MEMO 2/26/68-THE OUTLOOK IN VIETNAM

Created: 2/26/1968

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uVriCUAL ESTIMATES

ebruary8

MEMORANDUM FOR THE DIRECTOR SUWECT: The Outlook in Vietnam

1. Ihis lvcnorand.ua doss not seek to explore oil aspects of the situation In Vietnam, or its probable developmentong term. It is addressed only to the specific question put tohether developments In Vietnam are apt toontinuation of ccabnt into tho indefinite futureevel comparable or higher than current .levels, or whether it ie more probable that either the VC or the GVN will be unable to sustainevelew months.

Z, The current phase of combat willritical bearing on the further course of the war and may even prove to bo decisive. He cannot be sure hew Ions this phase vill last, but it seems likoly that by early summer tbe immediate results and the longer term implications will toe fairly clear to Hanoi, Saigon, and Washington. At present, the key questions concern:

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(l) the capabilities of the Communist forces to sustain their current challenge, ond whether they can continue the fighting thereafter,he capabilities of the South Vietnamese political and military establishment to cope with the tasks imposed by the present Communist offensive.

lans and Prospects

3. Hanoi's aims in the present offensive phase are: to rccister significant milttery succesr.es against US end especially AliVN forces, and to inflict such heavy losses, physical destruction and disorganization on the GVN as tootal situation favorableegotiated settlement on Comrrtinist tenrr-. The Cccr.ur.icti: are not likely toigid timetable, but they probably hope to achieve decisivo results during tho course of the summer. The high importance which Hanoi now attaches to forcing the issue is evident from the risks and costs of the enterprise.

h. The toll on Communist forces has been considerable, even if reported coouftltleo are greatly inflated by inclusion of ]ow level recruits and impressed civilians. To some extent these losses have been offset by measures already taken. Heavy

infiltration of both new units end replacements from the korth is continuing. trenuous, lost minute recruitnent effort was made prior to tho tet attacks. ignificant part of the guerrilla and main forces could still be ecroitted. and, at present, the comraunictc enjoy fuller access to the rural areas, where they are recruiting heavily. ihey will probably be able to recoup their recent Iobsod, though at some sacrifice in quality.

in any case, the corjnunicts probably will maintain their offensive for the next several months and De 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 installatioiig.

it is possible that the communists regard the present campaign as so critical to the outcome of the var that they will commit their full resourcesaximum effort in the near term. on balance, however, we think it likely that even if their present

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push falls short they will wish to te 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 phaco fail toecisive result.

CVH/AhVH Prospects

7- The will nnd capability of the GVN and its armed forces remain the keys to the eventual outcome.

0. 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 ARVII is showing signs of fatigue and in many areas it has new lapsedtatic defensive posture. Security in thehas been sharply reduced. ong and costly effort would have to be undertaken to regain the pre-Tct position. It is highly unlikely that the ARVN will be inspired enough or strung enough to make such an effortcertainly not in the near future.

9. The GVH also performed adequately in the immediate emergency, particularly in the Saigon area. There now appears

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toheater 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.

10. The overall position of tho government haa been weakened. Its prestige has suffered from the shock of the Tet offensive; its control over tho countryside has been greatly reduced. Popular attitudes ore confused and contradictory; the Vict Cong received virtually no popular support, but neither wasallying to the government side. Passivity is likely to continue as the dominant attitude in most of the population, but further military defeats couldudden sv/ing away from tbe government. While tho central authority in Saison is unlikely to collapse, its ability to provido energetic leadership throughout the country and all levels is in serious doubt. It is possible that over the next feu months certain provinces, especiallynd IV Corps, will be lost to Saigon's effective authority.

11. The psychological factor is now critical for South Vietnam's whole political-military apparatus. The widespread rumors that tho US conspired with thoare symptomatic

of popular anxieties over the future course of the war ana US attitudesolitical settlement. As yet, however, there are no siensrisis of confidence within the eovemxent.

1?. If major military reverses occur, the political and military apparatus could degenerate into general ineffcctualness. If, on the other hand, US and AHVN regain the initiative and inflict seme conspicuous setbacks on the Communists and the general offensive appears to be contained, then the GVN mightew energy and confidence and draw new support to itself. Cn balance, we judge that the chances are no better than even that the GVW/ARVM will emerge from the present phase without being stiU further weakened.

Alternativef Present phase

13. We believe that the Coiurunicls willigh level of military 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. Cur best estimate is as follows:

least likely outcome of the present phasetlie Communist side will expend its resources toextent a3 to be incapable thereafter of preventingbyGVN,

unlikely, though considerably leso co, isGVN/ARVN will be so critically weakened that it canfurther significant part in the military andof tho struggle.

likely than either of the above io thatpush will be generally contained, but withto both the GVN and Communist forces, and thatwill set in during which neither will be capabledecisive gains.

FOtt THE BOAHD OP NATIONAL ESTIMATES:

ABBOT SMITH Chairman

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