NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
Prospects in South Vietnam
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. NATURE OF THE CONFLICT
L COMMUNIST CAPABILITIES
Military Strength .
Tactics and Effectiveness
SOUTH VIETNAMESE RESPONSE
General Approach and Strategy
Military Capabilities and Weaknesses
Poutteo-Mjlitary Programs and Their Effectiveness
Current Military Situation
PROSPECTS IN SOUTH VIETNAM
To assess tbe situation and prospects in South Vietnam,emphasis'Upon the military and political factors
likely lo afTect the counterTort.
believe that Communist progress has beer, bluntedthe situation is Improving. Strengthened Southand effectiveness, and particularly UScausing the Vict Cong Increased difficulty, althoughas yet no persuasive indications that the Communistsgrievously hurt )
believe the Communists will continue toarhoping for some break in the situation which willvictory. They evidently hopeombination ofand political deterioration will In time createeither foroup de grdce or for asettlement which will enable them to continue themore favorable terms. We believe it unlikely, especially in
view of the open US commitment, that the North Vietnamese regime will either resort to overt military attack or introduce acknowledged North Vietnamese military units into the south in an efTort touick victory. )
C. Assuming no great increase in external support to the*
Cong, changes and improvcrnents which have occurredpast year now indicate that the Vict Cong can be
militarily and that further progress can be made in expanding the area of government control and In creating greater security In theowever, we do not believe that it Is pos>
slble at this time to project the future course of the war with' Any confidence. Decisive campaigns have yet to be fought and no quick and easy end to the war Is In sight Despite South Vietnamese progress, the situation remains fragile.
D. Developments during the last year or two also show some promise of resolving the political weaknesses, particularly that of Insecurity in the countryside, upon which the Insurgency has fed. However, the government's capacity to embark upon the broader measures required to translate military success into lasting political stability Is 'questionable. )
I. NATURE OF THE
The Communists have been struggling to win control of Indo-Chlna ever since the Indo-Chinese Communist Party was organized Ina. This struggle has pawed through several stages,operations against the Japanese In the later years o( World War IIajor aar against the French. After the French withdrawal, the CommunlsU were apparently confident that the South (Vietnamese' Government (GVN) wouldr that in any event, the nationwide elections called for In the Genoa Accords mould scon deliver all of Vietnam Into their hands. Although guerrilla bands were lelt behind when the country washe Communists did not engage In armed operations against the GVN, but attempted to undermine It by other means. Contrary torupee la tlons, however, the GVN, under President Ngom, not only survived lut developed sufficient strength, partlycnsequence of Western political and economic support, to enable It to Ignore6 election deadline and to make appreciable progress.
These developments confronted the Vietnamese CommunlsUew situation. They had developed substantial ground forces In North Vietnam, but South Vietnam also, with US assistance, had substantially Improved Its military capabilities. Open Invasion, therefore, could notalk-In, and In any rase the strong US commitment, nol only to South Vietnam but toahoie. madeourse aa undesirable one. The Vietnamese Communists thereupon resumed guerrilla warfare combined with Intensified terrorism, subversion, and enticement They evidently concluded lhat, by winning converts and sympathisers In the countryside, by depriving the government ofcontrol, and by causing loss of moraleill within the govern* i- icadres, they would pave the wayinal political victory. This campaign was sharply siepped up In
South Vietnam %aa and remains highly vulnerable to ruraland guerrilla warfare. Its peopleno tradition of loyaltyovernment In Saigon. The Vietnamese peasant has alwayshimself lo whatever lorce was best able to protect or to punishoflerision, however Illusory,etter life. The "government" meant the local officials with whom hs was In contact, many of whom tended to be IncfTecthe and often venal.forms of minor corruption and petty bureaucratic tyranny have long been rife in the provinces, and the offenders were seldom disciplined by their superiors. Most peasants are primarily Interestedee and do not care who wins the military victories. Security Is significant to the peasant largely In terms of how It affects nun personally.
