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SITUATION OF AIRFIELD
Mr. HABIB. I just want to describe that from firsthand experience if I could; it is one of the few things we experienced there. The airfield, as you can see, is a few miles from the center of town and the Khmer Rouge are able to stand off and lob these 107-millimeter rockets toward the airfield. They are not a very accurate weapon. In the first place they don't mount them on very stable platforms. The mounting is on a bamboo mat, so the government forces cannot zero in on them. They are an erratic weapon; they land sometimes in the city, sometimes on the outskirts of the airfield.
There were also some reports yesterday that they brought some 105millimeter howitzers within shelling range of the airfield which are more accurate, and even possibly some mortars. Now they hit close to one of the airlift planes yesterday and some shrapnel got into the plane. Nobody was hurt and the plane went on back to Saigon. There was a temporary interruption in the airlift, but we understand it has resumed.
POSSIBLE FUTURE INTERRUPTIONS
Mr. HAMILTON. You are not worried then, or are you worried, about the possibility of further interruptions in the airlift?
Mr. HABIB. Oh, that is always possible. Of course what the government forces attempt to do is to clean out the areas from which they are being shelled. Well, while we were there, the day we took off there were, if I remember right, 26 107's which came in-3 of them came in just within a few minutes of the time that the congressional party left the airfield, but they were on the other side of the field.
Mr. HAMILTON. Is it correct that the U.S. Embassy has ordered all nonessential personnel evacuated from the city?
Mr. HABIB. All nonessential personnel have left Phnom Penh some time ago, not as of today.
Mr. HAMILTON. I see.
Mr. HABIB. No wives, there are no
Mr. HAMILTON. Are there any further evacuations of American personnel to occur within the next few days?
Mr. HABIB. Not at the moment that are planned.
Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. du Pont.
Mr. HABIB. We will try to keep the number of Americans in Phnom Penh at the minimum level.
POSSIBLE FURTHER EVACUATIONS
Mr. DU PONT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, yesterday the planes were fired upon. We have a Reuter's report currently off the wire that some further evacuations are contemplated tomorrow of American personnel.
If Phnom Penh fell, I take it that the need for this aid would have passed.
Mr. HABIB. Yes, sir. There is no question of that.
OUTSIDE PHNOM PENH
Mr. DU PONT. There is no other viable portion of the Lon Nol government elsewhere in Cambodia that is functioning?
Mr. HABIB. There are government held enclaves in some of the other major centers and cities, but Phnom Penh is the heart of the matter; both sides know it and that is why that is the point of greatest import and it always has been.
I might say, I don't want to be misleading, in terms of evacuation of personnel we constantly seek to reduce the number of Americans in the country to the minimum level possible. That includes, I might nonofficial Americans. Official Americans are limited; there are 200 of them and they are not being evacuated. There are voluntary agency people. Believe it or not, there are visitors to Phnom Penh-I mean there are newspaper people, there are some businessmen. Generally speaking, we have been trying to get them to leave and some of them will continue to go out.
IS MILITARY EQUILIBRIUM POSSIBLE?
Mr. DU PONT. Mr. Secretary, you said in your initial statement and in response to my initial round of questioning that before settlement was possible that we had to establish military equilibrium. Now if the Mekong is closed, if the airport is being closed in Phnom Penh and conditions are deteriorating, would you say that $220 million mostly in military aid is going to reestablish that?
Mr. HABIB. Let's take the hopeful view instead of the pessimistic. It is very easy to take a pessimistic one because the situation is very hairy, there is no doubt about that. This is the peak period of the dry season, the river is at its absolutely lowest point, the area around Phnom Penh is completely dry so that the maneuverability of the Khmer Rouge is there, they can move around. When it starts to rain in May and June, first of all the area around Phnom Penh becomes a lake, it is covered with water. The river begins to rise. When the river rises, it widens.
The expectation is that one would hope that with the holding of the line around the perimeter around Phnom Penh through the dry season, then the Khmer Rouge would have to withdraw, they could not sustain their attacks on Phnom Penh in the wet season; they have not been able to and they will not be able to. Also, the river would be more easily reopened.
Now they have had some convoys up last month, the small ones, but they took a terrible beating because coming up the narrow channel there are a couple of points on that river where the river narrows to less than a few hundred yards, 500 yards maybe, and then in addition the Khmer Rouge for the first time mined the river and this took a toll. They brought the mines down and we know where they brought them down from-they came from Hanoi, from China via Hanoi. They mined the river and they effectively closed it.
NEED TO REOPEN RIVER
Mr. DU PONT. Would you say that reopening the river is necessary to maintain military equilibrium?
Mr. HABIB. Sustained, yes. No question about that. The presumption would be it would be fairly easy to do in the rainy season.
Mr. DU PONT. But there is nothing specific in your aid request that regards reopening the river?
Mr. HABIB. No. What is in the aid request is the wherewithal to do it. We cannot do it except with plain firepower.
Mr. DU PONT. You mean all the equipment necessary, the hardware, to reopen the river is there in Cambodia and all you have to do is provide the ammunition?
Mr. HABIB. Most of it is there. What has happened, they have lost a lot of naval craft, they have lost a number of aircraft. They also continue to supply one of their points down the river at Neak Luong, a key base on the river supplied by air and by rivercraft. Every once in a while they close the route from Phnom Penh to there. Of course we have the old problem of spare parts and additional equipment, and the money that is being requested would be usable and used in part for the reopening of the river.
IS $222 MILLION ENOUGH?
Mr. DU PONT. And you think $220 million is enough money between now and June 30 to re-establish military equilibrium?
Mr. HABIB. That is the military judgment and of course we concur in it. That is the judgment, yes, sir. Yes, sir, that is enough.
