|Rebels cornered at northern Mulaitivu|
|The uninvited Guest|
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Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, earlier this week, informed the LTTE, through the Red Cross, to shift the last Tiger checkpoint at Omantai on (A9) Jaffna-Kandy Road, to Oddusudan, a good 40 km into the interior, effectively restricting the LTTE to northern portions of the Mulaitivu district for the first time.
With the security forces dominating the terrain west of A-9 between Mankulam and Omantai, Tigers are in no position to hold this major road artery and the Army is poised to take it at any time.
According to military sources, currently, there is only a five-man LTTE team manning the Omanthai checkpoint with members of the ICRC.
Reluctant TigersCritics may cast doubts on the Army’s assertion that, it had killed more than 8,000 LTTE cadres, since the Eelam War 1V broke out in the latter half of 2006, after repeated LTTE provocations, but, what is clear is that, the Tiger leadership has been liberally using young conscripts as cannon fodder.
As reports from the north indicate, the first to be placed on the frontlines are those who objected to conscription and since early September, it has conscripted about 9,000, by demanding as many as two children from families with three or more children. Earlier, each family had to hand in one child to the organisation, if there was more than one child.
Fortunately, three young Tiger women cadres, early this week, surrendered to troops of Task Force 1, rather than foolishly commit suicide, as one of their unit leaders had done, when surrounded by advancing troops of 12th Gemunu Regiment, in the Palavi area.
Any port in a stormWar is a terrible thing for all concerned and especially, for the infantryman. Their sacrifices, though often glossed over, have been immense. Last month alone, the Army suffered more than 1,000 casualties. For the Tigers, even though they are believed to have preserved their hardcore cadres, the situation is far worse. This is the definite reason for it suing for peace, and it is increasingly activating sympathisers in Tamil Nadu, to force the central government in India to intervene here, to save it. As a further sign of this mounting pressure, the Tamil Nadu state assembly, though usually deeply divided on political lines, came together early this week and passed a resolution, unanimously calling for a halt to fighting in Sri Lanka.
The Tigers, who challenged the Army to come to Wanni, have now become cry babes. For the Army too, retaking the rest of Wanni is not going to be a cake walk either, as gauged from recent casualties. And the fighting can get even bloodier for the forces, as they are the ones who are on the offensive, amidst increasing restrictions on the use of air power and artillery, as they get closer to civilian areas. Though the Tiger hardcore cadres are still intact, may be about 3,000 in a defensive mode, they are more like a force of 9,000, especially, in their own familiar terrain
We cannot adopt a frog in the well mentality and must be prepared for any eventuality, especially, from across the Palk Strait, with the Indian general election due next May. Indications are that, it might be held as early as next February. As former head of IPKF intelligence here Col. R. Hariharan has commented early this week, on the peace moves emanating from the Tigers: “If this calculus is in the thoughts of Sri Lanka, we might see a large scale escalation of offensive in most of the war fronts in the coming two weeks.”
So, what we can expect is for the Army to take much of the areas west of the A-9 highway as soon as possible, to restore the road link with the Jaffna peninsula after 20 years. And the Tigers, knowing the game plan they have set in motion in India, are putting up stiff resistance to halt the Army from making any further gains, which certainly points to the spike in casualties.