ON TERRORISM & UNCONVENTIONAL
BILL MCCOLLUM, FLORIDA CHAIRMAN
DANA ROHRABACHER, CALIFORNIA
CHIEF OF STAFF
TASK FORCE ON TERRORISM & UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE
HOUSE REPUBLICAN RESEARCH COMMITTEE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WASHINGTON D.C., 20516
April 26, 1990
To : Task Force Members
From : Vaughn Forrest, Chief of Staff
Re : Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
The attached paper outline disturbing trends in South East Asia:
1. Contrary to press reports, Vietnam has re-invaded Cambodia with approximately 64,000 - 66,000 (PAVN) troops.
2. Contrary to press reports, Laos is occupied with approximately 23,000 - 32,000 vietnamiens (PAVN) forces.
3. There are increasing reports of the use by PAVN directed Pathat Lao units of chemical weapons against the Lao Non-Communist Resistance and civilian Lao population.
4. Vietnam has annexed significant parts of Cambodia.
This reports outline the trends in this region and identifies by unit the Vietnamese (PAVN) forces in both countries. A restricted access list as to the exact location of these forces is available to Members in a verbal briefing by calling this office.
THE VIETNAM WAR: 1990
It has become increasingly apparent that Vietnam is moving to consolidate its control over Laos and Cambodia despite the intensification of national liberation struggles against the vietnamese sponsored puppet regimes in those countries. Hanoi is committed to a long term solution in Southeast Asia based on an effectively unified region under Vietnam's control, despite that country's highly publicized, albeit phony, withdrawal. At the present stage, the existence of local communist puppet regimes in Phnom Penh and Vientiane serves Hanoi's interests. Therefore, the Vietnamese Armed Forces, and the local forces they control, facilate the bolstering of their allies' regimes in key sectors of Cambodia and Laos.
Indeed, there are indications that Vietnam is moving toward the furthering of regional arrangement, with the PAVN near completion of an integrated regional command structure controlled from Hanoi. In the forward areas of Laos and Cambodia, this trend has been manifested in the establishment of combined units dominated by the Vietnamese, while several PAVN command structures disregard national boundaries. Taken together, these developments reflects Hanoi's commitment and determination to dominate Southeast Asia.
Furthermore, there is every indication that the USSR is in full support of the steps taken by Hanoi. Key military -organizational steps were accomplished with several Soviet military advisers and experts on site and largely on the basis of their knowledge. Further, there has been a corresponding increase in supplies of weapons from the USSR. Moreover, virtually all deliveries of such weapons have been conducted through Vietnam and under close Soviet-Vietnamese supervision, thus giving Hanoi effective control over the local Laotien and Cambodian regime and armed forces. The Soviets have further enhanced this situation by redeploying combat aircraft from Cam Ranh Bay to interior bases from which they can provide direct support to the PAVN-dominated units in combat actions in Laos and Cambodia.
Currently, after the brief period of constant movement brought about by the ostensible withdrawal of vietnamese forces from Cambodia, the deployment of Vietnamese forces has stabilized. At present, theVietnamese continue to deploy forces in key strategic position and persistently expand their zones of control. Adopting Soviet-Cuban doctrine, these PAVN forces conduct Quality Edge measures operations. They bolster local units, that operate at times in their skirmisches and confrontations with a seeming PAVN quality, against national liberation forces. Further, invariably, the Vietnamese exercise a decisive impact on any given battle by holding key strategic positions and by delivering suppressive firepower, that is, artillery and airpower (including the use of chemical weapons), as well as by providing tactical mobility, largely by the landing of elite forces from helicopters at key points.
Thus, it is clear that the Vietnamese are committed to a long-term solution. In this context, their strategy is to confront and engage Laotian and Cambodian national liberation forces militarily only when necessary. Instead, the Vietnamese and their allies concentrate on controling the regional strategic infrastructure and economic resources of key areas. By doing so, the Vietnamese are able to isolate the Resistance from its base of support in the civilian population. The isolation and alienation of the population is then further enhanced through the implementation of repressive measures, such as the use of suppression fire (including chemical weapons), that force the population into internal migration away from areas where the resistance could utilize its support and resources.
