Sri Lanka: End Game


January 7, 2009:  The government lost control of most of northern Sri Lanka in the late 1990s, during a series of embarrassing defeats. Since then, the army has become better trained, equipped and led, while the LTTE has suffered morale and leadership problems. A civil war within the LTTE three years ago cost the organization over a third of its combat forces. The Tamil population became disheartened by over a decade of sacrifice, and not much to show for it.

In the north, the army has about 50,000 troops closing in on the remaining LTTE held territory. It is believed that the LTTE have 10,000 armed followers in the area. But many of these are recent conscripts, who lack training, experience or motivation. The most dangerous force is the few thousand veteran LTTE fighters.  The government believes it has killed 4,073 LTTE fighters in the last 14 months. Intercepts of LTTE communications indicate that the LTTE puts their losses during that period at 3,447 dead and 2,197 seriously wounded.

The campaign should be over in a month or so, with the remaining LTTE force being killed, captured or scattered. The navy and air force are ready for a massive effort to prevent key LTTE personnel from leaving the island. The government wants to capture and prosecute the LTTE leadership. Few nations will allow LTTE leaders to openly take refuge, but there are many LTTE supporters overseas that would be willing to try and hide the LTTE leadership. The government expects a period of guerilla war in the north, and the continued threat of LTTE terror bombings. The war may be over soon, but the violence will go on for a few more years.

While waging a major war, the economy has still managed to grow six percent in 2008. The army and police have kept the LTTE violence in the north, which has not been easy. The LTTE openly proclaimed their goal of launching terror attacks in the south. But the police were able to find and arrest the LTTE terrorist cells before bombs could go off.

January 6, 2009: Troops are massed on both ends of the Elephant Pass, the main route into the northern Jaffna  peninsula, and a key transportation route. Ten years ago, the LTTE won a major victory at the Elephant Pass.

January 3, 2009: Troops entered Kilinochchi  (the "political" headquarters") and seized the LTTE headquarters compound.  Most LTTE fighters were gone, apparently to a new headquarters to the northeast, to the town of Mullaittivu (the "military" headquarters") on the east coast of the island, the only coast the LTTE now has access to. The LTTE had controlled Kilinochchi for a decade.

January 2, 2009: An LTTE suicide bomber struck at an air force base outside the capital, killing two and wounding 31.

January 1, 2009:  Police in southern India arrested a man who had been running an LTTE smuggling operation. Three satellite phones were seized as well. These phones were apparently headed for the LTTE in northern Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, troops repulsed another LTTE attack to breach the army defense lines around Kilinochchi.

December 31, 2008: Troops drove the LTTE out of Paranthan, a town 385 kilometers north of the capital (and between the LTTE capital of Kilinochchi and the LTTE held Elephant Pass, the entrance to the Jaffna peninsula.) Troops captured an important crossroads village south of Kilinochchi as well.


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