SNIE 63.1-60/SHORT-TERM TRENDS IN SOUTH VIETNAM

Created: 8/23/1960

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INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

SHORT-TERM TRENDS IN SOUTH VIETNAM

Submitted by the fiSrfflJj5I' "Xl DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE -V

The following intelligence organisations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Acfeiicy and the Intelligence organisations of the Departments 'of State, the Army, thehe Atr Force, and The Joint Staff.

Concurred tn by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD

ononcurring loere the Director ofand Research. Department of State; the Assistant Chief of Staff for intelligence. Department of the Army; theChief of Naval Operationsepartment of the Navy; the Asitstant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF; the Director for Intelligence, Joint Staff; the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Special Operations; and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Atomic EnergyRepresentative to the USIB, and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.

SHORT-TERM TRENDS IN SOUTH VIETNAM

the problem

To assess political and security problems and probable trends in South Vietnam over the next year or so.

CONCLUSIONS

within South Vietnam over the past six monthsrend adverse to the stability and effectiveness of President Diem's government.of Diem's leadership within urban groups and government circles has been mounting. More immediately important, the Communist Viet Cong, with support and guidance from Hanoi, has markedly increased subversive operations, terrorist activities, and guerrilla warfare.

Although Diem's personal position and that of his government are probably not now in danger, the marked deterioration since January of this year is disturbing. These adverse trends are not irreversible, but if they remain unchecked, they will almost certainly in time cause the collapse of Diem's regime. Wc do not anticipate that this will occur within the period of this estimate. However, if Diem is not able to alter present trends and thedeteriorates substantially, it isduring the period of this estimate that the government will lose control over much of the countrysideolitical crisis will ensue.

discussion

Since the beginninghere haseneral decline in the political and security situations in South Vietnam. TheVictas stepped up terrorist ac-

Thi> Viet Cong Insurgent" represent thearm of the North Vwtnam Communist Party. The Violstimated to hare in Booth Vietnamegular armed cadres andrregulars organized as underground troop* Main arras of Wt Cong activity lie south and west of Saigon and along tbe Cambodian border North Vietnam furnishes guidance, personnel reinforcements, andsupport to lite Insurgents

Uvities and guerrilla warfare. At the same time, grievances ngalnst the government, which have long been accumulating, have become increasingly urgent and articulate.

The Political Situation

iscontent with the Diem government has been prevalent tor some time amongand elite circles and,esser extent, in labor and urban business groups.by these elements focusscs on Ngo family rale, especially the roles of the President's brother, Ngo Dlnh Nhu, and Madame Nhu; the

pervasive influence *'f llie Canhe scmi-clandcstinc apparatus of the regime; Diem's virtual one-man rule; unci the growingof corruption in high places. In late April,rominent Vietnamese publiclyDiem lo "liberalize the regime, expand democracy, grant minimum civil rights, (and) recognize thr opposition In order to let the people speak withoutillspublic attack on Diem by agroup may embolden other urbanto become more vocal.

ew and even more important element in the political situation Is the growingof Diem's leadership wiihin government circles, including Ihc official bureaucracy and mililary; this criticism has become morethan at any time. Since the early part of this year. Vice President Tho. other members of the cabinet, and middle echelon officials have made known their serious concern over Diem's handling of the internal security problem and have privately criticized the power and Influence exerted by Nhu and his entourage. In addition, there is considerable uneasiness concerning theand activities of the Can Lao

lthough most of lhe Vietnamese peasants are politically apathetic, they also have their grievances against the government. These include the ineptitude and arrogance of many local and provincial officials, the lack ofprotection from Viet Cong demands in many parts of the country, Uie harshness with which many peasants have been forced totheir labor to government programs, and the unsettling economic and social effects of the agrovillc (govern ment-sponsored settle-

: The Can Laoased on the cell and cadre system. ilmilar ta that of thr Kuomin-lartgommuniit |uirty. It la controlled by Diem's brothers, Nhu and Can. Can Laoare active at virtually every level ofpolitical life. One-third of the cabinet members and over hull of llie Natlunal Assembly deputies probably belong to the Can Lao. The organIzatlon also controls the regime's mass political parly, the National RevolutionaryIt Is deeply Involved in Vietnameseaffairs androgram to recruit key officers In the Vietnamese military establishment.

meats) program.onsequence, Diem's government Is lacking in positive support among the people in the countryside.

members of Diem's immediatehave attempted, with some success,him insulated from unpleasantand trends. However, he hasover the deteriorating internalsituation, although he still tends tothe amount of discontent both inand among urbanhe has taken some steps to meetsecurity problem, he tends toalmost entirely In military terms. Hethat Increased military activityViet Cong, along with an expansionagrovillc program, will greatlysecurity. He has been openlyof the views of oppositionistsand regards them as uninformedof the Communists. Diem alsolo take any major steps againstand arbitrary conduct on Uie part ofLao organization.