This Vietnamese strategy is virtually identical to that used by the USSR and Cuba in their local wars in the 1980s. The Soviet further refinded this strategy in their 1980-1984 drive to consolidate their control over Afghanistan and to prevent the resistance from turning into an effective popular force. Indeed, since 1982, as result of this approach, the Afghan resistance has been rendered incapable of interfering with the USSR's consolidation and expansion of its strategic infrastructure of Afghanistan.
Similarly, by employing a derivative of the approach, the Cuban forces in Angola were able to seize the strategic initiative from UNITA. Indeed, since 1985, Cuban-MPLA forces have forced UNITA back into a succession of defensive battle around an ever shrinking bastion in south-eastern Angola.
Thus, Vietnamese dominated combat operation in Laos and Cambodia have seen the same principles and characteristics employed by the Soviet and the Cubans in other Third World locations. Below are outlined the specifics of Vietnamese operations in Laos and Cambodia:
Hanoi is implementing a comprehensive program to control and effectively annex Cambodia. To this end, the Vietnamese are conductiong three distinct operations in Cambodia. These are:
1. In the Eastern provinces of Cambodia, the Vietnamese are moving to consolidate their direct control over the area to facilitate its evolution into an integral part of Vietnam's economy.
2. The Vietnamese Armed Forces are expanding their deployment in the periphery of Cambodia in order to block the penetration of liberation forces and to isolate them from the population.
3. The Vietnamese are securing the main population and national centers of Cambodia, as well as the lines of communication from Vietnam, thus making Phnom Penh completely dependent on Hanoi for its survival. The patterns of the Vietnamese deployment in Cambodia correspond to these objectives.
The current deployment of Vietnamese forces in Cambodia was accomplished in two phases. The first phase was accomplished during the "withdrawal" of late 1989. Major PAVN units, and a few subordinate subunits, were left behind in key strategic locations. Each of these subunits supervised a few RPKAP units with PAVN quality core elements and concealed caches of weapons and amuniation in the countryside. Moreover, the 4 Vietnameses concentrations of force withdrawn from Cambodia remained just behind the border in 4 district force groupins, (From south to north: Front 479, Front 979, Front 779 and Front 579) with training facilities and munitions stockpiles, ready to return and intervene in Cambodia. The second phase involded the still continuing insertion of small units into Cambodia to consolidate positions and garrisons in key military installations. From there, the PAVN subunits, independently or with subordinate RPKAF subunits, deploy to small posts and garrison in the countryside, gradually expanding the area controlled by Hanoi and displacing the rural population.
In addition, Hanoi is expanding its strategic centers for regional intervention in the Laos - Cambodia - Thailand border area. For example, PAVN Naval infantry, subordinated to the F590 division on the Dao Phu Quoc Island (Vietnamese territory), deployed to control Cambodia's key harbors. (These regional activities are discussed in detail below.) The current deployment of PAVN forces and their RPKAF subordinates (excluding the annexed provinces and the regional intervention force) are control from a corps Headquarters in South-east Pursat province where 7,000 PAVN troops are deployed. In early March, 1990, the Corps Headquarters was in command of approximately 46,970 to 45,370 PAVN troops. (This total does NOT include the multiple small PAVN garrisons and caches apread all over rural Cambodia.) Further, Cambodian resistance source claimed in mid-April, 1990 that a total of some 30,000 PAVN troops have been inserted into Cambodia since the "withdrawal", that is, approximately 9,500 to 10,000 Vietnamese troops have been inserted since early March. Because independent verification of the whereabouts of some of these forces is still lacking, they are not included in the above count.
