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SRI LANKA: An Analysis of the Military Situation –02-July-2008

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SRI LANKA: An Analysis of the Military Situation –02-July-2008
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Years back when I was a young officer in the Regiment of Artillery, our regiment moved from New Mal in Eastern India to Deolali in Western India. On the day of our departure we trooped into the railway station with our trucks, baggage, stores and all the men at 6 am in the morning. Our special train was scheduled to leave at 11 am. We sweated in the heat in the roofless station but the train earmarked for us was nowhere in sight. The hapless station master could do nothing. Around one pm we were informed the train would be placed by 5 pm.  It came at 7 pm and we were kept busy loading it for next three hours because we were told the train would leave by 10 pm. But it did not even when the clock struck twelve.  I was the train duty officer and ran around trying to find the railway staff that had vanished. Around 12 am I collared the station master in his house. “The train is ready for a long time to leave, sir,” he said. I was furious; “then why doesn’t it leave,” I thundered brimming with military efficiency. He walked over to the station and told me, “sir, train is there, but power has not come.” My uni-polar military brain could not understand the term ‘power’. “What ‘power’ do you mean?” I asked. He said “sir, you call it the engine, we call it power - the one that pulls the coaches, that has not arrived.” By the time ‘power’ came, a new dawn was on the horizon and we reached our destination two days late.

That small real life experience comes to mind when we look at the current military situation in the Eelam War-4.  The military developments are in some order, just as political developments are in disorder.

Sri Lanka security forces made the strategic link up in the north between 57 and 58 divisions, capturing a large chunk of  the territory between A32 Mannar-Pooneryn highway  fromt and the A9 Kandy-Jaffna highway. It is no mean achievement for any army, considering that this was achieved in three weeks time, after a few bloody battles and loss of quite a few human lives. For the Sri Lankan army it is a creditable achievement showing how a learning army can overcome its own past shortcomings and reach new levels of operational efficiency.  The strategic link up, if held, could block the free transportation of LTTE supplies smuggled from India arriving at the Mannar coast either eastwards or northwards movement along the A32 highway. It also provides launching pads for Sri Lankan offensives to wrest Vidathaltivu and later Pooneryn.

And the army should be able to hold on to the gains, considering that two divisions plus the newly raised 61 Division are there to defend. It is doubtful whether the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) still retain the capability to launch a sizeable conventional strike to dislodge the army form their gains. The arithmetic of force levels is against the LTTE and probably it would rather reinforce its Wanni defences and safeguard the line Pooneryn-Elephant Pass-Kilinochchi- Puthukudiyiruppu than deplete its forces in launching a counterattack.

Sri Lanka Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka vocalised the recent achievements of the security forces while speaking to foreign correspondents recently. “The LTTE has lost the capability of fighting as a conventional army. Although they are (still) fighting us, they (are) not in the same manner as was in the past. That type of resistance is not there anymore.”


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