Sri Lanka: The Biggest Little War You Never Heard Of

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March 5,2008: The government is planning for the post-LTTE world, when what's left of the LTTE is expected to continue a terrorism campaign. Another 5,000 police are being recruited, and counter-terrorism forces will be extended to the grassroots level, to involve civilians as much as possible. The LTTE still has members in the east, who went underground when the rebels lost control of the area last year. These fellows are setting off bombs and murdering people. The LTTE continues to sneak terrorists into non-Tamil parts of the country (most of the interior and south).

Meanwhile, in the north, combat is getting more intense. The military believes it has killed over 1,600 LTTE fighters so far this year, and the overall casualty rate is over a hundred dead and wounded a day. Troops are pushing beyond the LTTE front lines. In one case, an artillery ammo storage bunker was captured. The LTTE resistance is determined, but not skilled. The LTTE defenders take a beating, then the survivors slip away to avoid capture. Many of the LTTE dead appear to be teenagers. Right now, the fighting in Sri Lanka is the most intense in Asia, even deadlier than what's going on in Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand or Afghanistan. It's the big war, that's largely invisible to the outside world.

The LTTE is apparently aware of how desperate their situation is, and is trying to arrange a ceasefire, even offering to allow a plebiscite in their territory to decide between autonomy and separatism. But the Sri Lankan government has vowed to crush the LTTE, largely because the war has gone on for two decades and killed over 70,000. No second act for the LTTE, as far as the Sinhalese, and even many Tamils, are concerned. But there are still nearly 10,000 LTTE fighters under arms, and this includes hundreds of elite commandos that have not been seen for a while. Yes, it has gotten so bad the LTTE leaders cannot even arrange suitable funerals for subordinates any more, but the LTTE is still there, and still shooting. The army is better trained and led than it was six years ago, when small numbers of LTTE fighters would push them back. There is still the risk of embarrassing reversals, so the advance into LTTE territory continues at a cautious pace.

 

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