The part of Cambodia dominated by the Corps are divided into two strategic echelons (S.E.): The Western command is the 1st S.E., which is divided into two Fronts. The northern Front is devoted to dealing with the freedom fighters operating from Thailand. The southern Front is devoted to securing the main lines of communication from southern Vietnam and the Cambodian shore line. The 2nd S.E. is the Eastern command which is devoted to controlling the Cambodian interior and especially ground and river transportation.
This command structure remained intact even during the height of the Vietnamese "withdrawal". Indead, the Corps Headquarters and its approximately 7,000 troups remained inside Cambodia well into late 1989, with control of the northern Front on the 1st S.E. accomplished by two "stay-behind" PAVN Regiments (1,200 and 3,000 troops respectively.) These regiments, in return, controlled 3 RPKAF divisions (286th, 5th and 81th) with PAVN core elements, as well as 2 RPKAF divisions (196th & 4 th) with only PAVN special forces elements, all deployed along the Thai border.
The control of the southern Front of the 1st S.E. was accomplished through a single security). This regiment also controlled 2 RPKAF division with PAVN core elements deployed along the Tonle River. During the "withdrawal", the control of the 2nd S.E. was accomplished through 2 PAVN Regiments (3,000 troops each) in the eastern Kompong Cham province near the Vietnamese border. A RPKAF division with a PAVN core unit in the centrer of the province was subordinated to this force. All together, approximately 27,060 troops remained in this deployment in Cambodia when the "withdrawal" was completed.
The expansion and bolstering of this deployment began in october, 1989 and is still in progress. At first, the PAVN deployment in the southern Front of the 1st S.E. was significantly reinforced. With the main lines of communication secured, forward forces of the northern Front of the 1st S.E. were reinforced. Then, the Vietnamese gradually built their garrisons near Phnom Penh and in Kompong Thom where a 1,560 troops strong PAVN Regiment was established to secure traffic to the north. Further, several PAVN battalions and companies are still in Cambodia, bolstering and expanding the PAVN deployment. Naval Infantry Battalions of the F590 Division on Dao Phu Quoc Island were landed in Kampot (1000 troops) and Thmar Sar (450 troops). Ultimately, a total of approximately 18,310 to 18,610 PAVN troops were inserted into these parts of Cambodia between 1st October, 1989 and 2nd March, 1990.
These PAVN and PAVN-controlled RPKAF forces continue to expand the areas covered by their operations. The main direction of advance and build-up being aimed at disconnecting the axes of penetration and advance into the interior of the Cambodian liberation forces. Offensive sweeps continue to be conducted in the border area in order to weaken the freedom fighters and stall their advance into the interior. Simultaneously, the civilian population is being suppressed by Vietnamese artillery and air power and is thus being pushed away from the key lines of communication into the deep interior so that is cannot link-up with, and thus support, the freedom fighters. The cumulative impact of the stalling of the freedom fighters and the induced internal migration has been to hasten the collapse of the popular support mechanism so crucial for the establishment of an effective liberation movement. The effectiveness of these PAVN offensive sweep operations is significantly enhanced by the supply of Soviet weapons that is being provided through Vietnam. Most important is the supply of 4 Mi-17 assault helicopters that doubled the force of 4 older Mi-8s that had originally made up the RPKAF arsenal. In addition, the Soviets also supplied through Vietnam large quantities of artillery, rocket and small arme ammunition.
In the meantime, Soviet and Vietnamese advisers continue to supervise the build-up and organization of highly mobile PAVN-RPKAF subunits for the conduct of offensive sweeps against both the population and the liberation forces. Hun Sen stated in mid-April and the rejuvenated RPKAF forces were "moving into the offensive" in the Pailin area. An indication of the potential of these offensive sweeps was the limited. Yet well organized and planned, offensive against the KPNLF of February, 1990.
