Sri Lanka: Army Reaches The Coast Again


July 18, 2008: The tempo of combat continues to increase, but the LTTE have developed a recruiting and training system that enables them to continue resisting the army. LTTE recruiters keep track of births and go looking for boys and girls when they reach 17. Potentially, that's over 10,000 recruits a year. But with those in hiding, or girls who are married, they get about half that. This includes those who desert from training, although most go for the indoctrination and become loyal LTTE fighters. But these are young and inexperienced kids with guns. The LTTE cadres (veteran fighters) act as sergeants and officers to supervise the kids, who don't last long in combat. But this forces the army to fight bunker by bunker, and town by town. That reduces the amount of LTTE territory, and population, and the available recruits.

The air force has increased reconnaissance activities, partly because of new Israeli UAVs that arrived recently. The air force is looking for the LTTE construction equipment (bulldozers and such), that are used to build new bunkers, behind ones recently lost to the army. The construction equipment can build new bunkers quickly enough to halt the army advance. Building new bunkers by hand is not nearly as quick. In many areas, the LTTE already has a second, or third, line of bunkers built. But not everywhere, and that has made construction equipment a prime air force target. And it's hard to hide the construction site, and the newly turned earth.

The army has been using more commando style raids to take bunkers. Since the LTTE fighters holding the bunkers are often newly recruited teenagers, it is easier to surprise and overwhelm the defenders with a precisely executed pre-dawn assault. This puts fewer soldiers at risk, but requires experienced troops trained to a high standard.

The LTTE asked for a ceasefire, but the government refused. A ceasefire at this point would only serve to enable the LTTE to rebuild itself, in preparation for another round of fighting.

July 17, 2008: The army captured the northwestern town of Vidattaltivu, a LTTE logistics and naval base. The LTTE had controlled this town since 1990. This comes two weeks after another LTTE held town, Mannar, was captured. The LTTE controlled territory is being broken up by the capture of these coastal towns, and that is the beginning of the end of LTTE control in the north. For while the LTTE can scrounge up more fighters to man bunkers, they can't create more land.


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