Territorial control where possible; withdrawal where necessary.
2. That has been the tactics being followed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka where the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, with the help of the trained cadres of "Col" Karuna, the former LTTE Commander for Batticaloa, have mounted an offensive since September last year in an attempt to eject the LTTE from the Eastern Province. Karuna, who had deserted from the LTTE in March, 2004, following differences with its leader Prabhakaran, has since then been co-operating with the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their counter-insurgency operations in the Eastern Province.
3. For an insurgent organisation, territorial control is an advantage, but not necessary. Territory lost today, can be re-gained tomorrow. But, trained and motivated cadres lost today cannot be easily replaced tomorrow. That is the logic, which dictates the conventional tactics of all insurgent organisations. One saw it during the Algerian war of independence. One has been seeing it in Afghanistan since the US military intervention----since upgraded into a NATO intervention--- started on October 7, 2001.
Faced with the overwhelming superiority of the US forces, the Taliban decided to cede territorial control and withdraw its men from Kabul, Kandahar and other places instead of getting involved in a frontal confrontation with the better armed, but not better motivated American forces. Its priority was the preservation of the hard core of its trained fighters in order to be able to strike back at a place and time of its choice. That is what it has been doing since the beginning of last year---with a mix of suicide terrorism and set-piece conventional battles.
The Taliban knows that its
lack of an anti-aircraft capability would rule
out spectacular victories against the NATO and
Afghan Government forces and the capture and
occupation of territory. Its aim is, therefore,
to keep the NATO forces bleeding, disrupt the
economy and bring about battle fatigue in the
ranks of the NATO forces. It is calculating that
time and ground realities are on its side and
that ultimately the NATO forces would realise
that their counter-insurgency operations are
faced with the law of diminishing returns.
4. Since September last year, the LTTE, faced with the superiority of the Pakistan-assisted Sri Lankan Armed Forces, has ceded territorial control in its two bastions in the Eastern Province--- Sampur in the Trincomallee area and Vaharai in the Batticaloa area. It withdrew from Vaharai on January 19, 2007. Sampur and Vaharai were not captured by the joint forces of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the soldiers of Karuna after a face-to-face battle with the LTTE. After a prolonged exchange of artillery fire, the LTTE decided to withdraw from there in order to preserve its hard core of fighters, with experience of conventional warfare and with knowledge of the terrain in the Eastern Province. Its withdrawal enabled the Army and Karuna's soldiers to move in.
5. The withdrawal from Sampur and Vaharai has been a tactical set-back for the LTTE, but is not a strategic territorial victory of any major significance for the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The real gains for the Armed Forces are more psychological than territorial. These are an improvement in morale and self-confidence, which are important factors in any counter-insurgency operations. The LTTE continues to be as resilient as before, but is no longer as innovative as before. The strength of an insurgent organisation comes from the unpredictability of its moves on the ground, which keeps its adversary constantly off balance. In the past, the LTTE earned a legendary reputation as an insurgent organisation because of its unpredictable operational tactics. These have now been blunted---after the desertion of Karuna--- and this is coming in the way of the effectiveness of its actions.
6. The recent operations of the LTTE and its political actions have once again called into question the qualities of leadership of Prabakaran. His leadership has been consistently marked since 1990 by an erratic and irrational streak. One saw it in the LTTE's brutal assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Laxman Kadirgamar, the former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, in 2005, and in his humiliation of Karuna. The LTTE has been paying a heavy price for these erratic and irrational actions of Prabakaran. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi cost it the support of the Indian people, including the people of Tamil Nadu. The assassination of Kadirgamar marked the beginning of the end of international sympathy for the organisation. The humiliation of Karuna has deprived it of the services of its most talented conventional commander.
7. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Hezbollah in the Lebanon, the LTTE follows a mix of conventional and unconventional (terrorism) operational tactics. The desertion of Karuna has definitely dented its conventional capability. Prabakaran does not understand conventional tactics. He is essentially a terrorist leader, who can think only in terms of acts of suicide terrorism. The post-9/11 world is still prepared to tolerate organisations, which use conventional methods of fighting for achieving political objectives, but not those who rely on terrorism.
8. An organisation headed by a leader, who understands only terrorism, is unlikely to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the international community. Prabakaran is a liability for the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Tamils in the post-9/11 world. The time has come for the LTTE leaders and the Sri Lankan Tamils---including their overseas diaspora--- to do an introspection on their future course of action. If they have to preserve the gains made by thousands of their cadres since 1983, they have to find a new leadership.
9. Prabakaran is no longer the man of the future. He is passed. He has become a liability for the Tamil cause. The sooner the Sri Lankan Tamils realise it, the better for them.
Comment by tamilnation.org "Pirabaharan is not a small man. He is the leader, a charismatic leader of the LTTE. His life is very precious. And a very simple man. No bullshit about him. His wife lived with three saris - one she wore, one she washed and one was ready to wear. That is all. They never drank Coca-Cola. They offered us Coca-Cola, but never drank it themselves. They drank that goliwala soda... Pirabaharan spoke to me in English many a time. He appeared well-read.... they [the LTTE] were very cordial. They would take me anywhere. I had lot of time for them..." Major General Harkirat Singh, Indian Peace Keeping Force's first commander in Jaffna