This offensive sweep resulted in the capture of the Svay Chek strategic town west of Battambang. The offensive relied on advance suppression by fire, mainly BM-14 and BM-21 MBRLs, followed by a swift attack by a motor-mechanized force in trucks and a few BTR-60s spearheaded by T-55 and T-54 tanks. This offensive sweep was organized and supervised by Soviet and Vietnamese advisers.
General Pan Thai of the KPNLAF attributed the success of the PAVN-RPKAF artillery forces in fighting in Svay Chek and Thmar Puok to a special PAVN Artillery unit identified as the 106th Regiment. A Captain Nguyen Van Tin of this regiment, who was captured by the KPNLAF, disclosed that his unit was 1,300 troops strong. They were deployed to Cambodia in December, 1989 "to supervise artillery units of the Phnom Penh army in Sisophon, Svay Chek and Phnum Srok."
Further, the tactics and force structure used during the Svay Chek offensive sweep closely ressembled past Soviet-style operation in Afghanistan and Angola (see Below). The emphasis is on the suppression of the population an its isolation from popular forces. Swift decisive assaults relying on suppressive fire power and shock engagements with the resistance forces are intended only to stall and compel a withdrawal, rather than hold vast territories.
By this strategy, Vietnam has managed to consolidate control over key Cambodian territory, effectively annexing 3 provinces and altering the border in the other zones. At the same time, in the southern provinces, the Vietnames comploted a 550 km long canal stretching from Kep - Ha Tien on the Gulf of Thailand to Chipou. The canal is 25 meters wide and runs some 4-5 kms into Cambodian territory. Vietnam has since annexed this stretch of land, while in the eastern provinces, a new border line was established from Chipou to the Bo Duc area along controlling heights and main roads, and was annexed by Vietnam as well.
Of even greater significance is the effective annexation of Cambodia's eastern provinces of Mondolkiri, Rattanakiri and Stung Treng (east of Mekong River). The annexation was accomplished through a massive resettlement of some 400,000 to 950,000 Vietnamese who have their own 100,000-man militia. The Vietnamese settlers exploited local gold mines, cleared age-old forests and forbade Cambodian authorities from entering into the area. The adminstration of the area is coordinated by the F7579 Corps Headquarters east of Lumphat, which three PAVN internal security regiments (the 5501st, 5502nd and 5503rd) in effective control of the area. Three additional PAVN subunits - battailion to regiment in size - are also garrisoned in these provinces. This entire Vietnamese deployement stayed behind during the "withdrawal" and is now backed by the forces of Front 579 deployed just across the Vietnamese border.
Most significant is the PAVN-dominated multi-national forces being organized near the Laos - Cambodia - Thailand border area. The core of this force is two PAVN Divisions. In Cambodia is the PAVN F315 Division in northern Preah Vihear Province, (The 7,000 PAVN troops left behind during the "withdrawal" were reinforced by 2,200 additional troops by the end of 1989.) and just north of Laotian border are 4,000 troops of the PAVN F2 Division, supported by an independent PAVN regiment slightly to the north. These Vietnamese units serve as a quality edge element for Cambodian and Laotian formations built and trained around them. These combined forces undergo extensive advance training and are supervised by Soviet advisers and experts. Reportedly, some of the locally based elite PAVN forces were sent in late-November, 1989 to reinforce the fighting on route 10 between Battambang and Pailin. These Vietnamese troops were dressed in RPKAF uniforms.
In the meantime, another multi-national elite "Independence Division" is being trained by the Vietnamese in southeastern Mondolkiri province in an area held by the 5501st and 5503rd PAVN regiments. These troops are dressed in unique "para" uniforms and use a special Khmer flag. Soviet advisers are also reported to be active in this training area. Once combat ready, the "Independence Division" is expected to diploy to the Laos - Cambodia - Thailand border area.
