The strategic mistakes of the LTTE
The LTTE appears to have been annihilated, at least temporarily.
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Brigadier Xerxes P. Adrianwala (retd)MumbaiMay 19, 2009UPDATED: May
Brigadier Xerxes P. Adrianwala (retired)The end has arrived. The LTTE appears to have been annihilated. At least temporarily. But could a phoenix arise from the ashes? This is a distinct possibility should the Sri Lankan Government not address the aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamil people, a fundamental cause of the struggle.
Having been the Brigade Major of an infantry brigade of the IPKF in Sri Lanka from 1988 to 1990 I had a ring side seat to some of the most severe fighting seen at that time. I operated in and around Mullaitivu, which, as events have shown, has always been the hotbed of the LTTE and their reaction to military operations here have always been very severe.
Due to my personal involvement then, I have since closely followed events in this civil war and what follows are my personal observations on what has brought about the destruction of one of the most motivated guerrilla forces in recent times.
Some where down the line the LTTE shifted from being a motivated guerrilla force fighting for the Tamil cause; to being a force fighting for Prabhakaran’s relevance.
All internal dissent was brutally wiped out till the face of the LTTE was just Prabhakaran. Notice the dynastic aspirations in the positioning of his 24 year old son Charles Anthony.
Such an organisation ceases to have credibility with the population it is fighting for because the military means to a political solution becomes the end in itself.
The LTTE (Prabhakaran) had no negotiation position; there were times during the war (particularly in the late 80’s) when the Sri Lankan Government offered major concessions towards the devolution of governance to the Tamils in the North and the East.
These were spurned by the LTTE whose position appeared to be ‘Eelam or bust’; bust it now appears to be. No government can accept such an inflexible position by separatists, thus the hard option of completely annihilating the separatists appears to have been adopted.
Body of LTTE chief PrabhakaranFlowing from the above, by continually fostering strife with no mediation position, the LTTE is bound to have alienated a war-weary Tamil population. The North and East in Sri Lanka have seen near non-stop conflict for about three decades.
Those who could fled; those that had to stay were subject to unimaginable hardship at the hands of the LTTE and the SLA. The LTTE had forced conscription, even of children, I had seen little boys and girls amongst the LTTE casualties even when I was there.
According to the dictum of Mao Tse-tung, guerrilla fighters must be able to live among a friendly population like fish in water. But the LTTE “had no audience. Without the people to listen to us, they had no sea to swim in-the fish had no oxygen.” The LTTE appears to have asphyxiated.
By continually using cease-fires to regroup and replenish and then breaching them; the LTTE lost political credibility. This, I expect is the reason why (and correctly), the SLA has not let up in the end despite intense world pressure. The LTTE were unable to regroup and reorganise.
Militarily perhaps the single biggest blunder the LTTE made was from shifting from very highly successful, fast paced, hit and run guerrilla actions to a positional defensive war.
No guerrilla army can absorb the high rates of attrition imposed by a positional war against a conventional army. The last stand is just that – the end.
In his continued quest for power and legitimacy, Prabhakaran killed all leadership within the movement, this was obvious in the latter days of the movement when very little of the inspired military leadership so visible in the early days, was available.
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