Mr. DU PONT. Mr. Secretary, from the situation you describe it does. not sound to me like $200 million is going to be enough.
Mr. HABIB. If you figure it out on a tonnage-per-day basis-
Mr. HABIB. The arithmetic is all right. As a matter of fact, the peak periods of conflict have run not much more than 700 tons per day. Peak periods.
WHAT TYPE OF SETTLEMENT IS POSSIBLE?
Mr. DU PONT. All right. Mr. Secretary, moving on to one more question, the purpose as you stated of furnishing the additional military aid is to attain the military equilibrium. The purpose of obtaining military equilibrium is so there can then be the kind of situation that will lead to a compromise settlement. From where we stand today, what kind of a compromise settlement is at all practical? What is going to induce the opposing side when they have cut off the river, when they have got the noose around the neck of Phnom Penh to negotiate on anything? If in your judgment they are liable to negotiate and come forward with a program-which we don't think they are, but assuming they are-what do you suppose it would be?
Mr. HABIB. Let's face it. They are not sitting there getting a free ride. If they do not succeed in the military campaign this yearand that must be the presumption that we operate on-if they do not succeed, then they have the problem. Do you wait until the next dry season and try it all over again?
They don't have an unlimited supply of manpower. We know, for example, from the congressional delegation that was there last week, we saw captured Khmer Rouge troops who were 14 years old. We
know that they have taken very heavy losses. Now that is the choice they will then have to maintain. You will recall a while ago I said at various periods they have had this basic choice. Do you try to get your way by military force or do you accept the negotiation in which all elements can take a part and you move your competition to a different arena? Now that obviously is available to them.
GETTING TO THE DRY SEASON
Mr. DU PONT. At the end of each dry season they can make this choice.
Mr. HABIB. They must make that determination.
Mr. DU PONT. And at the end they have made the choice to come back and fight again in the next dry season.
Mr. HABIB. At particular moments they seem to have made a choice that maybe they should try to get a negotiated settlement, and then they back away from it. Now the most recent experience we have had with them which is described in that outline is the December 1974, January-February 1975 period, There was some indication that they seriously considered or at least some elements of them seriously considered an arranged settlement and then they backed away from it again. The only reason that we can attribute to that backing away, the only way we can account for it is to take a look at what they are doing, what they say, because they usually say quite a bit on how they behave in the field as well as internationally. On the basis of our reading, they determined that they would try the military course for two reasons: No. 1, to see what they would do on the ground; and No. 2, they are quite well aware of the pipeline problem and they are quite well aware that if you turn off the faucet, the Government of Phnom Penh is finished.
WHAT COMPROMISE IS POSSIBLE?
Mr. DU PONT. Coming back to the original premise of the question, what do you suppose they would offer to negotiate? What is a viable package? Do you think they are liable to offer a coalition similar to Laos?
Mr. HABIB. I think if I could define it only in broad terms, because I don't want to appear to be determining a settlement, I would say in broad terms it is an arrangement whereby all the elements would participate in the government or at least in the decisions that go on from there.
Mr. DU PONT. Do you think from our point of view that that is a reasonable
Mr. HABIB. It is a reasonable point of view. It is not unreasonable from our point of view or from the point of view of the government in Phnom Penh. They have not said that they want a complete military victory. They have offered to negotiate without any preconceived ideas.
Mr. DU PONT. If that could be successfully concluded, we would not need the military aid.
Mr. HABIB. Certainly not. I think we probably wish to provide some economic assistance, however. I think that would be in the normal tra
dition to the American approach to those kinds of things, I would hope that we would continue to maintain that tradition.
Mr. DU PONT. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Fountain.
IMPACT IF GOVERNMENT FELL
Mr. FOUNTAIN. Mr. Secretary-maybe General Fish would also like to respond-what in your opinion would be the impact within Cambodia and possibly upon South Vietnam if the present Cambodian Government were to fall?
Mr. HABIB. Well, if the present government falls, I think the impact within Cambodia, as we said earlier, would be an unbelievable transformation of that society against the wishes of its general population and through the use of great force. I think that there certainly would be what people freely call the bloodbath, but in any event great cruelty. As far as the effect on Vietnam is concerned, I would characterize that as more psychological than material or physical. After all, the North Vietnamese already have and use any part of Cambodia that they wish as far as their campaign against South Vietnam is concerned. Their bases and their routes of communication on the border area of Cambodia are well known. If the fall came about by virtue of the lack of assistance, you would have one psychological effect. In other words, if we did not supply the resources and they fell by virtue of the lack of resources, that would be one possibility which would have quite a significant psychological effect, but if we provided the assistance and it fell, it would have a different psychological effect. In terms of the actual war in Vietnam, I don't think it will make much difference on the ground.
WHY DID MOVEMENT GROW SO FAST?
Mr. FOUNTAIN. Do you have an explanation as to why the Khmer Communist movement grew so rapidly during the 1970's and now has reached a point where for some months, as I understand it, no North Vietnamese troops have been involved directly in the Cambodian fighting? What is your explanation for that?
Mr. HABIB. Well, the explanation goes something about like this, I would say. In 1970 when the Lon Nol government took over and Sihanouk was deposed with the small forces that existed at that time in Cambodia, they had really no capacity to defend themselves, but what happened there of course was a great national outpouring of antiVietnamese feeling, I might say. You remember the pictures of the students marching down the streets and heading for the outlying areas and what have you. At that point the North Vietnamese forces-these are the regular North Vietnamese troops-took over certain areas of Cambodia completely. They attacked the outlying areas, they consolidated their hold over the northern end of Cambodia.
ROLE OF HANOI
From that point on, down came those Cambodians who had been trained in Hanoi for some time, and who provide the leadership group of what we call the Khmer Rouge. They began organizing within the territory and within the populace as it became available to them, first