- Tooi-lBM toajor itrpc were taken by the Diem to ereateviable South Vietnamese state. Thethe resettlement ot about one million refugees from
Vietnam, developed promising Civic Action and public Information
grams tn the countryside, extended governmental authority*
most of thr country, substantially Improved Internal security,governmental Institutions more responsible and represent allhad existed before, and brought Into the bureaucracy an appreel- number of young and capable civil and military personnel How- ? DIcm failed ta expend this social, political, and Perhaps most Important of all, the goveinmcnt failed tocapability lo protecMhe rvssant and the villager. Partly oa US ad-tho Vietnamese Army had been organised, trained,efense against open attack from the north. Itto protect the population against guerrilla attack and
With Diem's consolidation of his personal control over theand the military establlshroent, he became Increasingly reluctant to delegate authority or take other measures to Improve the efficiency and morale of the military and civil services. Close operational control from Saigon not only generated serious discontent within aM levels of the government but also Inhibited the effectiveness of government actions, particularly in the countryside. The launchingull-scale Communist Insurgency Ininally led the Diem regime, partly out of necessity and partlyesult of the substantially increased US commitment to South Vietnam, to Initiate broad pleasures to rectify these conditions.
Tne Communist effort In South Vietnam Is essentially one ofsubversion In which extensive military acUvlty presently plays the predominant role The primary aim of the Communists Is to secure the support of the ruralbuttressed, where possible, by positive loyalty. By various forms of military and terrorist action, they endeavor to cow the recalcitrant, demonstrate that Ihf government cannot protect Its adherents, andeneral atmosphere ofThey also endeavor to weaken the government's poslUon In the countryside by assassinating Its officials, defeating its forces,the morale of Its cadres and supporters and. generally, tarnishing Its image In every way possible. They make extensive use of guerrilla base aires and safe havens vhich they seek to protect, although they seldom attempt lo hold ground against appreciablyforces. In addition, the Communists sre continually developing the cspabUittes of their "regular" units, with the apparent hope ofcomlng able to engage government troops In at least quasi-conventlonal -f'
counter thr Impact of increased US assistance, theiTc grarlngong struggle and have reorganized theirpcUttral apparatushey claim to be fighting In the
cause of the "National Fionl for the Liberation of Southrganized late Inhis organisation currently has littlen Vietnam, Isront for the Communists, and IU ostensible leaders are political nonentitiesesigned to provide theovernmental apparatus. If and when more significant gains are made In the current struggle, and to serve mranwhtleehicle for seeking International neutralist support.
directs the Communist campaign against the OVN,permlU the Vict Cong commanders considerable UcticalSlno-Sovlet quarrel apparently has not affected theeffort. North Vietnam Is being courted by both sides, butevidence that either Moscow or Peiping hat offered tosubsUntlal Intensification of the Viet Cong effort or that Hanoigreatly Increased aid from either. In pursuing theirsouth'sjt Asia and melnUining their Independence, the Northcm probably tee] that they need the support of both Moscowand will probably continue therefore to attempt to avoidto cither side.
tUtarye estimate that there are nowull-time Viet Cong military personnel organized Into Identifiable uniU ef up to ba'Ulionubstantial portion of these forces Is well trained, well disciplined, and well led. Their armament consists of light Infantry weapons, machine guns, bazookas, mortars,mm recoilless rifles Vict Cong forces are nol known to haver antiaircraft artillery weapons, though In recent months they have become quite adept at using small aims and machine guns against South Vietnamese and US aircraft
iet Cong regular unlU are supplementedarge pool ofsemltrainetf local guerrillas and militia whohe guerrillas and mllltla sometimes are useduniUirst or shoe* wave of an attack In theirother times, operating under local district committeeareerrorism, armed propaganda, and smallThe militia are charged with protecting Viet Cong areasuniU are absent. Both militia and guerrillas constitute aand replacement pool for the regular forces The bulk of theregular troops consists of locally recruited or ImpressedpcasanU promoted as needed to regular units on thetheir previous experience and performance In militia and local
. For weapons, ammunition, and related supplies, the Vict Cong forces rely primarily upon rapture from government forsva Some, stocks were left behind when the Communis isome arms are brought In by Infiltrators, anl some are fabrlcated-by the Viet Cong themselves. They also rely upon Indigenous sources for food, shelter, and other nonmfiltary supplies. Supplies arc
frequently purchased, although they are seUed Ifn
where the Viet Cong have established Ann control, they operate as a
government, levying'taxes and providing some services. Since most
of the cadres sent from Korth Vietnam are of southern origin and are
normally returned to their own provinces, they arc able to draw local
support for the Vict Cong
he limited evidence available Indicates that some equipment, such as recollless ilfles, mortar fuses, and medical supplies, together with selected cadres, have for some time been Infiltrated from the north. As the scale of Virt Cong operations has Increased over the last two years, the amount of materiel and numbers of personnel brought in from North Vietnam have probably also Increased While the basicgueirlUa effort could continue without outside support, this support probably has been essential to the higher levels of effort which have been achieved In the last year or so
and materiel are evidently being Infiltrated through laos,
andi xtent through Cambodia and by sea. The Laotian
lidor, vhich Is controlled by Communist forces. Is an Important military asstt Due to the nature of the terrain, however, the Vietnamesecould almost certainly continue to make some use of the area even if It were not under Communist control Use of the corridor would probably significantly increase If the Viet Cong derided tostep up the level of military activity.
