Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jaffna and Fredericksburg: Part Two

The repeated failed offensives on the Jaffna Front are perhaps the clearest proof that the Sri Lankan military requires a new path to victory. Sri Lanka requires a multi-phased change in strategy if the civil war plaguing the nation is to be won. Certainly this new strategy should be partially based on standard strategic issues such as the concentration of enemy weapons, troops, and fortifications. This will ensure that the Sri Lankan Army will never again squander the lives of its soldiers on the impossible objective of breaking though the Jaffna Front. However, there also needs to be a fundamental shift in the mindset of Sri Lankan officers, both in regards to their objectives, and their tactics. Preventing disasters ensures that Sri Lanka will not lose the war, but only a major overhaul of the military’s strategic objectives and tactical philosophy will allow the war to be won.

For far too long, capturing Kilinochchi has been a primary goal of the military. Instead, the LTTE's armies, wherever they are at a disadvantage, should themselves be objectives of the Army. (Click to Enlarge)

For one, many military leaders seem to have a damaging mindset regarding Elephant Pass and Kilinochchi. This mindset has resulted the repeated assaults on the Jaffna Front, each failing just like the one before it. Just as McClellan, Burnside, and a slew of other generals who have not yet been mentioned here led their armies to ruin because of their "On to Richmond!" mentality, Sri Lankan generals seem to have crippled their strategies because of a desire to march on Kilinochchi and recapture Elephant Pass, a symbol of the military's strength up until its capture. These positions should be secondary objectives after a much more important target: the LTTE Army. They should remember that the Confederacy didn't fall because Richmond was taken. Richmond was one of the last cities in The South to fall and had Richmond fallen in 1862, the war would have certainly continued. What finally defeated the Confederacy was a fundamental shift in strategy. The goal to capture Richmond was replaced with an effort to seek out and engage the Confederate Army. When the LTTE’s military has been neutralized, Kilinochchi will take care of itself.

Let the Tigers hold Elephant Pass, and all the rest of the territory between that base and the current trench line. In fact, the longer they hold that position, the longer those soldiers, weapons, and supplies will be denied to the rest of the LTTE. If they remain immobilized because they fear a breakout from Jaffna, they are as good as dead to the soldiers in the South, no even better than dead, since they will continue to consume limited supplies while defending against an attack that should only come if they leave.

The soldiers on the Jaffna Front are closer to Kilinochchi than any other body of troops, but the heavy rebel defenses makes offensive operations here unwise.


It should be fairly obvious that Jaffna is not a preferable route into the Wanni. Its only advantage is its close proximity to the LTTE's capital. This is far outweighed by the defensive strength of the Jaffna Front. The LTTE has thousands of soldiers there, supported by a large number of mines, mortars, artillery and multiple layers of prepared defenses, even tank immobilizing trenches, concentrated in a tiny area. They have had years to find the exact ranges of any position within range of their guns, allowing them to be able to quickly fire, with nearly instant accuracy.

There is more LTTE firepower concentrated in this small area than on anywhere else on the island, and they get priority on supplies. On the Southern Fronts, while there are more soldiers, mines, and artillery, it is spread along hundreds of miles of front, and is much thinner than in the North. In Mannar, constant minor shifts in the lines have resulted in inferior defensive structures and a more porous border. Regular skirmishing has also caused many fortifications to be lost, resulting in a lack of proper cover and worse living conditions for the LTTE troops. No course of approach will be easy, but compared to the Jaffna Front, it should be clear that the South is the LTTE's soft underbelly.

Given this change in objectives, and a clear understanding that the Wanni should be taken from South to North, the strategic reforms required for victory will have been established. What will remain is the tactical issue of how the advance should be handled. A fear of heavy short-term casualties has resulted in semi-daily minor skirmishing along the Southern Fronts that has gone on since the capture of the Eastern Territories. Winning wars requires decisive action on the part of the aggressor. Since the fall of the East, the military blunders of this war have been made almost exclusively by the Sri Lankan Army, both in its unwillingness to press advantages in the South, and the multiple, inexplicable suicidal assaults on the LTTE’s defenses on the Jaffna Front.

General Ulysses Grant was the Federal commander who ultimately defeated the Confederacy. Accepting some of the heaviest fighting of the war, he used his superior numbers and firepower to its full potential and ended the war. Despite being labeled as a butcher at the time, he ended the war by his actions, while the generals who came before him had lost more men and had nothing to show for it.

If the SLA really wants to end this war, they must utilize those factors that make them superior to the LTTE. Their superior numbers allows the SLA to be many places at once, in force. Instead of limiting the army to small skirmishes that gives the LTTE as close to even odds as they'll ever get, Sri Lankan forces should make large scale assaults, accepting the fact that casualties will be higher up front, but also knowing that fewer will die in the long run, as has been discussed in previous articles. Thousands of soldiers should be committed to offensives to break through LTTE lines in the South and force them to fight without prepared defenses further into the Wanni. There should be multiple efforts, carried out along different points along the Southern Fronts, at the same time to prevent the LTTE from shifting troops or weapons from one front to another.

The Air Force should also play a major role, but only after they too have undergone a major change in their mission. The Air Force has been squandered by Sri Lanka and has been a bittersweet break for the LTTE. The Air Force should end their hunt for the Air Tiger squadron and abort their bombing of the LTTE airstrip. The rebel planes have no real strategic military value and the war would be better served by SLAF air strikes on enemy FDLs. The massive air defense system that has been developed should also be dismantled. Their resources and personnel are needed elsewhere and even if they are successful and destroy the rebel planes, they will have had as little impact on the outcome of the war as the toy planes they eliminated.

Decapitation strikes such as the assassination of Thamilchelvan are worthwhile and important services that the SLAF provides, unlike the pointless hunt for the TAF. However, even this valuable job should be secondary to the support of the Army in its campaign to eradicate the LTTE's armies.

The Air Force should also scale back their role as assassins of LTTE political figures. Let the rebel leaders have a couple days off and spend those limited sorties a week on air strikes against fixed LTTE positions along lines of advance. The successful surgical strikes made by the Air Force are what make the current role of the SLAF bitter for the LTTE, but this should still be modified to fit the new objectives of the military as a whole. Transferring the Air Force’s focus to the LTTE Army instead of their political leadership is another aspect of correcting the military’s primary objectives. This does not mean that political targets should no longer be threatened by any air strike, only that they should not take priority except under exceptional circumstances.

