NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
Probable Communist Reactions to Certain Possible US Actions With Respect to Laos
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
n by Ihe
.UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
: ' rtdicoled
The following intolligtmca organizations participated in lhe preparation of this estimatei
The Central Intelligence Agency ond lhe Inlelligence orgonirailom of the Oepon-menti ol State, Defenie. the Army, the Navy, the Air Forte, and the Joint Staff.
Director ot Intelligence end Retearch, Deportment of Slat* Director, Defeat* Intelligence Agency
Anatont Chief of Staff for Intelligence, DepoOmttir ol the Army
Asvrfant Chief of Naval Oowotionieportment of Ihe Nov/
Assistant Chief of Staff. Intelligence. USAJ
Direcior for Intelligence, Joint Staff
Orator of the Notional Security Ajjency
The Atomic Energy Comirilislon RepfoientotWo to lhe USIB, ondreclor, Fadotal Bureau of InvetKgatlon, lhe lUbfjct being outside of their jurlsdWion.
PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO CERTAIN POSSIBLE US ACTIONS WITH RESPECT TO LAOS1
To estimate Communist reactions to certain courses of action by US and allied forces in Laos.
The assumptions and courses of action here considered were provided by the Departments of State and Defense for the purpose of this estimate. The paper is organized to respond directly to Uie considerations raised by the given courses of action.
I. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
e believe that up to the present there have not been fundamental differences among the Communist powersPeiping, andrespect to the Communist campaign in Laos or in southeast Asiahole. There may have been disagreements as to tactics and timing, with Hanoi and Peiping tending to be more militant and less patient. The Sino-Soviet dispute concerning Blocand tactics has not appeared to prevent cfTcctiveof Communist policy in Laos. We believe that
'Other recenl estimate* bearing on the situation In Lao* are. -Communlrt ObJscUTts. CapaboiUea. and Intenliom in Southeastated. "Concequrncc* ot Certain US Courses Inatedpril. "Implications of Uie Kail of Namnd SNIE"The Current Military Situation and Outlook Inated
Slno-Sovlet differences are not likely materially to affect the Communist responses to the courses of action discussed in this paper. If, however, the situation threatened tooint of serious armed conflict, directly involving US and Chinese Communist forces, latent differences might become acute.
It is important to note that the Communists do not consider Laos in isolation from their other objectives in southeast Asia. In fact, the Viet Cong in South Vietnam and the Pathet Lao in Laos are both integral parts of North Vietnamese Communist military and party organizations, and both take their guidance from Hanoi. Hanoi, in turn, Is supported and counseled by both Moscow and Peiping who, to some extent, are competing for influence over Hanoi. For this reason, Moscow probably feels under certainin counseling patience and restraint on Hanoi, for the Sovieis would not want to appear less willing than the Chinese to support the "national liberation struggles" in Laos and South Vietnam. The USSR has played the key diplomatic role for the Bloc and has provided extensivesupport, including the airlift operation. We do not believe that the Soviets are likely to abandon their influence in Laos (and to that extent In North Vietnam) to the Chinese.
All the Communist powers probably suspect the US of insincerity or at least of procrastination in its proclaimed effort to bring General Phouml to serious negotiations. The Communist side has probably lost some of its earlier interestoalition government, particularly as the Communist military situation in Laos has steadily improved at theof both the "neutralist" forces and the Laotianforces. They probably share our judgment that the Forces Armees Royales (FAR) cannot by themselves effectively defend any point remaining in government hands, and that the Pathet Lao. assisted by the North Vietnamese troops now In Laos, could quickly seize all the major towns still held by the FAR forces.
The Communists probably interpret the current US troop movement to Thailand as an attempt to deter them
from further military action in Laos. They recognize that the move puts the US in an improved position to intervene if fighting is resumed, but they probably believe that the US has not yetirm decision on Uie particular circumstances which would require it to intervene. They probably have revised upward, however, their estimate of the chances that some major violation of the cease-fire in the future would produce such an intervention.
these circumstances, we believe that thenot alter substantially their current tactic ofmajor military action while waiting for the Royal(RLG) to accept their termsoliticalThey are unlikely at this point to move anyforces or additional North Vietnamese troopsIf the RLG docs not make some substantialtoward Communist terms, the Communists willrenew their military pressures. However, theside will probably seek to keep the level andof its military operations below what it believesUS intervention, particularly since it probablythat US intervention might, at some juncture,operations against the highly important Communistsupply and LOC "safe-havens" of northern Laos and
II. ASSUMPTION ONE
Neither side has openly repudiated the cease-fire or the principleegotiated settlement, but continuing Communist military activity constricts the territory under RLG control. US policy remains to seek asettlement basedeutralist coalition government.
COURSE A: The US provides the RLG and the FAR with assistance of Uie type and up to the level of that provided to South Vietnam.
the US initiated this course of action, it isthe Communist side would see this as no more thanattempt to strengthen the RLG negotiating position. We
believe it more likely, however, that they would suspect that the US had decided, whatever it might say publicly, to abandon the effortoalition government. They would probably believe that the US intended to establish effective non-Communist controlubstantial part of Laotian territory. They might oven believe that thisirst stepS plan to buttress the FAR, if necessary, with US combat forces. The Communist side would almost certainly increase its military investment in Laos, perhaps acknowledging openly the presence of North Vietnamese troops and increasing their number, providing them and the Pathet Lao with increased logistics support, more artillery, and,reatly expanded airlift. The Communists probably would not hesitate to respond to FARon areas under their control in Laos withup to the scale of the Nam Tha operation. They would also probably increase sharply their infiltration andefforts in areas under RLG control but would almost certainly not attempt to seize the major towns along the Mekong remaining in RLG hands.
COURSE B: In addition to the actions assumed in Course A, the US carries out abuildup of its combat forces into0 troops.
lthough this additional course of action would not present any greater immediate threat to Communist interests in Laos, the Communists would probablyore serious view of the situation because of the proximity of US forces capable of Intervening in Laos. The North Vietnamese would probably reinforce their troops in Laos and the Chinese might move forces to their border with northern Laos. At the same time, the Communists would probably moveesumption of negotiations.
COURSE C: Troops from the US and Thailand, and from those SEATO members willing to participate, are stationed in RLG-held areas to preserve the cease-fire and to prevent further Pathet Lao/North Viet-
namese military advances. The US and allied troops would initiate no offensive action against Communist-heldThe limited US militarywould be conveyed to theside both privately and publicly.1
Under the assumption given, the cease-fire would still have been generally in force when the US took the given action, although limited Communist military encroachment continued. In these circumstances, the Communist side would probably suspect that the US intent went farther than the statedof the cease-fire. Their judgment of the real US intention would rest to some extent on the size and disposition of the allied forces moving into Laos and the size and composition of the forces backing them up in Thailand. In any case, they would probably believe that the US, though still prepared to accept apolitical settlement, was willing and ready todirectly in the event of subsequent Communist military activity in Laos.
North Vietnam would almost certainly introduceforces into Laos. The Chinese Communists might take this opportunity to move "volunteers" into the northernand the North Vietnamese and Soviets, although they might not welcome this development, would probably accede. Soviet logistical support would be stepped up. The Pathet Lao, with North Vietnamese participation, would probably increase the scale of their military actions throughout Laos with the intent of confining US-allied control of the specific areas occupied. They would probably harass US lines of communications, outposts, and patrols. Communist agents would probably undertake terrorist and sabotage activities within the US-occupied towns.
esser variant of this course would involve stftUonlng allied forces only In the Mekong vidley towns to tree FAR twops trom garrison duty for active operations against the Insurgents (SEATO
do not believe, however, that the Communistattempt to drive the US troops from the areas they
occupied. The Communists probably would consider that over the long run, ronflnement of US and allied forces to these areas would place the US in an awkward military -political position, and might cause the US to withdraw. Meanwhile, they would probably revert to pressuresegotiated settlement with the withdrawal of US troops as the initial objective of any agreement.
III. ASSUMPTION TWO
The Communist side attacks important RLGas Saravane or Attopeu. US policy remains to seekegotiated settlement, butsteps arc required to prevent further cease-fire violations and to forestall the loss of additional RLG-held territory.
COURSE D: Troops from the US and Thailand and from those SKATO members willing to participate, are moved into RLG-held areas to indicate that further violations of Uie cease-fire will be resisted. US and allied troops would initiate no offensive action against Communist-heldThe limited US militarywould be conveyed to Uieside both privately and publicly.
The assumed Communist military opcraUons would probably mean that the Communists had decided to force the RLG into negotiations under more unfavorableor to eliminate, bit by bit, effecUve RLG control. They would have estimated that, by refraining from an all-out attempt at military takeover, US intervention could, in fact, be avoided.
Despite the US assertion of limited military objectives, the Communists almost certainly would suspect that USwere broader, and they would take such steps as they deemed necessary to protect themselves and theirin Laos against further US deploymentsSThey would almost certainly intensify their logistical
buildup, further strengthen North Vietnamese forces, and possibly introduce Chinese Communist "volunteers" Into the northern provinces of Laos. However, as in the case of Course C, we believe that the Communist forces wouldpressegotiated settlement with the withdrawal of US troops as the initial objective of any agreement.
IV. ASSUMPTION THREE
The Communist side resumes military activity with offensives against the major towns along the Mekong remaining In RLG hands. US policy shifts fromeutralist coalition government toe facto partition of Laos.
COURSE e: Troops from the US and Thailand, and from those SEATO members willing to participate, enter Laos toe facto partition of the country which would leave in RLG hands only that part of Laos south of approximatelyh parallel. The allied forces would take offensive action to clear and secure southern Laos to the border with South Vietnam.
The assumed Communist military operations against the major towns remaining in Laotian Government hands would mean that the Communists had abandoned the ideaeutral Laosoalition government and hadto end the Laotian conflict by military means. Their intent would be to bring Laos under direct Communist control byuick and complete victory over the RLG.
The Communist decision to conducteneral offensive wouldajor new step in Communist policy regarding Laos. We believe thatecision,ubstantial shift in Bloc policy, would have been based on athat the US would not respond by intervening and would have been preceded by considerable debate among thepartners. When the US intervened, the Communists
would be concerned to prevent the conflict from spreading beyond Laos. Nevertheless, they would take such steps as they deemed necessary to protect themselves and theirin Laos against further US deploymentsS counterattack. They would resistS effort to clear the area to the South Vietnamese border. They would almost certainlyapid logistical buildup, further strengthen North Vietnamese forces, and possibly introduce Chinese Communisthey would probably assume that the US would not be willing torolonged and unpopular war, and that the US would In due course be prepared toettlement.
COURSE F: In addition to the areas occupied under Course E, allied forces occupy Sayaboury Province and, with tho exception of the city of Luang Prabang, the major towns along the Mekong.
ovement into these additional areas would increase the apprehension of the Communists about US intentions. They would offer vigorous resistance at points they had already occupied, almost certainly with North Vietnamese reinforcements. Further, the Chinese Communists would be more likely in this circumstance than underbove to commit their own forces, probably under the Action that they arc "volunteers."Original document.