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The Crumbling of Muhamale - Page 2

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The Crumbling of Muhamale
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Facilitated by extensive rehearsals this complex combined arms manoeuvre focused their efforts simultaneously on the objective area exploiting what little cover the terrain provided thus presenting the Tamil Tigers with few opportunities to engage isolated forward operating units on their own favourable terms. The paraded corpses of fallen soldiers in previous engagements within this sector were mainly of such forward operating men.

The extensive rehearsals conducted prior to the battle ensured that even junior soldiers were trained well enough to operate independently in small units, using their own tactical judgement to solve problems and keep the assault moving forward, for any bogged down strike team on unfavourable ground can leave the team and the mission highly vulnerable. The units engaged in battle were so professional that unit leaders on the scene were making their own decisions, seizing fleeting opportunities and exploiting idiosyncratic local conditions. Extensive battlefield rehearsals and intelligence gathering also meant the commanders were well aware of Clausewitz's culminating point. They very well knew that by halting their immediate operation with just one FDL under their occupation and fortifying the defences according to their requirements was suffice at least for the time being.

The reason why the culminating point was set just after this FDL and the main thrust halted with limited aims was this operation was NOT designed for a breakthrough. Rather this operation was intended to exploit the temporary advantage garnered by the series of coordinated crumbling operations carried over the last few months. By occupying this FDL the SLA have seized important terrain and major sections of the Tamil Tigers' prepared positions. This positional advantage can then be used in subsequent offensive operations; i.e more crumbling type operations to engage as many Tiger cadres as possible within this sector before engaging them in the dense jungles of MULATIVU where they might withdraw. In military parlance this is termed as Fixing attacks where the Tamil Tigers can be pinned into place at little cost to the attackers.

The main advantage of such operations holding limited aims is that it avoids over extension of troops and in the same time reduces its vulnerability to counterattack. In military doctrine any defender that holds a defensive depth as deep as 14kms (as the National Front) is expected to concede initial ground in the event of a forward thrust. Depth is a tradeoff for the defenders and 14kms of depth gives time for an astute defender in the likes of the Tamil Tigers to counterconcentrate troops in sufficient strength to grind the 53/55 military machine. Such depth also allows the Tamil Tiger battleplanners to rectify any miscalculations of their defence. To regain the lost ground which was lost initially, a counterattack is relied upon. Hence breakthrough attempts create such counterattack opportunities for the Tamil Tigers as seen previously. And with each counterattack, the attrition the Tamil Tigers will suffer to its experienced reserves is not easily replaceable since new junior recruits lack the experience, the morale, the skill and coordination to perform complex manoeuvres to push back the superior Sri Lankan forces.

With the commanders of 53/55 finding lesser resistance, barring the weather, it will not be long before the National Front will flare up again with assault teams adding pressure on the remaining FDLs of the Tamil Tigers. With 58 troops having breached the earth bund defending the PARANTHAN town limits, it will be not long before the Tamil Tiger reserves based around the EPS region be under severe pressure facing a dilemma similar to the troops of 54 Division faced in 2000. If the Tamil Tigers are to withdraw and lose EPS and PARANTHAN it is sure to abandon what's left of KILINOCHCHI as well because the KILINOCHCHI area will become a massive salient. A salient is a battlefield feature which projects into enemy territory and any Tamil Tigers within this area will become highly vulnerable.

There lies yet another strategically significant reason for the SLA commanders' need to push down from the National Front. If there was one counterstrike that could tip the balance in favour of the Tamil Tigers that would be the one to regain the Jaffna peninsula. Any daring counterstrike with the remaining cadre strength is sure to deplete the Tamil Tigers further of its cadre base and its assets, for with the current strength it will have to vacate its entire cadre base of the Wanni and mobilise it to accomplish the strike on Jaffna. Thus such a large scale ambitious counterstrike simply put; is a risky gamble for the Tamil Tigers. By doing so it is sure to lose the entire Wanni. This means it can choose only either Jaffna or the Wanni.

If it opts for Wanni as it is doing at present and launches a counterstrike with all its might to regain a region of the Wanni for example POONERYN; it may succeed with its entire cadre base being mobilised for this objective. However, whether it will be the Gordian knot for its woes is the million dollar question. POONERYN holds no population base hence the Tamil Tigers will not be in a position to recruit its lost cadre. It may manage to replenish a small fraction of its supplies across the Palk Straits however, it will fail to meet the requirement since annihilating 58 Division alone to reach POONERYN will not mean the Tamil Tigers have seen the back of the Sri Lankan armed forces. By having mobilised its entire cadre to regain POONERYN means it would have lost the entire Wanni barring POONERYN and will be staring down the barrel of the rest of the offensive divisions.

Therefore if the Tamil Tigers are to launch a successful counterattack, it has to be a region that holds a sizeable population base for new recruits and an area that is close enough to smuggle in vital supplies. Out of the entire Northern theatre of operations ONLY the Jaffna peninsula brings forth such rich dividends. Jaffna peninsula holds a population base of over 650000 compared to the sparsely populated Wanni which estimates are thought to hold less than 300000. And it is in close proximity to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu where many Tamil Tiger safe houses are known to exist. With the entire peninsula under its control it will have plenty of coastal belts to continue its smuggling operation with impunity.

By mobilising the 53/55 Divisions and making them go on the offense and force its way South completely negates the Tamil Tigers' ability to launch ANY counterstrike to get a foothold on the Jaffna peninsula - the cultural centre of the Eelam ethos. This is why earlier I briefed my avid readers that any counterstrike by the Tamil Tigers after 53/55 have been mobilised may come too little too late.

By : Long Ranger


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