The soldiers who charge the LTTE positions on the Jaffna Front are some of the bravest in this war and it is shameful that they have been repeatedly ordered to mount hopeless assaults on impervious enemy fortifications. The massive casualties that have resulted from these many charges should not have occurred, just as the Federals at Fredericksburg should not have been lead to slaughter by the incompetent General Burnside. So too should these brave soldiers not be slowly picked off in years of skirmishing for minimal gain. The McClellan style conservative strategy has likewise caused many needless deaths and threatens the likelihood of victory. Decisive leadership and an intelligent, aggressive, and well-prioritized strategy offers the promise of total victory, and fewer overall casualties. The Sri Lankan leadership should keep this simple wisdom of General Grant in mind when deciding how to conduct the war:

"The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."

27 comments:

su said...

Great descriptive articles.
Really appreciate the time you are spending to write all these...

Keep it up !
:)

Sun Tzu's disciple said...

ET,

While all wars have similarities I think you need to avoid comparing the US civil war and Lankan civil war all too often--times/weapons have changed, as also the players.
e.g.

1.The Federal/Confed supporters could afford to take more casualties than today as war was the rule and not exception in those days.More imp, there was no TV/Radio/net in those days, so people(and even the fighters) really didnt have an idea of the campaign except through direct sources.The parties to this war cant afford to lose public support.

2.Both sides in US were fighting with equally talented/motivated warriors--both commanders & men(with some notable exceptions).iN sRI lanka, the LTTE have consistently demonstrated better leadership as well as morale down the line, in addition to sound tactics and strategy.Tactics & strategy may be changed by SLDF, but leadership & morale may not? In absense of good leadership and morale, the change in strategy you propose may actually harm than do good(eg Jayasikurui).

3.IC--scorch earth policies followed by the Federals(& Confeds)to deny rear support has been used only to a certain extent by SLA for obvious reasons.

So the SLDF is ,to honestly state, overall simply not in a good position to defeat LTTE except by default( i.e. LTTEs supply dries up due to International action; this is already happening to an extent).
**
As a military man, what would be your counterstrategy under current circumstances, if et Bailey was the military commander of LTTE?

su said...

Bailey,
The Living expences are at highest in the south these days,But all of the south is united in the sense that this time the war is handled by war experts & done with much more care gaining landmark Victories & minimum involvement with politics.
1.The need to have much lesser Casualties to gain Public support(Just as you have clearly mentioned in your blog) have made the ongoing war slow & dragging out for some time.
2.the LTTE leadership can not be can not be described as BETTER nor can its MORALE. The Bombings in the Buses with civilians in the south & small groups killing farmers in the deep south villages bordering sanctuaries, had caused to spread out the Sri Lankan Defence Forces Strength.The recent wins in the East along with the gains in the mannar front shows that LTTE employs it inexperienced carders in the front with lots of AP mines to have maximum damage & to buy time.Many Military leaders have also been killed withDPU activities & as a gurilla force,this is what hurts most than anything.
3.The thrust from the welioya Front is also of great importance just as the Muhamalai, & with gainings which could get The Long standing LTTE Command places in Mulaitivu under Artillery range could make a twist in the campaign while this thrust will also receive much more Resistant by the LTTE as they also understands its importance. It is there in the jungles of Mulaitivu that SL forces can make the Experienced carders of the LTTE in to the act or the open terrain in the Muhamalai & the Mannar will not give that much advantage of hurting the hearts of the LTTE with forces clossing down on to their strongholds or making them stand & fight. but the pressure from Muhamalai & mannar should continue to make the carders in those immobile & stay there while the attacks from Welioya could lead some of them to be called so gains can be gat at all fronts.The newly Formed 61 Divisions role in the war is still to be decided.
Where would you think it can be used to get most use from it?
Just as a backup force or with a New Front?
Hope to hear your Ideas....
:)

E.T. Bailey said...

Sun Tzu’s Disciple,

Sorry for the delay. Memorial Day weekends are best spent away from the computer. Before I take my post as general for Su, I have to first point out a few historical facts of the American Civil War and the people who fought it.

For one, at least compared to post World War Two Sri Lankans, Civil War era Americans would consider war the exception, while Sri Lankans would consider it the rule. For around three decades, there has been a constant state of war in Sri Lanka. Minus minor Indian conflicts, war was a rare thing for America. The Mexican War had been over for over 12 years when the Civil War began, and the wars with England had ended 46 and 78 years ago. Most fighters had never seen war before and a vast number (I don’t care to guess a figure) had been born after the Mexican War had ended. I would assume the opposite is true for Sri Lanka.

Regarding media access, I’d actually prefer the American Civil War era to Sri Lanka. The media had superb access, compared to the situation in Sri Lanka. Yes there was a significant time delay, but photographs showed people the horrors of war more clearly than ever before in history, and did so for battle after battle, while information was much more reliable than GoSL or LTTE sources are today. Censorship just hadn’t really established itself yet.

On military leadership, I can think of only two Union Army commanders who didn’t do their cause more harm than good. Grant I’ve mentioned already, and General Sherman is the second. The Confederates, on the other hand, had a wealth of superb major commanders. Jackson, Lee, Longstreet, Albert Johnston, Forrest, Stuart, and a slew of lesser generals, who I also feel were of a generally higher caliber than their Federal counterparts. As you point out, so too is it in Sri Lanka. A great many of those rebel leaders died in the war, but I can think of only one, maybe two, whose death had a critical impact on the war and both of those were before the Battle of Gettysburg.

Since morale was based on success or failure of a campaign, Federal forces were in terribly low spirits for large portions of the war, while Rebel fighters held high spirits until later in the war, generally speaking of course. As you pint out, again, so too is it in Sri Lanka.

Finally, Civil War technology and tactical philosophies already share many of the same basics as the Sri Lankan conflict. Machineguns were used, by both sides, though not extensively. Landmines, water mines, and IEDs were used to terrible effect. The Confederacy became masters of booby traps, much like the LTTE today. If you choose to believe the controversial deathbed confession of a rebel veteran, an IED known as a Courtney Torpedo or “Coal Bomb” was used to kill 1,800 people in the Sultana Bombing, while Grant himself survived a Confederate bombing by infiltrators to his command center in the City Point Bombing. Confederates even had multiple midget submarines, which the LTTE wish they had. The Confederates had an inferior, but determined navy that could never win, but was able to do a lot of hurt to their enemy and they even brought back the ramming tactic from before the age of gunpowder, though without the suicidal explosion afterwards.

Basically, what I’m doing with my Civil War references here is taking these comparisons to what could be, instead of just to what already has been. I am not speaking in absolutes. These are two distinct conflicts, but it is folly to ignore the past and assume that any single conflict is so unique that no lesson from another conflict can be applied in the present. However, I do feel that Sri Lanka’s and America’s Civil Wars have more in common than most people realize and Sri Lanka will benefit if the right people pick up on this fact. I am convinced that a military leader who understands the American Civil War will be more likely to win in Sri Lanka than a man who does not.