The Security Situation

Aggravating many of the government's problems Is the active campaign of the Viet Cong lo discredit Diem and weaken theauthority through politicalas well as paramilitary action. The Viet Cong has had some success in exploitingintellectuals, sowing disaffection among the populace, and disrupting theadministration of government. This campaign has been well organized andexecuted, with the result that Diem has been confronted not merely with the armed threat of guerrilla operations but with asubversive program.

Betweennd the endhe Viet Congteady but low key campaign of propaganda, subversion, and terrorism in the South VietnameseSince January, there has been aincrease in the number and size of Viet Cong attacks in several areas,In the southwest. Civilian travel on public roads more thaniles outsidehas become hazardous. Attacking units,

estimated to number at times in the hundreds, have operated over wider areas than at any time4 and have assaulted Vietnamese Army installations. Since the beginning of the rainy season in April and the launclung of Vietnamese Army counteioperations. Vict Cong operations have abated somewhat but terrorist activity, such as assassination and kidnapping of provincial oflicialsas continued at highupport from North Vietnam appears to have increased over the past several months. In particular, senior cadres and militarysuch as communications equipment are believed to be moving south through Laos and Cambodia and by junk along the eastern coastline.

* In the first five monUiH ofovernment officials andere assassinated by insurgents. Tha total number of assassinations in IBM was IM and in. Kidnappings this year through May, as compared8

The upsurge In Vict Congtepped up propaganda campaign from Hanoi, probablyecentdecision to increase pressures on the South Vietnamese Government. Theof increasing dissatisfaction with the Diem government have probably encouraged the Hanoi regime, supported and guided by the Chinese Communists, to take stronger action at this time. The Chinese Communists probably regard South Vietnam as aarea for weakening the US position in Southeast Asia at little cost or risk. From the Chinese point of view, many favorableareizable and effectiveguerrilla apparatus responsive to Communistovernment lacking in positive support from Its people; and the widely recognized political commitment the US has in South Vietnam.

In countering the Viet Cong challenge, Diem faces many of the same problems which confronted the French during the Indo-China War. Viet Cong guerrilla units havein exploiting their natural advantages of surprise, mobility, and Initiative. In many of their areas of operations, they havethe tendency of the largely passive population to accommodate to their presence and thereby avoid reprisals. In some areas of operations, however, they have obtained the active cooperation of the local population.

In contrast to the French strategy in the Indo-China War, however, the Vietnamese Government is attempting not only to control the populated areas and main lines ofbut also to group the peasantry into more defensible units through its agro-ville program. Special measures inand training have been implemented enabling the army to react more quickly and effectively against guerrilla hit-and-runThe civil guard is forming "commando" units and new stress is being placed on the buildingouth0 strong, for patrol and reconnaissance purposes in the villages and towns.

The most effective government measure against the Viet Cong, however, remains the active participation of the army, with air force support. Until recently, the army's commitment to internal security operations has been limited by the deployment of major elements in defense against an overt attack from North Vietnam and by trainingin support of this mission. Somein the army's effectiveness and capabilities can be expected with the increased emphasis on antiguerriUa training. Improved organization, and better combat intelligence. We believe it unlikely, however, that the army will be able to do more than contain the Viet Cong threat, at least over the short run.

The Outlook

Viet Cong will probably maintainon provincial officials andinstallations at the present highwith the end of the wet season into large-scale guerrilla actionsnullifying the government's authorityrural areas. Hanoi could step upand pace ot" the Viet Cong activitiesVietnam. In the absence of moregovernment measures to protect theand to win their positive cooperation,is for expansion of the areas of Viet

Cong control in the countryside, particularly in the southwestern provinces.

Dissatisfaction and discontent with the government will probably continue to risethe security situation improves and unless Diem can be brought to reduce the corruption and excesses of his regime. Although there have been no popular demonstrations so far. we believe that the possibilities for antircgime disturbances are increasing. The Viet Cong will attempt to capture and control major demonstrations that occur. Existing police and civil guard strength is capable ofsmall-scale disorders in majorcenters, but army support would beif rioting became widespread.

The position of the army in thepolitical scene is not entirely clear. The regime has taken pains to insure that no one army figure could acquire suchstanding or prestige that he could range himself and the army against the government. However, there is some discontent amongover Can Lao influence In promotions and assignments, and concern over corruption and nepotism In the army has increased. Ifin official circles and urban elements became extreme and attempts were made to organize an antircgime opposition, theof the army wouldital political factor. But It is not clear what the army's action would be in these circumstances.

lthough Diem's personal position and that of his government arc probably not now In danger, the marked deterioration since January of this year Is disturbing. Thesetrends are not irreversible, but if they remain unchecked, they will almost certainly in time cause the collapse of Diem's regime. We do not anticipate that this will occur within the period of this estimate. However, if Diem is not able to alter present trends and the situation deteriorates substantially, it is possible during the period of this estimate that the government will lose control over much of the countryside and political crisis will ensue.

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