The Military Column

6th October 1996

Concerted strategy to counter rebels

By Our Military Analyst

The recent developments in the peninsula and the mainland call for fresh thinking as a stepping stone to consolidate the military gains.

The areas that have been recovered by the Sri Lankan forces - at great cost of men and material - have to be consolidated. Otherwise, it will be a question of time before the areas recovered become a burden to the Sri Lankan forces.

Counter insurgency strategy advises against holding territory as it affects the offensive capacity of an army. The more terrain that is held by a force, the more troops are needed to secure that area.

Counter insurgent strategy, however, states that troops must hold vital ground. Jaffna is vital ground, the main support base of the LTTE.

What should be the post-Jaffna strategy? It should be to conduct limited operations into LTTE held territory, inflict casualties and withdraw. Basically, it is to deprive the LTTE of domination.

A guerrilla organisation like the LTTE derives substantial support from the people. A key to preventing that is to drive the LTTE away from the towns to the villages and from the villages to the jungles.

It will be difficult for a huge guerrilla organisation like the LTTE to feed its troops and procure medical and other supplies, if it is not in contact with the people.

If the government wants to achieve this objective, it must focus on two areas. First, developing a comprehensive military counter insurgency strategy and a non military counter insurgency strategy.

A comprehensive military counter insurgency strategy means, developing force structures to engage, interlock and destroy the LTTE.

The unconventional structures have become an asset.

What are the unconventional structures? The Special Forces, commandos and the Air Mobile Brigade. Government security policy should focus on developing these unconventional structures.

The LTTE can be fought not only militarily.

What is critical at this hour is for the government also to focus its resources on non military counter insurgency. It is not a new concept, but it has gathered considerable new meaning in recent times.

Counter insurgency is divided into two main branches. Military and non military counter insurgency. Military counter insurgency means the use of armed force against the insurgents.

Non military counter insurgency means, the use of political, economic, social and international means against the insurgents. Politically, economically, socially and internationally, the government can

to isolate the LTTE from the Tamil public.

This can be done only by government taking a series of steps to meet the aspirations of the Tamil people. Although Tamil politicos and insurgents have made unreasonable demands (two thirds of the coast line for a population that is only 12.5 %), the government must be smart enough to win over the Tamil people.

The Tamils of Sri Lanka have long suffered. On two occasions governments signed pacts to devolve power and abrogated them. This means, both the SWRD Bandaranaike and the Dudley Senanayake government acknowledged that the Tamils had genuine grievances. But none of these leaders had the strength to implement those pacts.

Today, what is required is strong leadership. A leader that will genuinely resolve the ethnic conflict. Such a move will not only cut the public support substantially for the LTTE but make the LTTE rethink seriously of its inviable demand for a separate country.

The people of Sri Lanka must understand that LTTE terrorism is a vicious by-product of the ethnic conflict. Terrorism will be a viable proposition as long as an ethnic conflict remain.

Instead of waiting for one whole term, it is important for the government to start implementing political and economic measures to give back a secure life for the Tamil people in the militarily recovered areas. The LTTE will resist this as they have recently. It does not want the grip it has on the Tamil public.

But, it is up to the military and security bureaucracy to integrate both the civilian and the military branches of government and develop a concerted and a common strategy to establish government writ in the recovered areas.

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