E.T. Bailey said...

Also, public opinion was just as vital then as now. A major antiwar movement threatened to put General McClellan in the White House in the 1864 election, which would have resulted in a negociated peace and a Southern victory. This failed to occur, largely due to Sherman's timely destruction of Atlanta and his March to the Sea, which bolstered public support during the election season. Public support was vital to the American Civil War, even the opinions of Europe. The Emancipation Proclamation was made just after a Federal Victory and was issued to ensure that Britain and France did not intervene on The South's behalf.

The same issues and fears play out in this fashion in both conflicts.

E.T. Bailey said...

Su,

There are a few conceptual issues I have with a lot of Sri Lankans. One of the biggest is their fear of mounting large offensives because of the defeat in Operation Jayasikurui. Just because one offensive battle has ended in defeat must not mean that no more major efforts be attempted.

Operation Jayasikurui failed for many reasons. For one, that operation took the opposite extreme from what is going on now. They moved too quickly and the LTTE was able to hit back when units bit off more than they could chew. Sri Lanka also did not benefit from the superior technology they now have, (especially MBRLs) the greater numbers they now enjoy, or a largely degraded enemy.

Before, the LTTE had not split, the East had not fallen, and they were not suffering from a period of prolonged attrition and improved blockade. Perhaps most important of all though is that the LTTE no longer has Karuna, the commander who defeated the Sri Lankan Army. Many decorated LTTE officers have died or defected in the new century and much of the original leadership that made the Ceaseless Waves operations a success are no longer in the LTTE’s arsenal. The LTTE is weaker, smaller, and up against a more powerful enemy than it was in the 90’s.

Offensives have been won or lost in this war because of what they sought to achieve, how they were executed, and the commitment of the aggressor to victory. Both sides have won major offensive actions, just as both sides have lost battles. We also can’t escape the fact that the war won’t end without a major showdown. If Sri Lanka refuses to fight it on their terms, then one day the LTTE will fight it on theirs. I’d rather fight with the initiative than against it, wouldn’t you?

People should also keep in mind that the casualties suffered in such a long period of attrition, in all likelihood are similar to the casualties that a major offensive would have cost, but there have been only minimal gains for this sacrifice. I don’t feel I need to repeat that message again. I’m sure you’re stating to get sick of me saying it.

I agree that the SLA should not try to emulate the war crimes of General Sherman. No one that I know of has suggested a March to the Sea strategy in this conflict. Nor would I, as a Southerner, ever propose the emulation of that man past his capacity to inspire the men under his command.

Now why shouldn’t we just stick to the blockade and attrition strategy, so we can sit back and starve them out? I hear this question fairly often and I’ve already discussed it in part. Attrition costs as much or more over time than a big battle does up front, but I’ve said that dozens of times now. What I haven’t repeated in a while is that Sri Lanka’s Anaconda Plan (there’s another Civil War reference for you folks to look up on your own) has seen its prime come and go. The LTTE used a fleet of large blockade-runners that brought in massive stores of supplies, but all save one have been sunk. It was the Navy’s finest hour and it crippled the LTTE, at least for a while.

The Army never took advantage of this stunning success because of the reluctance to commit to a big operation. The LTTE even ordered the FDLs to stop firing artillery because they didn’t have enough shells. This gave the LTTE the time it needed to solve their problem by replacing their fleet of large ships with a slew of small ships that can mingle with fishing fleets. The Navy can’t stop all naval traffic around the Wanni because it would be a crime against civilians who depend of the sea for their lives, so the supply lines are up and running. Shipments may be smaller, but they are still coming in, and the daily artillery duels have resumed to testify to that point. As far as I’m concerned, the siege works great to minimize the enemy’s capabilities, but will never win the war on its own.

Regarding public support, I see the people needing two things: minimal losses and significant progress. Fonseka promised to end the war by the end of the year. If the current trend continues without a major offensive victory, the civilians will see an Army that can’t do what it says it can. The war won’t end by Christmas, of that I have no doubt, but if the LTTE is clearly losing the Wanni Campaign, the civilians will probably let it pass. If the LTTE’s defeat is not obvious to anyone and everyone, the LTTE will win a default political victory that could save them. The deadline puts the military on the spot. Either they show serious progress in 2008, or public support will be threatened just as badly as it would be by a high casualty battle. The only way to keep public support is to show them that victory is right around the bend. The only way to make that the case is by beating the LTTE in a large battle.

Wrapping it up, you talked about how spread out the SLA is, which I take to mean, “How many troops can actually participate in an offensive?” You also mention the importance of the Weli Oya Front and a new division. The size of a task force will depend on how well the rest of the Army can rearrange deployments on other fronts. I would guess a major offensive would have around 30,000 to 50,000 troops involved in combat roles, depending on how well the operation is organized. I also agree that the Weli Oya Front is an important one, and I’d actually deploy the extra division to that prong of a dual Mannar-Weli Oya offensive, since I see the LTTE putting up a bigger fight there than in Mannar.

I think this comment and my previous articles explain what I’d seek as a commander on a broad scale. If you are asking for a detailed battle plan, I think that should be saved for a potential future article. Afterall, only in an article would I be able to post the maps I'd need.

su said...

Thank you Very much for taking your time to give a detaled answer.
waiting for your next Article !!!
:)

su said...

www.defencewire.blogspot.com says,
"The 57 Division has advanced upto the general area Mallavi and Thunukkai in the Mullaithivu District, a distance of 45kms into LTTE controlled areas by this evening. The capture of Palampiddi has opened-up the new front in Mallavi, which is a popular route of the Tigers from Mullaithivu to Kilinochchi. As it stands now, the Army is in control of 600km2 in Vavuniya North."
This could be that mass movement that could result the bigining of the end, isnt it?
This advance of 45 kMs in to the Heartland Should result in Powerful counter attacks 7 flankings & now So much of possibilities are open with this development. this really seems like Attacking type of thinking & the associated risks also seems high....
Out of the box thinking it seems..
Hope your newest article will have some comparison of these new factors as well.
:)

wijayapala said...

ET Bailey,

Sun tzu's disciple's arguments that the US Civil War has less lessons to offer are sound. There are too many differences between the two to argue a certain strategy based on the US experience 140 years ago for Sri Lanka today.