ond Effectiveness. Tbe Viet Cong hsve provedformidable enemy and an effective guerrilla force. Deep l* somethey have generally proved adept at the classic tactics ofmovement, concentration for attack, withdrawal andhave also demonstrated flexibility In modifying their tacticsnev South Vietnamese operational concepts. They havecapable of company, and even battalion, sise attackscarrying out strikes against widely dispersed targets at abouttime. One Important factor In their success Is their effective
Intelligence system Informants and sympathizer* exist .-
thend the Viet Cong evidently have been able to maintain Intelligence coverage of virtuallyhe South Vietnamese military and civil establishment. This has enabled them to avoid some
government counteractions end effectively to combat
fonmQttory Capabtiltlei. The Viet Cong possess twoenimViltlei which they have not yet lull; exercisedrorlvn In the cities arid harassment of economic life Although the Viet Cong. certainly hive many adherents In urban areas, their terrorist
three been few and gcncratly unsuccessful. Commercial road andcontinues to function, andprincipal earnerto be produced and moved toreason the Viet Cong have not attempted to Interdict theseis lhal they receive considerable revenue from "taxation" ofand transport facilities Another and perhaps more*
portant reasonhat the Vict Cong probably have felt that full
else of these capabilities would hinder rather than help them attain their objective of Winning popular support
IHE SOUTH VIETNAMESE RESPONSE
General Approach end Strategy. Tlie Initial South Vietnamese response to the Intensified guerrilla activity In the count: yside reflectedense of urgency nor an understanding of the nature bf the challenge.endency lo regard thr strengthened insurgency simplyhreat created end sustained from the outside; thereeneral failure lo appreciate the Internal support which the insurgency generated or the grievances and basic conditions upon which It fed. It was regarded asmilitary problem lo be dealt with by military means. These views have become modifiedonsequence of the progress of events andonsequence of US effort to convince the regime to regard the conflict In broader perspective. During the" past yrrralf, the government has begun to see the conflict as an Internal one requiring socio-political as veil as military measures and to view the nilitary problem as one requiring grrater flrxibllity In deployment and tactics. Government recognition of these factors has resulted in the development, with US assistance,omprehensive counterfnsurgency strategy.
Uilitaryd treakneiies. The Soi Ih Vietnamese regular military establishment ecnsisla ofen. of whomxe army. Ihe paramilitary services, consisting of the Civil Guard of0 menelfDefense Corps cfen, are responsible for Internal security as well as counter-gu< iritis operations Supplementing th*se are0 men In Ci'..Irregularoups, whichide variety of units, some of which serve part-time.
Ji, During the past year, force levels have-been substantiallyThe various military and paramilitary forces heve beenand re equipped and their tactical mobility Improved,through US helicopter and transpoil aircraftesult of this Improvement In tactical mobility, the South Vietnamese forces^
lo strike more oukWy and In greater strength then
. before. The es abtlshment of CJtlscna" Imgular Defense Croups U * - ij-paramilitary capability In certain trees not now!
by regular fortes. Trvls prog ram has also introduced the- j
presc-neeHnto many hitherto rtmote areas and enlisted the active
port of minority groups. Appreclsble progress has also been made
securing the support of ethnic minorities (Monlagnardi) ln the Central - long courted by the Viet Cong, though traditional
of reciprocal suspicion and disdain between the Vietnamese and
Montagnards still ha-nper Ihls effort. ,
IB In recent months, offensive opersUons have been stepped upthe Viet Cong hnve been engaged in small-unit actionsIn ambuslies, and eflorts have been made to destroy Vietrather than to drive them away and allow them loopcrciionsrolling arc increasing. Recentthe army command structure, together with retraining of armyis bringing about greater participation by the regularin the tountcrgueirllla effort and more effectivethe parejnilitary services.S-trainedarc now conducting armed patrols designed to providelo some extent, to interdict Vict Cong access routes from Laos.
umber of factors still prevent the Southmilitary and security forces from realising theirrmy still makes extensive use of conventional tactics againstforces The Civil Ousrd and Srlf Defenre Corps have borneshare of the fighting and have suffered heavy casualtiesthe quality of intelligence It improving, there is still areliable and timely combat intelligence at the provincial and}evel and of political Intelligence on the Communis!available combat intelligenceen not exploitedshortcomings, together with Viet Cong intelligence coverthe South Vietnamese establishment,effectiveness of counteraction.
