NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
This estimate supplements and in some respects supersedes
Relative Military Capabilities of Opposing Forces in Laos
SubmirfW by the DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
Concuferf in by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD Ai Indicated overleaf2
APPROVtOFOR RELiASE uATLJAHJOII
the following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate:
the central intelligence agency and the intelligence organization) of the depart-menu of state, defense, the army, the navy, the air force, and the joint staff.
director of intelligence and research, department of slate director. defenie intelligence agency
assistant chief of staff for intelligence, deportment of the army
assistant chief of naval operationsepartment of the novy
assblont chief of staff, intelligence, usaf
director for intelligence, joint staff
director of tho notional security agoncy
the atomic energy commission representative to (he usib. and the assistant director, federal bureau of investigation, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.
forced to withdraw each time: (a)ndanuary, FAR units of Mobile Groupn sweeping operations in the Nam Beng Valley region southwest of thestronghold and supply depot of Moung Sai were hit and dispersed by enemy forces; (b) onanuary,eries of air strikes and of probing and sweepingin the Nhommarath-Mahaxay area, someilometers north and east of Thakhek, government forces mounted an attack on Mahaxay. The antigovernment forces in thecounterattacked and, in the ensuing action, the 8th Infantry Battalion of Mobile Groupas dispersed (though later reorganized aboutiles to the rear) andh Infantry Battalion of Mobile Groupithdrew under enemy pressure; (c) onanuary, government forces attacking at Ban Namkilometers east of Nam Tba in northern Luang Prabangrepulsed and over theweek driven back to Nam Tha. General Phoumi hasattalion ol troops from Paksane to reinforce his two battalions at Nam Tha, but the position of theforces there is still seriously threatened. Although the evidence as to the numbers involved is inconclusive, North Vietnamese cadres and combat troops supplemented the Pathet Lao/Kong Le forces, and it is likely that they played an important part in the recent operations.
e now estimate that there areorthtroops in0adre andas compared withstimated in. Two battalions of North Vietnamese (as manyen) may have entered Laos in recent weeks; the balanceeassessment of indications previously available, and to new evidence. Our estimates of the numbers of North Vietnamese in Laos are highly tenuous because of the various possible interpretations of the available evidence. Moreover, the numbers may change quickly; the North Vietnamese are well organized and prepared to move units easily to and fro across the Laotian-North Vietnamese border.
The performance of FAR units in recent skirmishes was not as unsatisfactory as it generally was immediately before the cease-fire. It is clear, however, that problems of morale and leadership are still critical. We now believe it was too optimistic lo estimate inthat the government forces wouldlight edge if fighting were resumedattern comparable to that prior to the cease-fireonsequence of the strengthening of both sides over the past severaln particular, we believe that the FAR is unable to deal with any substantial number of North Vietnamese forces, whom they greatly fear. The CommunisU are able to bring these forces into play where they wish or need to do so.
Although outnumbered by the Lao armed forces, the antigovernmcnt forces now in Laosuperiority in artillery and armor. They arc generally capable oftheir main forward positions and of conducting local operations to counter aggressive actions by the government forces. Without further external reinforcements, they could, by concentrating their forces, seize and hold certain key positions now held by government troops. If reinforced by additional combat units from North Vietnam, they could quickly overrun the remainder of Laos.
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