Sri Lanka: Grinding Them Down


February 8, 2008: In the last two weeks, fighting has intensified. On the front line in northern Sri Lanka, the LTTE is on the defensive, having lost nearly a thousand fighters so far this year. Total combat and terrorism deaths in the last year are nearly 5,000.

The naval blockade has deprived the LTTE of artillery and mortar ammo, while the army has plenty. Then there are the increasingly effective air force bombing missions. The LTTE has lost dozens of bunkers in the north, and had to retreat from its long held front lines. The LTTE is also suffering a manpower shortage, and more teenagers are being recruited to man the front lines. These kids are no match for the artillery and experienced soldiers, and often flee or quickly surrender.

In response, the LTTE has turned more to terror attacks. While most of the LTTE terror attacks are in the north, the Tamil terrorists managed to set off a bomb in the capital, killing eleven people at a railroad station on February 3rd. This was also seen as an LTTE attempt to scare off foreign tourists and investments. This has sent local stock markets down seven percent last year, and four percent so far this year. The economy is growing despite the fighting, and the LTTE wants to stop that. Two more terror attacks on February 4th, Sri Lankan independence day, killed another 14 people. At this point, the terror attacks are counterproductive. The Sinhalese majority just gets angrier, rather than scared. The terror operations are not sufficient to change the course of the war.

The army is closing in on towns in the north that have been held by the LTTE for years. In desperation, the Tamils continue to try and smuggle ammo in from India, and there are still several clashes at sea every week. But the navy has the edge, and sinks more boats than it loses. On the ground, it's been noted that many hard core LTTE leaders have died in the last year, and been replaced by less able, and often less aggressive, men. But the army still fears that the LTTE is harboring a reserve of several hundred highly trained, and well led, fighters. These could be used to do a lot of damage in a local attack. Thus the army has been cautious in the way it advances into enemy territory. The government prefers to win slowly, rather than rush ahead and risk some nasty reverses.


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