1) You answered his point about media but not his broader argument regarding the relative abilities of society to absorb casualties. I would most certainly argue that Sri Lanka has a far greater capacity to absorb casualties than the US today (Iraq & Afghanistan) given that Sri Lanka is fighting for its very survival, but not the US of the Civil War.

2) I agree with you and disagree with STD regarding leadership. It took Lincoln three long years to find the right general. I would add that despite having poor military leadership for most of the war, the US had the greatest civilian leader and it was that civilian leader who probably made the greatest difference.

3) STD is correct that a Sherman's march to the sea would never work in Sri Lanka. The Vanni jungles certainly don't have an economy to destroy.

4) Tactics and technology are *not* the same. The Union and Confederacy did not fight with 120mm mortars and 152mm artillery guns, and I'm sorry if i do not equate the US's repeating rifles and muzzle-loaders with the AK-47 assault rifles used in Sri Lanka.

Perhaps more than anything else, modern war has been defined by *firepower*, and tactics have had to adapt. Modern armies which do not develop ways to protect themselves get annihilated (for example, the Iraqi Army). I recommend a book by Stephen Biddle called "Military Power" (stupid title, I confess, that hides the value of the content) which discusses this topic in detail. The first historical case Biddle introduces is Germany's breaking the trench stalemate in spring 1918 through a combination of small unit stormtrooper tactics and the use of artillery to suppress enemy fires. I would make that chapter alone required reading for Sri Lankan military enthusiasts (and I suspect that the LTTE has not ignored 20th century German warfare).

About Jayasikurui, you are correct that the LTTE today does not have the East to draw children as cannon fodder, but I do not agree with most everything else you said:

a) The SLA did *not* move quickly; it took the better part of two years to reach Mankulam, and the SLA took so many casualties during that time that recruitment was virtually nil (although desertion was high).

b) I do not think MBRLs will be decisive- the Tigers know how to disperse and dig in to avoid the worst effects of firepower, and they only took large casualties when exposed on the offensive.

c) The best field commanders Balraj and Karuna are gone, but the LTTE still has experienced leaders: Bhanu, Sornam, Theepan, Jeyam, Vithusha, and Durga.

d) The LTTE today is probably a little larger than it was during the 1990s, but more importantly it has far more big guns which will cut any large scale SLA offensive to pieces. It is this force structure which Fonseka is presumably trying to whittle down before making any big leaps into the jungle.

This multi-front attrition approach, which you condemn, has prevented the the LTTE from concentrating its forces for counterattack or from making any kind of flank attack. Why is it that the LTTE has made no significant moves since fighting began nearly 2 years ago??

Jayasikurui was characterized more or less as a single-axis approach (after the 55 and 53 divisions linked up) that allowed the LTTE to establish an effective defense in depth. I am not aware of either side in the US Civil War making use of the defense in depth- a 20th century phenomenon (hell, look how close the Confederates placed their capital to the Union border, requiring them to fanatically defend each inch of N. Virginia).

There is key terrain in this conflict (namely the coastal areas from where the LTTE resupplies, as well as some population centers like Kilinochchi), but for the most part territory is worthless. People referred to Jayasikurui as the "real estate" war, where the SLA would advance, take heavy casualties, and take territory while allowing the LTTE to regroup and take advantage of interior lines.

Fonseka has made some atrocious mistakes (like the way he's fighting in Jaffna) and is no military genius, and I don't give him much credit for understanding the LTTE (pretty much nobody, especially the Tamil diaspora, really knows what the LTTE is about). But he and the govt. are avoiding the mistakes of the past which led to disaster.

Sun Tzu's disciple said...

Ok Wijayapala has echoed some of my feelings.

Re Jayasikurui :

Why do people(esp GoSL-supporters) often target it for ridicule now as if they knew it was seriously flawed all along??

I would say Jayasikurui in many ways threatened LTTE much more than Fonsekas present war:

1."Jayasikurui was a column based single track war which exposed flanks"
Well it had full domination of Jaffna and into Killinochi/Paranthan/Pooneryn on one side, and captured most of South wanni on other.In other words,it was a true multiple-front ,multidirectional war ,while now the LTTE has to just concentrate on wanni south.

2.' Attrition' of LTTE:

Jayasikurui was marked by pitched battle after pitched battle, where death was numerous on both sides.So LTTE being a weaker force had a tougher job of regaining men and material.
Fonsekas war may save SLA from death, but saves LTTE even more(except on paper)!And as bailey says the final count may be worse than pitched battles.

Jayasikurui was a casualty of the serious tendency of SLA to scatter@ any sign of organized attack and most importantly the supremely fine-tuned and well timed LTTE counterattacks.
The only 'superiority' of Fonsekas war is capture of East--but in my opinion any random SLA General could have captured it thanks to the Karuna rebellion--so credit is to Ranil W and Karuna not Fonseka ( the General who actually commanded the East war has been humiliated by Fonseka apparently!)
*Fonsekas other achievement--serious dent on LTTE logistics/gunrunning(thanks to WOT/IC, not his acumen).
*Fonsekas baggage--
SL turning into Pariah status due to his death squads( he provided the killers but Rajapakses gave the order).

Gini Appu said...

refreshing to see analysis sans the chest beating self-gratifying name calling psuedo patriotic rhetoric! Congratulations ET Bailey.

If Sri Lankans think a bit more they wouldn't look up and say...
http://parippuplease.blogspot.com/

E.T. Bailey said...

Sun Tzu’s Disciple,

I’m sorry to answer you folks out of order, but I’m not quite done with my response to Wijayapala.

I don't ridicule Operation Jayasikurui. I criticize it for failing but I don't mock those who fought in the pitched battles of the campaign or even those who led it. I have always had the greatest respect for the military and those who lay their lives down for their country.

If you're asking why people criticize failed campaigns, I have to wonder if you're being serious or if you're playing some kind of joke. What fool would not seek to learn from past failures. If you're asking why I personally didn't object to Jayasikurui in the 1990's, I would have to surmise that it was because I was in elementary school at the time. Also, My blog has only been in existence since around March, so how could I have possibly found you and voiced my concerns to you to avoid your question, even if I had been aware of the Sri Lankan conflict as a small child in Houston? Your question makes no sense, no matter how I try to interpret it.