hortage of experienced and aggressive leaders, especiallycompany gisde end noncommissioned officer level,'Is one ofmost serious weaknesses. Tins In part reflects the problema conventional force lo the requirements of countersimultaneously expanding the sire of this force. In part It also re-political factors For example, promotions tend to be basedloyalty to Diem rather than upon professional Senior commanders frequently feel hampered by the fact that
of their JSbc.-dinetes are directly controlled by or have direct access to the Presidency. US support and presence and some Increased dls-poslUoti on the part of the Presidency to allow professional greater freedom hive tended to improve officer morale and to Increase
military Initiative In the field.fficers, however, still question Di tin's ability to lead the country to vlctoryftnd reports of military -coup plotting persist. Morale among the enlisted ranks Ls harde, to determine and varies from unit to unit, but desertions and A'A'OU atUJerious dialn on manpower.
he political impact of government military operations hasbeen diminished by mistakes and offenses committed byforces. Although such Incidents are difficult to prevent, South Vietnamese leaders generally recognlz* ihis problem and are trying to correct It.
it. Pofifico-Afihfory Ptogiamt ond Tfiefr Effectiveness, la concert with Its military endeavors, the GVN ls engagedumber of social, economic, and pcllrical programs Especially Important are tvo Inted politico-Tilitary programs: ckar-and-hold operations and the strategic hamlets. Both of these programs areo provide the peasantry with protection from Viet Cong depredation* and,to deny the Viet Cong continued access to the peasantry. Clear-end-hold operations are Integrated pacification projects In which priority area* arc cleared by military force; political control Is then consolidated by building strategic hamlets and sending In Civic Action teams to set up governmental services and help the viliagers helpThe strategic hamlet program Involves grouping the peasant population In fortified, defensibled undertaking various measures within these settlements tout Viei Cong sympathisers. Improve the villager's lot. enhance the government's Image, and five the peasant grounds tor Identifying himself alth the government's fight against the Viet Cong The Citizens' Irregular Defense effortrla'-cd program also designed to separate the populace from the Viet Cong Its armed groups, for rximplf, are designed to penetrate insecure areas and establish enclaves of security; these. In turn, art lo be cs-panded and eventually linked with areas where strategic hamlet- are a'rrestablished
Jt. The strstegic hamlet program is an undertaking of majorlt has enlarged the area under effective government control, and there are many Indications that the Corimunlsls. considerhreat of considerable magnitude. If effectively Implemented It can strike at the roots of Viet Cong strength. Most South Vietnamese leaders regard the programey element In Ui counter Insurgency effort. Some ifNgo Dinhregardajor step in the socialof rural Vietnameans of consolidating theircontrol over It
he government claims lo have completed morehamlets and to havethers under construction. The "completed" hsmlels vary widely In the quality of their physical defenses -
and tbe-rfTrctlvcness of their political programs. Thr mostbeen one* seljipTn areas where Integrated and systematichas been undertaken; however. In many Instances, hamletsset up without the necessary basis for their continuing Administrative deficiencies have also ham-
pered the execution of the program: excessive exactions have frequently been levied on local resources, peasants have often not beenfor materials or labor furnished, and officials have tended to show more tmer^st in conlrolltng the hamlet population than InIta liking conditions.
eiults of clcar-and^hoid operations conductedew provinces last year were encouraging, and plans for similar operations have been drawn up for all provinces. However, there is evidence that theIs becoming Impatient with the time and effortntegrated operations demand Diem Is apparently coming to feelt his armed forces have Imiiroved to the point where they may now be able to mount quick, -leap-frog" military strikes against the Viet Congthe country without worrying about the political consolidation of. such militaiy gains.
IV. PROGRfSS AND PROSPECTS
Current Military Situation Although there Is no satisfactory objective means of detei mining how the war ts going, we bclirve that-all factors considered--Communist progress has been bluntrd and the situation istrengthened South Vietnamese capabilities and efTcctlvrnru. and particularly US involvemrnt, are causing the Viet Cong Incrru'ted difficulty. There are some Indications that the Viet Cong are suffering from local shortages of suppliesecline in morale. There have been few desertions by Viet Cong regularbut there has been some increase In dcierUonj from the Vict Cong militia and guerrilla forces Although statistics of casualties and figures on the numbers of villages under government control are not very reliable or very helpfulreater degree of security In the countryside has apparently been achieved and the government's control of Imrorlant population areas has expanded someahal during the past several months.
