dvance Copy of tho Estimate4
SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE f
short-term prospects ln southeast asia
NOTE: This is an advance copy oi the estimate as approved by the United States Intelligence Board. The printed text will be circulated within five days ot this Issuance.
Centra! Intelligence Agency
Approved tor Reieaso Date
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SUBJECT: : SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS IN SOUTHEAST
To assess the preaent state oi affairs in South Vietnam its relation to developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia,prospects for the next few
Certain signs of new North Vietnamese and Chinaae Communist military activities, together with an upsurge of Viet Cong activity in South Vietnam, recent Viet Cong successes there, and recent Communist advances in Laos, raise the question whether thein South Vietnam and Laos may be on the verge of collapse. After carefully reviewing the evidence, we believe:
a. That the situation in South Vietnam is very serious, ^nd prospects unccrjain^ Even with US assistance approximately
xcluded from automatic downgrading and eclassification
aa il is now, we believe that unices therearkedin the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese Government and armed forces, South Vietnam haa at best an even chance of withstanding the insurgency menace during the next few weeks or months.
if present trends in Laos are not checked, therecontinued erosion of non-Communiat military andthere. The situation may deteriorate rapidly,urn which would further improve the Vietin South Vietnam.
dramatic new Chinese Communist interventionor Laos is unlikely. North Vietnam, however,up its support of the Pathet Lao, and may do soViet Congerhaps with some increase ofmaterial assistance. The Communist hopeVietnam would be to gain sufficient quick victoriesKhanh'a new government could bring its fullto bear, to undermine the South Vietnamese will to
rusist. and to induce the US toegotiatedits only feasible option.
d. That developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia, save in Cambodia, have thus far had little impact on those in Vietnam and Laos. However, the outcome of the present war in South Vietnam willerious effect on the future willingness of governments in Southeast Asia to adoptrather than neutralist, stances.
1. The situation in South Vietnam has been seriousong time and has undergone additional deterioration in recent months. The Viet Cong forces have exploited dislocations caused by the November and January coups. General Minh's regime was forced to busy itself with needed reassessments of the Government of Vietnam's counterinsurgency program, with new planning, and with cxtensivu housccleaning: the military chain of command was reordered at all levels, virtually every province chief was changed, and so, too, were many district chiefs. Just when these moves were beginning
to show some promising results. General Khanh upset themore. His regime has not been in power long enough towhether it can prosecute the war effort vigorously
2. Meanwhile there hasefinite Improvement in the Viet Cong forces' organization and armament. The Viet Cong have also become increasingly aggressive and are employing somewhat larger units in their attacks. They have improved the techniques and effectiveness of their operations to meet the increased US effort begunn particular they have effectively exploited the weaknesses of the strategic hamlet program. The current high level of Viet Cong military activity is not unprecedented. In the past, however, upsurges of activity have been followed by lulls for resupply. regrouping, and reorientation. This occurred in3lare-up in the wake of the Minh coup, and we believe that it will occur againndeed the Viet Cong have already announced that there willemporary lull during the Tet (lunar new year) holiday. On the other hand, with their improved capabilities, the Viet Cong may be able to continue intensified activity for considerably longer than before. They would be particularly likely to do so if they
came to believe that their efforts were significantly reducing the morale and will of their opponents, soajor push would lead rapidly to outstanding political or psychological successes.
3. o central government has been in effective control of all South Vietnam's territory. During the past decade, tha Viet Cong have had considerable success in intimidating or gaming support among the South Vietnamese peasantry, and the people feel little sense of identification with Saigon authority. Thus any Saigon regime will find itself facedifficult task. It is clear that the' future depends very heavily on General Khanh's ability to bring hia country's considerable assets to bear, and to begin registering visible military and political progress. He hashort period of grace in which to do so, if he is to forestall an upsurge inear mess and defeatist sentiment. Any further Saigon coups would seriously prejudice realistic hope of containing the Viet Cong insurgency. Moreover, the government's position would be damagedey unit or area commander should switch sides orersonal accommodation with the Vict Cong. The situation in South Vietnam is very serious, and prospecta uncertain. Even with US assistance approximately as it is now. we believe that, unless therearked
improvement in the-effectiveness of the South Vietnameseand armed forces, South Vietnam has at best an even chance of withstanding the insurgency menace during the next few weeks or months.
can expect increased neutralist talk inside andVietnam. Much of this will be inspired by Frenchthrough official, commercial, and private channels, toVietnamese military leaders to the view that furtheris foolhardy. Some of these leaders may urge aon Khanh. or attempt to overthrow him, but we doubtwould succeed, or that neutralist sentiment would have aeffect upon the morale of military units or of thegovernmentnlets either the Viet Cong shoulda considerable number of dramatic and major victories,Saigon regime should come to believe that thereessening
of US determination toommunist takeover.
has been an increase of direct Northin recent Communist Pathet Lao military activities.
and there are indication* that such participation will continue. The fact that no sharp US reaction has yet occurred to recent Communist advances may have emboldened Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese leaders. Both the neutralist and rightist political camps in Laos con-
Phouma are on the rise, and his government's influence in the countryside continues to shrink. If present trends in Laos are not checked, there will be further erosion of the non-Communist military and political position there. The Laos situation may deteriorate apidly, and it couldurn which would further improve the Viet Cong position in South Vietnam.
Developments Elsewhere in Southeast Asia
6. There are Indications of increased Chinese Communist material support to Hanoi, and of some new Chinese Communist military activity in southern China, but we do not interpret these as presaging any dramatic new Chinese Communist intervention in Laos or Vietnam within the near future. The Franco-Chinese rapprochement and French championing of neutralization are having an impact in Southeast Asian capitals, as well as complicating the situation in
Vietnam. Sihanouk's maneuvers, loo. considerably affect the major shows in Vietnam and Laos. He will continue to press for anguarantee of his country's neutrality, and will probably make his way to closer relations with Hanoi and Peiping. US influence with him, already slight, will accordingly lessen.
7. Developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia will continue to have little direct effect on events in Vietnam and Laos. This is not to say that these developments are not important for the US, especially those deriving from Sukarno's aggressiveness. Post-Sarit politics in Thailand, fairly stable thus far, may revert to coup/counter -coup patterns before very long, but we see no one among the probable contenders for power who would bc likely toecisivein Thailand's external orientation, provided that Bangkok remains confident of US support and US determination to defend its allies in Southeast Asia. Chronic instability remains the order of the day in Burma; but, aside from some inclination on the part of Rangoon not to cross Pmping's will. Burmese developments do not seem likely to have much impact beyond Burma's own frontiers.
Sigrufican.ee for the US
8. Turbulence has been endemic in Southeast Asia since the end of World War II. There will be numerous further crises in the
area, many of them the product of causes other than Communist scheming. Nevertheless, the course of developments will depend, in important measure, on US actions concerning South Vietnam and on what local Asian leaders conceive US policy there to be. The struggle for South Vietnam willest, crucial for much ofast Asia, of US ability and will to preserve and protect anti-Communist regimes in the areand, hence, of the feasibility of going along with the US response to Communist pressures rather than of opting for some other course such as an attempt to negotiate livable settlements with the Communists. If the US were to indicate interest
inettlement in South Vietnam, the idea of accommoda-Original document.