Yes, Jayasikurui was a multiple front war to a greater extent than the current Wanni Campaign. That is not a good thing in my book. With four fronts today, only two of which I would want to advance from, Sri Lanka has to spread its forces over a pretty wide area. The only consolation is that the LTTE does to and doesn't have the number Sri Lanka does. Jayasikurui so many fronts I can't even keep them straight in my head without a map. Fighting on multiple fronts, up to a certain point, can benefit the aggressor by keeping the enemy guessing and by preventing the enemy from concentrating their forces. Fighting on too many fronts cuts your own strength and opens your flanks to counterattack. The advancing army is so preoccupied with half a dozen fronts that the enemy can actually amass large numbers of troops in one area without attracting attention and is then in prime pouncing position. As I've said before, Jayasikurui took one extreme, while the current strategy is taking the opposite. I feel that, in order to show enough progress to placate the civilians and at the same time shorten the war, a middle path is ideal.

I agree that the LTTE has a harder time replacing losses than the SLA, though they could more easily replace their losses than they can now. I disagree that attrition is saving SLA lives. I actually fear that, should this campaign continue without end, the opposite will eventually be true. It's like the math problems we had in elementary school. Would you rather pay me a dollar a day for a month or 10 dollars today?

I agree that discipline problems were a factor in the Jayasikurui defeat. I also believe that this problem has been largely fixed by better training and higher morale. One of General Fonseka's great strengths is his leadership in army building, much like McClellan, who I've compared to Fonseka before. The Army now is larger, better trained, better equipped, and in higher spirits than it was and desertion is not nearly the problem it used to be. I give Fonseka a fair amount fo credit for these improvements. I also agree that the LTTE was not random in it's counter punches during the Jayasikurui campaign.

While I disagree that any random person could have led the capture of the East, I absolutely agree that the defining factor of that success was Karuna's defection.

The rest of what you've said seems to be an attempt to get me into a political debate that I have no intention of entering. If you support the LTTE (as a lot of people have come to me and said) then more power to you. I'm not concerned with your politics just as mine are not your concern. I don't have a problem talking to an LTTE supporter so long as they don't try to force a political debate on me. On a strategic level, I don't feel General Fonseka has increased the likelihood of foreign intervention that might save the LTTE from an otherwise certain defeat. That's as far as I'm willing to go into that subject. If you're looking for political debate, I'd suggest Defencenet. They've got a pretty good political debate going on most of the time.

E.T. Bailey said...

Thank ye kindly Gini, I'll take a look just as soon as I've given Wijayapala something to read.

Sun Tzu's disciple said...

Bailey,

1.I was talking in general about GoSL-supporters ridiculing Jayasikurui ,not criticize.You need not take it as a personal attack unnecessarily. In fact I have been talking of the importance of criticism all along in DW for which I get flamed.

2.Fully agree about your middle path strategy.

3.Again you are launching into unnecessary character assasination after being fed by a few fellows("as a lot of people have come to me and said)" .These fellows have no guts to put their points across here in open forum but goes to you to privately ' warn' you of my leanings. If people have no capacity to participate in an open debate but whispers behind your back that shows something about them.

4.I have made no bones about my ' leanings' in the past .If you are so obsessed with it and not with my views then I suggest you go to past posts of DW where I have elaborated on it as I cant be bothered again.Suffice to say--I dont view war as a Good vs Evil game but a human tragedy.

5.Politics is interwined with Defence at a strategic level(sometimes tactics too).Hence I mentioned a few relevant points.Why, your own post shows how politics and war is interwined!!.
6.Fully agreed we should not give precedence to politics while discussing defence as in some forums.

Sun Tzu's disciple said...

"If you're asking why I personally didn't object to Jayasikurui in the 1990's, I would have to surmise that it was because I was in elementary school at the time"

"even if I had been aware of the Sri Lankan conflict as a small child in Houston?"

Op Jayasikurui lasted:1997-early2000.

So am I talking to a secondary school teen/preteen then?
Just my curiosity( the blog has more maturity than your years suggest,no offence).

E.T. Bailey said...

Wijayapala,

I’m sorry for not writing sooner. I don’t have staff the way Defencenet and Wire do so expect slower responses than you get there.

I don’t make my argument solely because of the American Civil War. I use the Civil War as an example to prove my points. You’re putting my effect before my cause. I believe that if a Sri Lankan general wishes to win this war, learning from the mistakes and successes of the American Civil War will be of great value to him. In the same vein, I agree with you that any such leader would need to study the First World War. I’d be a fool to call for Sri Lankans to ignore World War One because of the bolt-action rifles, tanks that barely deserve the name, and the paper and wood based planes that dominated the conflict. Clearly any two conflicts will have many differences, but there are often many important comparisons to be made and lessons to be learned. That’s why military history is the backbone of every military academy I’ve ever heard of. I could just as easily write an article with a different conflict to compare Sri Lanka to, but I’ve not done so yet.

I agree that Sri Lanka would be hard pressed to absorb 650,000 military deaths. I also agree that Sri Lanka can take a hit on the chin and suck it up better than most of the American public can nowadays. I hope you understand, though, that no matter how this war is conducted, Sri Lankans will be burying thousands of their sons and daughters before it ends. The Attrition Campaign has already resulted in casualties that make it one of the bloodiest battles for the SLA for the whole war, passing the capture of Jaffna and the First Battle of Elephant’s Pass. That is, of course, not taking either the LTTE’s or the MoD’s casualty figures as gospel. But where previous SLA offensives of similar casualties have resulted in serious successes, such as the capture of the Jaffna peninsula, there has been no real progress in Mannar. As I’ve said before, most of the LTTE losses have been draftees conscripted to counter the Attrition Campaign, which makes the LTTE no worse for wear by their deaths. Captured coastal areas are also not nearly as vast as they should have been for the time and lives that have been sacrificed.

I think that otherwise, what I’ve said about public support stands.

Lincoln was an excellent politician and was stubborn as a mule. He was perfectly suited to be a wartime president. The Southern civilian leadership was based on decentralized government. The values that had inspired declaring independence were based on personal liberties and minimizing the federal government as a means to prevent tyranny. As a result, the Southern civilian leadership was naturally weak. It’s an excellent philosophy for a peaceful nation, but was a major detriment to a war ravaged country. This opposition to centralized government was so strong that Georgia even refused to participate in a national day of fasting and prayer, picking a unique date for their own state just to spite Jefferson Davis. You sound like someone who knows a little of the American Civil War, so maybe you’ll recognize this quote:

“I entered this rebellion to sustain the rights of states and prevent the consolidation of the government, and I am still a rebel, no matter who may be in charge.” Governor Joseph Brown, Georgia.

I don’t know where the whole Sherman thing came from. I never suggested that Sherman be emulated. I know of no one else who has made such a suggestion. See, this is one instance showing how I use the American Civil War as an example to study, not something to clone verbatim.

…Well yes, the Wanni doesn’t have much to destroy, but that’s not really the reason not to do it. It shouldn’t be done because it’s wrong. If the SLA made such a move, I’d have to reconsider which side I support in this war.