There arc as yet no persuasive indications, however, that the Viet Cong have been grievously hurl. They continue to operate ln most sections of SouJh.Vielnoin. and much of the countryside remains in thelx^lihiidi Although the number of Viet Cong lncldrnts andIs2 levels, it it', number has increased In the past few weeks. Government military capabilities have increased markedlythe past year, but so have those of the Viet Cong.
omtnvnlit Intentions. The magnitude of the US commitmenteffectiveness of the South Vietnamese counterln-surgency effort err almost certainly causing Hanoi and Its Viet Cong subordinates Increasing concern. Although we believe that the Com-
jrmunlsts have tn no wsy relaxed their determination to win control of South Vietnam, they must realise that their task is becomingdifficult, and they may be reappraising their general policy. We believe It unlikely, especially in viev of the open US commitment, that the North Vietnamese regime will either resort to overt military attach or introduce acknowledged North Vietnamese military units into the south in an effort touick victory.
SO. For the present, at least, we believe that the Communists will continue toar of attrition, hoping for some break in the situation which willo victory. They must be aware, for example, Of tht disaflecUon engendered by the political methods of the regime, and they are probably also aware of the dissatisfaction among many Americans over the policies and practices of the OVN. They probably hope for political deterloralion which will make their task easier, or that the US will tire of costly and frustrating guenllli warfare and accept some facesaving way out At some point the Communists mighterious elTori to convene an international conference toUie neutralisation of South Vietnam.
ny nonCommunlsl coup effort would probably be regarded as providing an opportunity for exploitation. We believe that at present the Communists have neither the capability themselves to lead acoup d't'tat nor the ties with the non-Communist opposition which would enable them to participateoupNevertheless, they might be able In an tnstable situationfromuccessful or unsuccessful coup to gain somestrategic position In any event, the Communists evidently hopeombination of military pressure and political deterioration will lr. time create favorable circumstances either foroup de prcce orolitical aclUrmenl. say on the model of Laos, which would enable them to continue the struggle on more favorable terms.
S2hether the Communists are correct in theirwfll. ofdepend In some measure upon the extent and nature of US Involvement, but primarily upon the South Vietnamese response to the developing situation. We do not believe that lt lsat this time to project the future course of the war with any confidence. Despite OVN progress, the situation remainseries of major Vict Cong successes, ahould they occur, mighthattering psychological effect. Nevertheless, the heavy USand close working relationships between US and Vietnamesehave fundamentally altered the outlook. Changes andhave occurred during the past year which for Uie first time
indicate that the Viet Cong can be contain- -'Uiariiy and thatprogress can be made ln expandingovernment control and in creating greater security In therver, some areas Of Viet Cong control, such as the Mekong delu. will be very difficult to pacify, decisive campaigns have yet lo be fought, and no quick and easy end to the war Ir In sight
W. Developments In the ltst year or two have also gone someInasis for winning over the peasantry and In improving the efficiency of the military establishment and the civilian bureaucracy. It can, of course, be argued thatighly centrslued regime, stngir-mindedly dedicated to Independence, andeavy emphasis on personal loyalty can cope with the problems of guerrilla warfare. However, we believe thstgreater willingness on the part of the regime to enlist the active support of those who have becomeor discouraged ln the face ol DJcm's technique* of government would considerably speed tbe reduction of the Viet Cong Insurgency.
Si. Substantial reduction ofong military power, however, would probably intensify rather thsn reduce the need for changes In the philosophy and practice of the Diem regime, if revived insurgency were to be precluded and military victory translated lnlo politicalThe achievement of physical security in thr countryside would In Itselfajor political requirement in convincing the peasants of the government's ability lo protect them. But IK government must be both willing and able to expand Its efforts to bring social, politeal, and economic improvements to the countryside L' the.peasant is totake in the survival of the government and lo be lorlificd against Communist blandishment* Effective action tn this and other fields. parlirJlarly with the remote!ubstantia) US presence at all levels of the government, would almost certainlyiderin the development and Implementation of policy and areduction in the tight, personal control of the bureaucracy.
n the basis of Its past performance, the ability of the Diem regime lo move willingly and effectively In these directions Isand may become even more so should military victory come within eight With the removal of the Inhibiting effects of an Immediate and overwhelming military danger, political stability would be -greatly threatened If disappointment with the regime'* performance mounted among important sectors of the population and the conviction deepened that legal avenues to change remained blockedOriginal document.