Sri Lanka: The Devil You Know

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August 18,2008:  So far this year, the LTTE has lost nearly 6,000 dead, while the army has lost nearly 600 soldiers.  In the last two years, since the ceasefire collapsed, the LTTE has had over 9,000 of its fighters killed, while the army has lost nearly 1,800 dead. In that time, LTTE controlled territory has shrunk from 15,000 square kilometers, to 4,000.  The LTTE personnel and territorial losses are accelerating because the LTTE can no longer maintain a "front line" of bunkers. The army is thus able to move deep into LTTE controlled territory, taking towns and major bases the LTTE depend on to recruit troops and extract supplies, especially food. Over the last few months, over 100,000, mostly Tamil, civilians up north have fled their homes and are being housed in refugee camps. The LTTE population losses mean fewer recruits, and less armed resistance to the army.

The air force and navy have crippled LTTE smuggling efforts, but not eliminated them. Tamil fishermen from India are still willing to risk arrest or injury to move weapons, medicine and diesel fuel to LTTE controlled beaches in northern Sri Lanka. The fee paid for these trips has been going up from about $1,000 to over $2,000. But the blockade has eliminated the use of cargo ships for these supply runs. So instead of getting hundreds of tons of supplies at time, the LTTE has to be satisfied with a few tons.

The government fears that, after the defeat of the organized LTTE in Sri Lanka, they will still be under attack from an LTTE expatriate terrorist organization. There are actually two LTTE's. There is the one in Sri Lanka, with its own army, government, population and territory. This one is under heavy attack, and about to be destroyed. Then there is the LTTE overseas. Originally set up to raise money among expatriate Tamils (from Sri Lanka and southern India), this organization  uses many illegal methods to buy and smuggle military goods into Sri Lanka. Because of some of the scams used to raise money, the offshore LTTE turned into a criminal gang. Failed rebellions often leave large, purely criminal, organizations in their wreckage. But the LTTE-In-Exile is threatening to turn into a terrorist organization as well. The LTTE has suffered many losses overseas since September 11, 2001, and getting tagged as an international terrorist organization angered many overseas Tamils. So while the LTTE in Sri Lanka may be defeated, there may still be enough disgruntled Tamils around the world to sustain a terror campaign against Sri Lanka, and those perceived as Sri Lanka's allies.

August 17, 2008: In the north, the army captured a major LTTE training base in Andankulam. The complex contained about a hundred bunkers, as well as dozens of above ground structures. The next objective is the administrative capital of the LTTE, the town of Kilinochchi.

August 11, 2008: Fighting over the weekend caused several hundred LTTE casualties, and left the army in a position to go after the LTTE "capital" in the north; Kilinochchi.

 

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