I was referring to actual machine guns, not repeater rifles in the previous comment. While I agree that a single shoot rifle has an inferior rate of fire to an AK-47, that’s not really the issue. Look at the number of fighters involved in the big battles and standard skirmishes of each war. In the big battles of the American Civil War, more soldiers were involved than people have died in the whole Sri Lankan conflict. We’re not comparing one AK to one Springfield. We’re comparing one assault rifle to around 300 or more single shot rifles. We’re not comparing one modern howitzer to one bronze cannon, we’re comparing one howitzer or mortar to a few dozen older artillery. Even in minor skirmishes there were more people involved than are in the skirmishes in Sri Lanka. If you want to compare ranges and munitions reliability, that’s one thing, but if you’re comparing rates of fire, you have to consider the battlefield populations. The rate of fire in the Civil War was often greater than anything Sri Lanka has ever dreamed of. At Cold Harbor, Confederate fire was so intense that 8,000 Federals were killed or wounded in only 10 minutes. That’s worse than the total American losses in the Battle of Normandy, which lasted around two months.

So yes, the rate of fire, per individual is greater now than it was then, but the rate of fire in an actual battle was, if anything, greater back then.

I agree that tactics and technology are two distinct entities and I’ve never said otherwise, though both affect each other.

I’d say would go so far as to say modern warfare is defined by firepower and technology. Sri Lanka of all countries should appreciate the strength of low tech fighting, as should America. However, I totally agree that superior firepower is and has always been important to success in battle. Have I given you reason to think I mean otherwise?

The Germans certainly improved on the tactics that had dominated the Western Front for most of the war. The Germans tried to breach the Allied lines multiple times, in different areas, and while they made more progress than ever before, they still lost. I think a blending of the German and Allied end of the war tactics would form the most effective method for breaking trench lines.

General Ludendorff decided to only use artillery fire for a few hours instead of for days or weeks as a means to surprise the Allies. In the past, the artillery barrages were so long that everyone knew where the attack was coming from well in advance. This greatly helped to minimize the Allies’ counterpunch capabilities. His use of storm troopers to basically bypass strong pockets of resistance and stick to their territorial objectives also was a step up from the previous mentality that couldn’t stand the thought of an armed enemy soldier behind the forward most position. This is one of the reasons so many more Allied POWs were taken in his offensives than in other battles on the Western Front.

On the other hand, when the Allies counterattacked with their American trump card, the Americans simply refused to play the trench game. Both sides throughout the war had sought a decisive action to break through the frontline trenches and fight a battle of mobility where their enemy would not have fortified defenses. Their ultimate goals were basically the same as what I’ve been calling for in Sri Lanka. America, with the benefit of seeing just how pointless most of the trench war had been before entering the war, was the only nation to take this goal seriously from day one and they had a slightly different plan than Ludendorff. The Allies now limited their bombardment before attacking, just like the Germans, but instead of stopping most of their artillery fire before the charge was made, they continued their powerful barrages even as ground forces approached their targets. As the line advanced, the artillery was coordinated to fire just ahead of the advancing line. Troops also advanced in three waves, one for each objective line on the map. The first wave took a certain number of kilometers and then stopped, while a second wave passed through them and continued to take the next few kilometers and a third wave did the same thing. All the while, artillery was firing at targets less than a mile ahead of the advancing Allied soldiers. Tanks also served as mobile artillery in the first use of tanks in “creeping barrages.” This battle plan was used first on a small scale at the battle of Hamel, and then on a much larger scale at Amiens. The Allies also had the novel idea of telling the troops what their objectives and plans were. Oddly enough, that was a new practice, though it clearly stuck.

A combination of minimized warning, creeping barrages, multiple waves to prevent exhaustion, initially bypassing strong points, and educating the soldiers on their objectives will create the prefect trench busting force. Fortunately for Sri Lanka, the lines they will need to break aren’t nearly as strong as World War One positions.

You’re right, I shouldn’t have said that the SLA moved quickly, nor was that the picture in my head. Thanks for pointing that out. What would have made more sense is if I’d said, “Operation Jayasikurui failed for many reasons. For one, that operation took the opposite extreme from what is going on now. They moved too AMBITIOUSLY and the LTTE was able to hit back when units bit off more than they could chew.”

You’re absolutely right, the speed of the SLA was not their failing. It was their goals. Well, their goals among other things. That offensive was an operation to conquer, basically, the whole of the Wanni. While I share that ultimate goal, my proposed strategy is a little more short term. I want more coastal control and I want to draw the LTTE into a major battle before the end of the year. I want to beat the LTTE in a big fight for the obvious reason that my entire strategy proposal is based around seeking out and destroying the opposing army. I want territorial gains along the coast for two reasons. The first is to cripple their supply lines as much as possible. The second is that the civilians were promised victory by the end of the year and the only way they aren’t going to be royally pissed at the military and political leaders is if it is very clear that victory is coming. Territorial gains that are significant in nature, and at least one major victory will go a long way towards keeping public support.

I feel MBRLs are a major technological advance for the SLA over what they were a decade ago. Not only can they serve as a means of fighting off counter attacks, but they can also be used for the artillery fire that would support any serious advance. I agree though, that they are not a magic weapon that will instantly assure victory.

The LTTE has lost many of its best leaders. Yes they are not leaderless, but it's like comparing Bragg and Early to Jackson and Stuart. The quality just isn't the same. Not to say that the leaders you've listed are incompetent, and I'm a fan of Early myself, but I don’t think they have the brilliance that Karuna had. From a strategic point of view, I really do admire Karuna and am glad the LTTE no longer has his skill to rely on.

I certainly agree that the LTTE has more heavy weapons than it used to, most of them courtesy of the SLA, but I don’t buy for a moment that the LTTE is stronger today than it was in the 1990’s, population-wise at least. In fact you are the only person I’ve ever met to suggest that. Their losses in attrition, a failed assault on Jaffna, a mass defection by their most talented (in my opinion) leader, the destruction of their blockade running fleet, and the total collapse of the East with heavy losses is almost certain to have degraded them beyond where they were twelve years ago. The simple fact that, in years of fighting, only their failed assault on Jaffna came anywhere close to the big offensives of the 90’s tells me that there is no way they are stronger now than they were before.

I don’t condemn multiple front wars. I condemn taking it to an extreme the way Operation Jayasikurui did. I think keeping Jaffna open is a boon to the SLA in that the Jaffna Front keeps thousands of LTTE fighters occupied on a front that should be quiet. It also is a drain on LTTE supplies that could be used in the South. I don’t think I’ve ever said multiple fronts is bad by itself. If I have, I didn’t mean to, and I’d appreciate you showing me where I said that so I can be sure never to repeat that.

