111. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • CIA Analysis of Probable Reactions of Various Concerned Parties to Operations in Laos

Attached is a comprehensive assessment prepared by CIA on the Tchepone operation.2 Some of its more significant findings are: [Page 318]

  • —Tchepone is a significant logistics target which encompasses the major enemy Base Area 604 and houses Binh Tram 33,3 the principal logistics command for the war effort in Cambodia and South Vietnam.
  • —Tchepone is a difficult target because of high density of enemy security forces and it is probable that enemy caches in the area are widely dispersed.
  • —Maximum effects from the operation are influenced by timing in that the bulk of supplies in the Tchepone area will move south in the latter parts of the dry season. The optimum time for ground attacks in the Tchepone area appears to be in mid and late February. Benefits increase in proportion to the duration of time friendly forces remain in Laos.

Probable North Vietnamese Reactions

  • —The enemy probably expects an attack on their logistics complexes and has postured his troops accordingly.
  • —The enemy will probably stand and fight once they accept that a sustained operation in the Tchepone area is underway.
  • —Enemy counteractions could also include attacks against the DMZ, Northern Laos or seizure of the Mekong River towns in Laos.
  • —Political reactions might include a cessation of the Paris Talks.

Soviet and Chinese Reactions

  • —The operation would be a matter of deep concern to both the Soviets and Chinese who would recognize it as a major threat to the Communist structure and organizations essential to the conduct of Communist operations in Cambodia and South Vietnam.
  • —Soviet reactions would probably be largely in the propaganda area.
  • Chicom reactions would be more threatening and include stepped up shipments of arms, food, etc.; however, CIA doubts that Peking would intervene.

Lao Reactions

  • Souvanna would be faced with his most serious political problem since 1962. If he supported the operation, probably he would risk losing the acquiescence of the Soviets, the North Vietnamese and even the Chinese Communists. If he opposed the ARVN operation, he would jeopardize his position with us and run the risk of setting off a coup by southern rightist leaders who are already pressing for closer military cooperation with South Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
  • —On balance, with proper timing and consultation, CIA believes that Souvanna can be brought along.

Thailand Reaction

  • —Positive.

Longer Term Communist Reaction

  • CIA concludes that if the ARVN operation is marginally effective, it will encourage the Communists to continue their present course. If on the other hand the ARVN is highly successful, Hanoi will be faced with its most serious dilemma so far and may be encouraged to lash out in an escalatory fashion across the DMZ or in Northern Laos in an effort to incite strong domestic pressures in the U.S.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 83, Vietnam Subject Files, Special Operations File, Vol. II. Top Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads, “The President has seen.”
  2. Attached is a memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, January 21, transmitting the attached analysis, neither printed.
  3. Binh Tram 33 was a North Vietnamese military way station along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.