The Defence Column

28th April 1996

A 'come back' for some troops

By Our Defence Correspondent

Having guided his fireband fighters to earn the reputation of being the world's most disciplined and ruthless guerrilla outfit, the elusive Velupillai Prabhakaran set his eyes on further success.

The strategically decisive move however, unmasked the fact that the best of guerrillas could be instant failures in conventional combat. Between 1991 and to-date, the LTTE has lost over 5000 men as a direct result of conventional combat.

The self-imposed strategy, it seems, has put paid to Prabhakaran's ambition of leading an equally strong conventional army.

Prabhakaran would have probably understood in the process, the struggle the Sri Lankan government has to put up with in maintaining a relatively large conventional army.

The places once boasted as nerve-centres of a defacto government are one by one falling into the hands of advancing Sri Lankan troops. A battle expected to be fought inch-by-inch at a snail's pace has turned out to be a sprint act. The forward advancing troops march an incredible 4-5 km's. a day - with insignificant resistance from the enemy.


In combat the Sri Lankan foot soldiers have the courage to withstand all hardships, and the will to march on. It's only when bureaucratic bungling creates too long a space between operations, that these young men lose their morale.

Some of the men taking part in Operation Riviresa are in a way, making a 'come-back' to areas like Vadamarachchi. What they were prevented from achieving then, they have now achieved with greater military acumen. However, no price-catch awaits them this time.

On that fateful operation, the GOC Task Force excitedly informed the then President that Prabhakaran had been trapped. He gave less than an hour for his capture. But soon came the orders that the operation be called off. What happened behind the doors of political echelons is now history. President Chandrika Kumaratunga would be the happiest if the history repeats a similar call from OOC Maj. Gen. Rohan Daluwatte.

The backbone of all military offensives is the element of surprise, a basic, yet a cardinal principle taught to new recruits.


By then, the LTTE had safely executed a counter - emergency plan, withdrawing in their thousands to the deeps of Kilinochchi, and other safe areas, leaving just about enough cadres in strategically located hideouts to stall the advancing troops.

Infiltrate and attack is the new order within the LTTE - a sure sign of returning to what they know the best - guerrilla warfare. A new administrative base and infrastructure is fast coming up in Kilinochchi to facilitate the revival of a new-look guerrilla outfit.

The only probable way to cripple the LTTE is to reduce its numbers censored,censored,cen- And of course, to win the minds of the people is the key to a political solution. It's clear the overall solution lies in a politico-military game plan.

Sri Lankan troops are now on the right direction. If they cannot, draw and destroy the enemy, cut-off their support. For without popular support from the people, no guerrilla organization can survive.

Meanwhile, the ignominious military censorship continues unabated. It may be that the world has a right to know what's happening behind the enemy lines, but not the Sri Lankans who live in the country.

True, a section of the media act in a most lackadaisical manner with so called defence correspondents writing scrap with no real military knowledge. The best the government can do in times like this is to look for veracity reports and 'control' leaks, if there are any.

But, indiscriminate censorship takes the credibility out of an otherwise historic achievement.

The scheme to impose a censorship was proposed and approved long before the important logistics were dealt with. censored,censored,censored This had been exclusively disclosed by this column.

A war undocumented by the independent media raises too many questions, than there are answers for.

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