I think multiple fronts can be very effective methods for dividing an enemy force before entering a battle. However, when this is taken to an extreme, the aggressor becomes as thinned out as the defender, and the vulnerability to counterattack increases. I don’t want you to think I only want one front to be active at a time. The only front I want to end offensive action on, for the time being, is the Jaffna Front.

I would assume that the LTTE has not counterattacked in two years because two years ago marks when the East finally fell and the LTTE’s expensive failure on the Jaffna Front. I’d also assume the supply crisis that has plagued the LTTE for around a year as a result of the loss of most of their blockade-runners also has something to do with it. There were actually more fronts two years ago than there are today, so I really don’t think the number of fronts can be blamed for the lack of LTTE offensive success. Finally, I think they haven’t launched big offensives of their own because they don’t have the manpower they used to have.

The Confederacy did use in depth defenses. I’ve even written about one such example in this very blog. In my Red River Campaign “series” that I hope to continue one day, the Federals under General Banks advanced from where the Red River meets the Mississippi, to just South of Shreveport before being defeated at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, then harassed and ambushed all the way back. Ditto to the related Camden Expedition. Operations in Florida that occurred around the same time (post Vicksburg, pre Mobile Bay) also had in depth defenses. Those are the examples I can think of, off the top of my head, where in depth defenses were used successfully by the Confederates. There may very well be more and I’ll look into it if you’re interested.

I agree that the coastal areas are the most important strategic areas. I also agree that the central jungles aren’t all that important in a grand strategy. I also agree that faulty priorities and objectives was yet another problem with Jayasikurui. Real estate is important, but not all real estate. Location is everything.

I basically agree with what you say about Fonseka, just add what I’ve already said before.

Sorry to make this so long, but long comments get long replies.

E.T. Bailey said...

Sun Tzu’s Disciple,

1. I didn’t take it as a personal attack. I only sought to clarify my position. If anything, I agree that questioning military matters is healthy, since I’m not exactly backing the current strategy myself. I’ll let you know when I feel insulted or attacked.

3. You don’t seem to understand that I don’t care what your politics are. I can’t assassinate your character as I am not concerned with who you back or why. You could be an LTTE veteran and I wouldn’t mind any more than I would if you were retired SLA. I made this blog to discuss strategy and tactics. If I feel a topic is leaving the battlefield and entering the political arena, I’ll shut it down. That’s the cool thing about having a blog. You get to set your own rules. So far you’ve done just fine and you didn’t even know what the rules were so I don’t see why you should have any problem now.

I also have no intentions to start talking about other people. You can think what you will of them and they can think the same of you. I don’t care. All I care about is that you all keep it out of my blog and that the subject matter of my blog be limited to strategy, tactics, or some derivative of the two. I’ll let people know when I don’t like the direction something is going. If somehow two readers start talking to each other, like on Defencenet or Wire, then they can talk politics until they both die of exhaustion for all I care. My only rules then are to minimize profanity, have no racism, and to not talk about other people’s mommas. That just doesn’t sit right with me.

4. I’m obsessed with your political views? I told you in my previous comment to you that they don’t concern me. I don’t know how to make it any clearer. It seems you’re the one who thinks he’s under attack when he actually isn’t.

5. I understand that politics may seep into discussions from time to time and I accept that. However, as the owner and creator of this blog, I get to put a stop to it when it threatens to become the primary issue instead of an aspect of strategy. For example, I’m glad to talk about the politics behind the purchasing of MiG-29s. I’m not ok with you and I, or anyone and I having a shouting fest over conspiracy theories, or who targets civilians and who doesn’t. If you want to go to town with Su or Wijayapala, be my guest. Just keep your mouth clean and don’t talk about their mommas.

6. I assume it’s because you’re Malaysian that you haven’t guessed the right minimum for my age. I don’t know how schools work over there either so I understand. No, I am in my 20’s, engaged, and I work for a Texas state senator. I am also currently in college. Again, I don’t take offense. I totally understand how people from two different countries can be confused by concepts we might normally take for granted.

Sun Tzu's disciple said...

Fine then, you rule your blog but do make the rules clear to prevent misunderstandings.I got irritated with [["as a lot of people have come to me and said"]] as I stopped playing such cheap politics during Kindergarten years.

"I assume it’s because you’re Malaysian "

Now you are assuming pal!
Also I would have expected an American citizen to respect the personal details of contributors, even if it only shows location of server.I feel like Valerie Plame now;))
Re school my basis for assumption was this "Elementary school: A school for the first four to eight years of a child's formal education, often including kindergarten.
The first four to eight years of a child's formal education. Also called grade school, grammar school; Also called primary school." ..plus you described yourself as being a " small child" during Jayasikurui(i.e.lower grades of above), which was only 7 years back.Hence my premise you would be in early teens at most.Anyway no sweat.
Fully agree that political banter deviates from topic,so this would be my last rant;)

E.T. Bailey said...

I really ought to set up one of those side bars the way Defencenet has so I can post general rules.

I didn't really expect many people to read this thing so I never thought it would be an issue.

I didn't mean to push any buttons. I'm sorry that I did.

I was told by others that you were Malaysian. I don't know the first thing about using the internet to hunt down your country of origin. I just figured you had told people yourself. If I had known you didn't want others to know your nationality, I wouldn't have said anything.

Elementary school here lasts until you're around eleven or twelve. 1997, that would make me nine or ten depending on the month.

su said...

Bailey,
Ya, dont go in tosides & just keep the readers ontrack with the facts & strategies in war,just the way you have done through out the time.
:)
I would like to know the effect of that 45kM venture by the 57 Division with both sides wide open for attack & also do SLDF really use Cluster bombs in the war fronts?
coz if they do then it could have get more of an advantage in the fronts like muhamalai with attacks in the concentrated LTTE movements... But I dont think SL is allowed to get their hands on theses bombs..(Correct me if I am wrong)
:)

Sun Tzu's disciple said...

bailey,

I never ever told anyone I,m Malaysian, cos I am not one. But I do use a Malaysian server host for my surfer(by choice) ,with which I post to Defencewire only .So I now know where the leak is from, not that it matters.

Your blog will make 4 a good discussion, and I,ll mind the rules.

wijayapala said...

