including major battles with US forces, assaults on selected cities, and rocket and mortar attacks on urban areas and military installations.
It is possible that the Cotamunists regard the present campaign as so critical to the outcome of the war that they will cccsnit their full resourcesaximum effort in the near term. On balance, however, we think it likely that even if their present
push falls short they will wish to be able torotracted struggle. Hence they will probably not exercise their capabilities inrofligate manner as to deny themselves the possibility of continuing the struggle should the present phase fail toecisive result.
7- The will and capability of the GVN and its armed forces remain the keys to the eventual outcome.
In the main, the ARVN has acquitted itself fairly well sinceanuary, though the record is uneven. Morale has held up on the whole, and we know of no unit defections. However, the ARVN is showing signs of fatigue and in many areas it has now lapsedtatic defensive posture. Security in thehas been sharply reduced. ong and costly effort would have to be undertaken to regain the pre-Tet positiou. It ia highly unlikely that the ARVN will be inspired enough or strong enough to make such an effortertainly cot in the near future.
The GVH also performed adequately in the immediate emergency, particularly In the Saigon area. There now appears
toreater recognition of the need to push forward with additional measures, but the Communist challenge has not yetatalyst in stimulating an urgent sense of national unity and purpose.
overall position of the goverranent has beenprestige has suffered from the shock of the Tet offensive;over the countryside has been greatly reduced, are confused and contradictory; the Vict Congno popular support, but neither wasallying
to the government side. Passivity is likely to continuo as the dominant attitude in ooat of the population, but further military defeats couldudden swing away frcn the government. While the central authority in Saigon is unlikely to collapse, its ability to provide energetic leadership throughout the country and all levels is in serious doubt. It Is possible that over the next few months certain provinces, especiallynd IV Corps, will be lost to Saigon's effective authority.
psychological factor Is now critical forwhole political-milltary apparatus. Thethat the US conspired with the Cosseunists are symptomatic
of popular anxieties over the future course of the war and US
attitudesolitical settlement. As yot, however, there are no signsrisis of confidence within the government.
major nilitary reverses occur, the politicalapparatus could degenerate into generalon the other hand, US and ARVN regain the initiativesome conspicuous setbacks on the Conaunists aadoffensive appears to be contained, then the GVNnew energy and confidence and draw new support On balance, we Judge that the chances are no betterthat the GVN/ARVN will emerge from the presentbeing still further weakened.
Alternative Outcomes of Present Phase
believe that the Communists willighmilitary activity for at least the next two or three months.
It is difficult to forecast the situation which will then obtain, given the number of unknowable factors which will figure. Our best estimate is as follows:
least likely outcome of the present phasethe Coranunist side will expend its resources toextent as to be incapable thereafter of preventingby the US/GVN.
unlikely, though considerably less so, isGVN/ARVN will be so critically weakened that it canfurther significant part in tbe military andof the struggle.
likely than either of tbe above is thatpush will be generally contained, but withto both the GVN and Communist forces, and thatwill set in during which neither will be capable of
registering decisive gains.
ABBOT SMITH Chairman
FOR THE BOARD CF NATIC'iAL ESTIMATES: