NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
RELATIVE MILITARY CAPABILITIES OF OPPOSING FORCES IN LAOS
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RELATIVE MILITARY CAPABILITIES OF OPPOSING FORCES IN LAOS
To estimate the relative military capabilities of the government and antigovern-ment forces now in Laos, assuming no change in the levels of aid and assistance that have obtained over the past several months.
army auto defense meo guerrillas
oth government and antigovernment forces have increased their strength andtheir capabilities during thehe government forces, which in May were defeated, demoralized, and near collapse, have made relatively greater Improvement. Their regular army strength has increased from0 in Maynd their total armed strength toow they are much better trained and equipped, and they have established some self-confidence. They have extensive technical, logistical, andsupport from experienced US, Thai, and Filipino personnel. This hasprovided the government forcesadvantages in supply and mobility. US encadrement of army units down to selected battalions and. in some Instances toprovides stiffening and tacticalin combat. Moreover, in the Meothe government forces now have for the first time an effective guerrilla force in the enemy's rear, an advantage previously enjoyed only by the antigovernment forces.
t the same time, the antigovernment forces have increased their strength from0 at the time of the cease-fire tohis includes experienced North Vietnamese cadres who provideand tactical support andNorth Vietnamese combat troops held In readiness for the defense of key areas or for spearheading attacks on government positions. The rate of improvement of theforces has probably been slower than that of the government forces. Trainingavailable to the antigovernment forces are limited and many of the new troops,those under Kong Le and Kham Ouane, are probably inadequately trained. There has been evidence of some frictionthe Kong Le and Kham Ouane forces on one hand and the Pathet Lao on the other due to inequities in the distribution of supply and Jealousy concerning commandin certain areas. This dissension, and lowered morale in some Kong Le units, has
to the slower rate ofby tho antigovernment forceshole The antigovernment forces have receivedadditional equipment from the Bloc since the cease-fire. Most important is the recent arrival In the Plalne des Jarres areaight amphibious tanks,manned by North Vietnamese crews- We believe the moat effective use of these tanks would be for the defense of the Plaine des Jarres. Outside this area their use would be limited by terrain to main roads. It is also possible that they could be used in support of operations against majorrotected debouchment hadbeen made.'
n the past there has been wide variation In capabilities among the units on both the government and antigovernment sides. This is still the case; each has its poor and its elite units, making difficult any overall assessment of relative capabilities. The criticalof the government forces In the past have been their lack of motivation, unstable morale, and poor leadership at all echelons of command. Recent successes in patrol activity and small-scale attacks, as well as formalized training of officers and NCOs, have increased the self-confidence of government troops and resulted in Improved leadership by the commanders. However, the retrained and re-equipped government forces have not yetignificant test, evenocalizedand their steadfastness under the strain of serious combat is still uncertain. There have been periods in the past when theirappeared high in times of relative quiet or success, but deteriorated quickly in the face of adversity. Among the antigovernment forces, morale has not heretofore been aweakness. The Pathet Lao havedisciplineelatively high degree of effectivenessumber of years. In times of adversity as well as success. Their morale is probably good. Among the Kong Le and Kham Ouane forces, however, morale appears spotty and probablyew of these units would perform well. The morale and combat capability of the Northforces probably remain good.
Major factors in the present militaryare the changes which have occurred since the cease-fire in the deployment and the missions of the opposing sides. Theforces, with grenlly reduced territory to control, can concentrate their strength and maintain some reserves for emergency. Their lines of communication are much shorter and. In general, reasonably dependable. The anti-government forces, by seeking to control large and widely separated areas in Laos, have increased their logistics problems, lessened their mobility and diffused their strength. Their rear areas hare poor lines of Lateraland some of those are underby the Meo guerrillas.
The terrain and difficulties of conducting conventional military operations In Laos are such that it has always been relatively easy to deny control of territory to an enemy. We do not believe that either side has theto destroy the other or even to take over and hold key territory In the hands of the other. If either side were tooncentrated offensive, it could probably make considerable initial gains at almost any point it chose to attack. How long and how well It could sustain Its advance or retain control of what It occupied would depend in large part upon the extent to which, and theby which, the opposing force chose toit.
On this basis, we believe that if the anti-government forces were to concentrate anupon an important government(including almost any one of the major
towns along the Mekong) they could probably succeed but could not hold it against acounterattack by government forces Similarly, we believe that the government forces could make initial gains against anti-government forces on the Tha Thom-Xieng Khouang perimeter or. with even greaterin southern Laos, If defeated by sustained government attack, the Pathet Lao and Kong Le troops would quickly revert to guerrilla tactics of the type they have soemployed in the past and could continue to contest government authority over wide areas of the country. We believe that In this event the government forces could notfirm control over presently heldterritory, particularly in such critical areas aa the Plalne des Janes and Nhcmma-rath-Mahaxay. and the Tchepone area.
n short, we believe that the government forces wouldlight edge If fighting were resumedattern comparable to that prior to the cease-fire but Intensifiedonsequence of the strengthening of both sides aver the past several months. This edge would be increased during ensuing months if the conditions of relative quiet which haveduring the cease-fire continue and Ifrates of improvement in the two sides are continued. We continue to estimate that the antigovernmont forces have the greaterfor guerrilla warfare. We also believe that If the anUgovernment position should be endangered or If the areas considered critical by the Communists were threatened by the government forces, the antlgovemment forces would be quickly and effectively reinforced from North Vietnam to the degree necessary to protect the threatened area.
cia vW&NAOriginal document.