SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
THE SITUATION IN SOUTH VIETNAM
NOTE: This Is an estimate as approved by the United States Intelligence Board. No further distribution will be made.
Submitted by the
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
Concurred in by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
'he fallowing intelligence organisations participated in Ihe preparation of this estimate:
The Control Intelligence Agency and the Intelligence organisations of tht Dspart-mervti ofefense, and NSA.
Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of Slate Director, Defenie Intelligence Agtncy Director of ths National Security Agency
The AtomicComrviwon Representative to the USlB ond the AuurontPederol Bureau of Investigation, the lwbject being outside of their jurisdiction
Thb matsrial contain! information affecting the National Defense of the Uniisd Slates within the mooning ol the espionage laws.SC,, the troni-misiion or revelation of which in any manner to on unauthorised person is prohibited.
1U STJBJBCT: cl: THB SCTIftTIOB IB SOUTH VTETHAM
To amine the situation as it baa developed since early September, and to assess its impat lone for the US.
A. Since our estimates* the situation In South Vietnam has continued to deteriorate. oop by disgruntled South Vietnam military figures could occur at any time. In any case, we believe that the conditionsurther decay of GVN vlll and effectiveness. The likely pattern of this decay vlll be Increasing defeatism, paralysis of leadership, friction with Aaerlcana, exploration of possible lines of political accocaoda-tion with the other aide,eneral petering out of the war effort. It
* table Government In SouthU, SECRET.
downgrading and LTJiiTjlf declassification
is possible that the civilian government promised for the end of October could improve GTS esprit and effectiveness, but on the basis of present indications, this is unlikely.
B. He do not believe that the Viet Cong will sake any early effort to seize power by force of eras; indeed, we doubt that they have the capability forakeover. They will continue to exploit and encourage the trend toward anarchy, looking for the emergenceeutralist coalition government which they can dominate.
1. Continued Political Deterioration. Political conditions In South Vietnam have continued to deteriorate since our estimate of earlyespite efforts by Prime Minister Hguyen Khanh to stabilize the situation, he has been faced with an attempted coup, rioting and demonstrations in the northernassive labor strike in Saigon, and an armed revolt by Montagnard elements among the Special Forces. Kbanh's authority, already weakened by the Baddhist-student crisis in August, has been further dloinshod, and the degree of 'his support within the military establishment Is increasingly
*" Chancestable Government in SouthECRET.
in question. Most of the nan-Ceramist power elements appear to be Barking time, pending their assessment of the civilian government which Ehanh has promised will be formed by the end of October.
The Picture ln Saigon. South Vietnam is almost leaderless at the present time. General Ehanh has retained his position by making concessions to various interest groupspolitical, religious, students, military, and laborwhich have pressed their demands upon him. In turn, these groups still seem bent on pursuing self interest and factional quarrels almost to the point of anarchy. ack of sense of purpose and an absence of direction from above have seriously affected morale and created passlveness and apathy within the civil lav ecfarceaent agencies. Ccvernaent ministries in Saigon are closetandstill, with only the most routine operations going on. Cabinet ministers, as well as second-level bureaucrats, freely express their pessimism, and even though OS and GVTJ officials are again meeting onand other Joint planning, those meetings are not being followed by action from the Vietnamese aide.
QVH Military Morale and Effectiveness. The continuing disarray of the Saigon government, power atruggles within the military leadership, and the activities of aelf-eeeklng politicians end religious leaders have adversely affected morale within tho military establiabment. However, the
Hue, Danang, Qui flbon, aad Hha Trong, Vietnamese corsaanders have repeatedly failed to Intervene In civil disturbances and rioting on the grounds they lacked precise orders;ne instances, actual authority has pasaed by default to extremist 'vigilante" groups, such as the "People's Salvation (or Bevolntionary) Council" (PRC). The nature of the provincial bureaucracy is auch that It can rock along for considerable time, carrying out existing programs despite political deterioration ln Saigon. Severtheloas, continued confusion and Inaction in Saigon, or another coup, could rapidlyritical deterioration in government ln the countryside. lippage In morale and in programs among provincial administrations, at least in the central provinces, has already begun.
