102. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

1163. Following is mission Interagency Intelligence Committee assessment of current Viet Cong position and tactics:

We expect continuation for next few months at least of pattern of generally small-scale VC attacks, accompanied by intensive politico-military organization of back country, which has characterized Communist struggle in South Vietnam. Until two weeks ago, this campaign concentrated primarily on isolated CG and SDC posts but since then there several attacks on ARVN forces using somewhat larger, more aggressive, and better armed units. This could represent beginnings of trend in some areas toward larger-scale warfare of type associated with Phase II General Giapʼs doctrine. We believe VC not yet capable, however, of full transition Phase II all areas. Furthermore, continued reliance on slower but less provocative process eating away at government administrative structure and presence at district and village level offers Communists several advantages at this stage their revolution. For one thing, it is kind of program which strikes Diem regime at weakest points while avoiding to large extent damaging contact between limited VC offensive force and much more numerous ARVN. It also tactic least likely attract major American intervention Vietnam or arouse more active concern of Western allies of US. Viet Cong are likely, however, to punctuate this campaign with occasional larger-scale attacks, employing up to 1,000 men or so, against selected targets [Page 211]which appear to them relatively vulnerable. In each case Communist decision undertake such attack would probably be made only after carefully balancing advantages, in terms heightening VC morale and perhaps inducing panic in GVN, against risks of inviting effective ARVN counteraction and inspiring escalation American commitments.

On organizational side, Communists will continue efforts elaborate controlling political superstructure for VC, giving first priority to development of newly established Vietnamese Peopleʼs Revolutionary Party as Communists inner core in National Liberation Front. At same time, Communists will continue attempt attract non-Communists various walks life to Frontʼs banner, and representatives of Front likely appear in increasing numbers at Communist-supported international conclaves. Although at national level, Frontʼs efforts enlist non-Communist support not notably successful, there considerable evidence that at local level numerous front committees established.

Parallel political efforts, Communists continuing emphasize progressive development military forces. After dramatic expansion their forces in 1959 and 1960, it reasonable assume substantial consolidation of VC forces has been necessary. There some evidence enemy engaged this process past few months, regrouping smaller guerrilla elements to form district companies and provincial battalions. This effort enhanced by utilization trained cadres infiltrated North Vietnam, for which DRV has substantial manpower reservoir in form more than 80,000 troops evacuated from south after Geneva Armistice. Some of these regrouped southerners demobilized and assigned “production” elements, but 50,000 were used form four PAVN infantry divisions.

DRV deployment in Laos intimately connected with support of VC in addition, of course, to backing up PL, by insuring safe transit supplies and cadre to South Vietnam. There is in fact evidence DRV units assisting in preparing logistical system (roads and supply points) for support VC effort. Possibly offsetting this advantage, at least for short term, is continued delay in reaching settlement in Laos leading coalition government under Souvanna Phouma. So long as this question unresolved, DRV probably feels it must be ready participate resumed hostilities which now seem only alternative to a Souvanna coalition. This may detract somewhat from attention it pays to South Vietnam.

Due to nature of war here, it difficult draw up balance sheet for past few months. RVNAF, with American assistance, undoubtedly improved, among other things, its ability cope with large enemy concentration and exploit sudden encounters with VC by calling for air strikes. On other hand, incident rate has remained extremely high, and Viet Cong, while sustaining substantial casualties themselves, able inflict rather heavy casualties government forces, particularly over [Page 212]extended and under-trained CG and SDC. Perhaps best estimate is that there more or less military standoff with both sides gradually improving respective capabilities.

Fact VC has in general concentrated on small-scale activity recent months, eschewing more sensational attacks mounted Sept, should provide no grounds complacency. Enemy is determined, resourceful and controls substantial areas in countryside. Government cannot hope begin long, slow road to victory until it better able contest with enemy for control vital countryside through buildup CG, SDC and various irregular village defense forces, and through adoption wide variety political, social and economic measures aimed at giving peasant stake in defense his village against VC.

In discussing contrast between large-scale Sept attacks and subsequent pattern smaller-scale activity, two main bodies opinion developed in committee. … These attacks and in fact general VC posture last summer indicated enemy actually in process moving into Phase II Giapʼs doctrine but later decided regress Phase I for number reasons. Other view, advocated by political section and evaluation center, was that these attacks represented specific use of tactic associated with Phase II to secure infiltration routes, redress morale balance and regain initiative following the GVNʼs temporary successes in Delta. Whatever the case, committee agreed they presently operating generally context Phase I but working intensively prepare themselves for transition Phase II.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/3-1062. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad, CINCPACFLT, CINCPACAF, CINCUSARPAC, Baguio for Ambassador Nolting, Clark Air Force Base, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Vientiane, Manila, Paris, Singapore, New Delhi, Taipei, London, Hue, Hong Kong, and Fuchu. It also requested that the Department of State pass the cable to the Department of Defense for various military units. to CIA. and to AID.