The USSR is deeply involved in these operations beyond simply providing advisers among the PAVN-dominated fighting units and the on-going massive resupply of weapons and ammunition. Most important has been the use of Soviet combat aircraft, mainly MIG-23s, for bombing in Laos, including the use of chemical weapons. While claiming to be withdrawing from their most visible bases such as Cam Ranh Bay, the Soviet continue to intensify their presence through back-door relations. Since late-1989, the USSR has been consolidating a web of military ties that will hold all "local forces" together, as well as keep them dependent on each other and on the USSR, even after the Soviet's overt presence is somewhat reduced.
The reorganization of the PAVN-RPKAF forces in mobile and armored motor-mechanized units as well as the growing use of assault helicopters in Cambodia and Laos reflect the extent of the Soviet military involvement in local fighting. The PAVN-RPKAF motor-mechanized units are a direct evolution of Soviet-Cuban developments in counter-insurgency tactics proven throughout the Third World.
In 1975, the Soviet combined-arms forward detachment (OGPZ) was developed by the Cuban General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez into a highly mobile subunit optimized for operation in lesser developed countries. Central Ochoa, subsequently employed these units effectively in Angola. These basic Cuban-Angolan subunits, including the subsequent integration of helicopters, were further refined in the offensives against UNITA in Angola.
In the early 1980s, the Soviet-Cuban counterinsurgency subunits underwent additional tactical refinements on the basis of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. Combat lessons were then integrated into the Cuban solution optimized for the Third World. In 1983, these refinded units were used by Gen. Ochoa as a basis for Nicaragua's Special Counter-Insurgency Battalions (BTL), trained and equipped to fight the Contras.
The accumulating combat experience and expertise in counterinsurgency operations in tropical and jungle-mountainous theaters were generalized in 1985 by Gen. Krivda of the Soviet General Staff into the concept of "Cluster Forces", the key to Soviet intervention forces. The modernization and optimization of counterinsurgency forces for lesser developed countries has since been based on the "Cluster Forces" principle. Such forces are currently used in Angola against Jonas Savimbi. The current PAVN-RPKAF tactics and the equipment recently delivered to both Lao and Cambodia fit closely with the requirements for such "Cluster Forces."
Thus, the dissemnation of the USSR's lates tactical solutions for Counterinsurgency operations reflects Moscow's long-term commitment to the success of Hanoi's regional grand design.
- by Yossef Bodansky
& Vaughn S. Forrest
April 25, 1990
OURS COMMENTS :
This report is object of an article in the New York City Tribune of May 8th, 1990.
To understand the revolution of the USA s strategy in South-East Asia, here is a chronology of the events in 1989-1990.
' 9 November 1989 : Falling of the Berlin Wall.
' 26 April 1990 : Report of the House of Representatives of the USA which we have produced some extracts above.
' 18 July 1990 : Returning of Moscow, James Baker, the Secretary of State of the USA, declines to support the Coalition of Democratic Kampuchea government any more.
' 16 au 27 septembre 1990 : Mission of Frangois Ponchaud in Cambodia. In the report he writes:
" When arriving in Cambodia, I did not try to meet the Vietnamese catholic communities of Cambodia, otherwise the small group of Moat Krasas. I however accompanied two American priests who went to Kompong Chhnang to celebrate the Vietnamese mass there. A small community of hundred persons gathered on the terrace of a market building, dressed in the colours of Vatican. The priests usually celebrate in American, with translation into vietnamese. I was invited in the meal which followed the mass: all the male participants of these feasts were members of the Association (politics) of the Vietnamese Residents of Cambodia, and no mystery they all links united together to the embassy (from Vietnam in Phnom Penh). "
About the presence of the Vietnamese in this city, Ponchaud writes: " At Kompong Chhnang, at the " bottom market ", it is necessary to have good glasses to describe Khmers ! ".
So the report of the House of the US Representatives describes exactly the real intentions of Hanoo in the region. But the geostrategic interests of the United States of America command the relation with Vietnam. Does the USA have the means of its policy ? It belongs to the Cambodian people in the city as well as in the countryside to demonstrate their will of fight against the Vietnamese dominion and oblige the USA to revise its policy in Cambodia.