6. The Peoples Revolutionary Council (FBC). The PEG has established local councils in many coastal cltle* and nay seek tohapter in Saigon, where two PEC leaders have recently been named to theoen High Rational Council. The aims of the PRC ere not clear, but the local councils aeem vulnerable to Viet Cong penetration, and the fact that they have assumed government powers in some provincial cities tends to undermine Salgon'aand to damage the morale of civil servant o.
f. The Montagnaxd Problem. The Rhode revolt ofeptember and the ccot inning possibility of further and more general uprisings by the Montagnards pose an immediate and very serious problem for the GVB. The Montagnards have
a violent dislike for and distrust of the lowland Vietnamese, and have sought autonomy for yeara. The Vietnamese on their part look down on the Montagnarda; until recently, the GVR haa usually actedanner which haa widened rather than lessened the breach between tbe two. The problem has been furtherby constant and rather Intensive Viet Cong political and psychological agitation among the Montagnarda, playing on their aspirations and their dislike of the ethnic Vietnamese. Heaentment over the killing of semeietnamese by tribesmen during their revolt will sake it extremely difficult for the GVK to offer settlement terns acceptable to the Kontagnards. Thus, there will probably be continuing disorders In the Highland areas, dialnlshine cooperation with the GVH, and Increasing Viet Cong lnflnence.
8. Offsetting Considerations. Although the signs of deterioration are many and clear, there are offsetting considerations that reduce the likelihood of sudden collapse and afford aome very slim hope that the trend can be arrested. The Vietnamese peopleong record of resilience in the face of adversity; the ability of the peasants and even of urban elements to continue normal patterns of life despite political disorder makes for aome degree of basic stability. Tbe routine functions of government still work fairly normally;does go on; and the streets are not places of constant terror. over the absence of leadership and the progress of the war has not yet led to calls for ending the fighting. Taw If any of the many groups now seeking to enlarge their powers regard an accomodation with the Communists
of pacification still exist and retain significant capabilities.
as consistent with their interests. Finally, tho military instrumentalities
Tensions in US-GVH Relations. In the last month or so, there has
isturbing Increase in anti-American sentiment at various levels of Vietnamese society. Recent demonstrations in Hue, Da Rang, Quind Hba Tranf have had definite anti-American overtoneb. These were probably attributable In part to Viet Cong agitation and Incitement, but In some measure they seem also to haveenuine irritation at the Americano for various reasons having no direct connection with Viet Cong activity. For its part, the Buddhist leadership, whether entl-Communiot or not. Is imbued with intense nationalism which has at times manifested itself In opposition to US policies and actions. Suspicion of US motives and concern over US involvement in internal policy is growing among the top echelons of tbe GVR, and, most Importantly, on the part of Khanb himself.
10. GVR Contacts with the Corarunists. Tho principal GVR leaders have not to our knowledge been In recent contact with the Ccemnnists, but there has been at least one Instance of Informal contactesser governmental official and members of theLiberationhichreation of Hanoi. Moreover, there are numerous potential channels of comaranication between the present GVH leadership and the DRV authorities, and these could very likely be used without US knowledge.
Coup Possibilities. Although no definite coup plans are known to be afoot at the isoraent, we believe that further coupre likely, given the ambitions, discouragement, and bitterness prevalent among certain key South Vietnamese military and civilian figuresand the comparative ease ofoup attempt in the present deteriorating scene.
Alternatives to Present GVfl Leadership. Present plane call for the establishmentew, broadly-based, and predominantly civilianby the end of October. overnment might do better than the present one, but the odds are against its having the cohesion and effectiveness necessary to arrest the current decline. Ho visible alternative seems any aor? premising. Indeed, we cannot presently see any likely source of real leadership; no Mags ays ay has yet appeared. Bone of the military personalities and factions seems capable ofufficiently broad spectrum of support. Of nonmilitary figures, the Buddhist leader Trl Qoang is the strongest political personality and has demonstrated talents for leadership and organization. But he apparently desires to avoid such responsibility,
ri Quang government would face strong opposition fros militant Catholics, some of the military, and certain other groups. Hot least, it wouldifficult government for the US to work with, and some of its major policies would almost certainly not be consonant with US interests.
The Viet Cong
13. Viet Cong Policy. There are nuaerous signs that Viet Cong agents hareole In helping sustain the level of civil disorder which has recently prevailed In the cities of South Vietnam; they have also affected the tone and direction taken by seme recent protest demonstrations. Their hand was evident in the recent riots ln the capital of Binh Dinh Province, and they may have already penetrated the PRC. Viet Cong propaganda throughout September has increasingly celled upon the people to take advantage of the government's confusion by pressing on all fronts. This capitalizing on unrest is an old policy; what is new is the rich opportunity presented by the collapsing of GVH authority. The Viet Cong have apparently decided that heightened efforts on their part will reduce the country to near anarchy and the government to impotence, bringing an early victory In tbe formegotiated truceneutralist" government dominated by their Rational Liberation Front. Although these heightened efforts may Include aome battalion-sized, or larger attacks, we do not believe that the Viet Cong are trying toilitary decision at this stage. Rather, they will continue stressing small-scale terrorist activity aimed at furthering the breakdown ofand the decline of faith In the government.
lU. Viet Cong Capabilities ln the Cities. Viet Cong strength In the cities has almost certainly increased substantially in recent months. WeOriginal document.