Dear ET Bailey,

Thank you for responding. I entirely agree that military history is important to study, and I did not mean to imply that the US Civil war does not merit study. Looking at my previous comments, I see now that they could be construed as belittling or trivializing your study of the US Civil War. That was not my intent and I apologize if I gave that impression. I think your blog is a must-read for all Sri Lankans who desire the destruction of the LTTE and the restoration of peace in Sri Lanka. I would go further to argue that the post-war Reconstruction should be studied as well.

Having said this, *if* one had to choose between learning the lessons from outside conflicts (US Civil War & WWI) vs. the lessons of the last 20 years of war in Sri Lanka, I would opt for the latter. Ideally both categories should be studied, but most people are constrained by time. I see now that my main concerns with your comments (and STD's) are not so much the lessons of the US Civil War than your interpretation of what happened in the 1990s.

The capture of Jaffna in 1995-6 is more comparable to the capture of the Eastern Province in 2006-7 than it is to fighting in the Vanni either now or back then. Obviously there were differences but both were early victories which raised the prestige of the respective regimes and gave the govt. control over population areas. They were also both relatively easy wins that did not involve a major confrontation with the LTTE.

Even with the difficulties of fighting in an urban environment, the victory in Riviresa was facilitated by Tamil civilians giving the locations of rebels and their HQs to the SLA; the military had no dearth of *intelligence* available to strike and kill. The SLA also had pretty good intelligence in the eastern fighting, with the help of the TMVP and the local hostility to the Tigers being led by northerners. In both cases, the LTTE withdrew and regrouped in the Vanni without putting stiff resistance. There was no decisive battle in either case.

The situation in the Vanni is very different in that most of the LTTE's military infrastructure is located deep in the jungle, invisible to both reconnaissance aircraft and local anti-LTTE Tamils. As D. Sivaram had pointed out in the late 1990s, the SLA is relatively intelligence-blind in the Vanni, making large scale pushes into unknown territory a very dangerous proposition (as Jayasikurui demonstrated). The SLA captured real estate but was not able to hold onto it, giving the SLA nothing to show for all those casualties.

The purpose of Jayasikurui was NOT to take the entire Vanni. Contrary to what you and STD argue, Jayasikurui was mostly a single axis, single front operation (again, after the 55 & 53 Divisions linked) aimed at retaking the A9 road, trisecting the Vanni, and forcing the LTTE into a major battle by threatening key territory. Jayasikurui only took on a 2-front nature when the LTTE *counterattacked* and took Kilinochchi in 1998; the 54 Division was not advancing or doing much along the northern front to force the LTTE to disperse its assets.

You are correct that JS was overly ambitious, but I would argue that the ambition/conceit was in believing that the LTTE would allow itself to be drawn into a Jominian decisive battle that it would lose. There were no pitched battles in JS. The LTTE chose the decisive battle at a time and place of *its* choosing in late 1999, at a time and place where the SLA was weakest and most overextended (Oddusuddan).

An offensive up the coast has the advantage of exposing only one flank, but nevertheless that flank will be exposed unless it's covered. That is more or less what the SLA is doing now. The LTTE can't hit the 58 Division at Adampan because the 57 Division is in the way. Fonseka's current attrition approach is multi-front and that is the beauty of it. He has been criticized for not focusing on one front, but I would argue that this has prevented the LTTE from establishing an effective defense-in-depth.

Karuna was the overall field commander defending the Vanni against JS, and he led the first part of the LTTE counteroffensive in 1999 which retook all lost territory within a week. His great hero was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel; like Rommel Karuna was a brilliant tactician and guerrilla who had no sense of logistics. The LTTE's true military mind, the person most responsible for the LTTE's transition from a guerrilla force into a conventional army, was Balraj.

Bhanu who is now in charge was responsible for raising the LTTE's artillery and mortar units which have devastated the SLA and are currently taking their toll. He is not known for leading daring assaults like Balraj or Karuna, but he knows how to use firepower- digging in the big guns, moving around the mortars- and cause high casualties for the SLA.

Theepan is another field commander whom I don't rate as highly as Karuna, but he had notable victories such as retaking Kilinochchi and overrunning Paranthan and Umaiyalpuram in 1999- the gateways to Elephant Pass. I forgot to mention Soosai, the effective Sea Tiger commander whom the SLN has not been able to outwit.

I'm sorry if I do not share your views of the LTTE's current setbacks. Defencewire estimated the LTTE's current strength at 10,000 hardcore fighters and another 10,000 second-liners:

http://defencewire.blogspot.com/2008/02/imbalance-of-power.html

That would be about double of what they had in the late 1990s. Their numbers exploded right after the fall of EPS leading to the current number. The numbers then increased steadily during the CFA due to recruitment in the east, but only these latter gains were lost with the Karuna split. The failed Jaffna assault in August 2006 led to many casualties but not of epic proportions. The eastern fighting killed a large number of Tigers, but an equally large number fled to the north.

The one thing I don't know is how much the attrition campaign has weakened the LTTE. You are correct that the LTTE has put its second-rungers on the front lines, but it did the same during Jayasikurui. A major offensive will not deplete the hardcore fighters because the LTTE is too smart to let that happen. With the loss of the east, as you pointed out, the LTTE will not be able to get easy reinforcements.

wijayapala said...

STD, I agree with what you say about Fonseka. He did not win the east, he did not sink the LTTE cargo ships, but like McClellan he did build up the standards of the SLA. I heard that Gotabaya, not Fonseka is more complicit with the death squads.

I do not agree with your assessment of Jayasikurui, for the reasons I gave ETB. My understanding is that LTTE casualties were roughly the same as SLA, whereas right now the casualties are tilting against the LTTE (but I could be wrong).

The SLA scattered when the LTTE counterattacked because 1) it did not know how to defend against artillery (with just one or two shells the soldiers would run, not like today) and 2) the SLA was overextended without communication. When Karuna took Oddusuddan in the first phase of the counteroffensive, he seized a Buffel vehicle stuck in the mud with all the communications ciphers. The idiot in charge of SF HQ-Wanni then ordered all communications to halt as a result, leaving all the SLA units pretty much isolated and ready to be demolished. That is how Karuna achieved victory in one week.

Long-Ranger said...

Mr. Bailey,

My apologies for the delay in responding to you. I have answered the outstanding questions and replies from the last discussion I had with you. Visit my portal for the replies

http://sf-3.blogspot.com/

Mr. Wijayapala,

Couldn't agree with you more. That buffel incident just sums up the brash and foolhardy planning surrounding the JS. If I remember correct those com equipment belonged to 563 were being salvaged by a SF team and was moved to the 56 HQ at KANAKARAYANKULAM before being stuck. I believe Kfirs were called into bomb the buffel but to no avail. Then only Wanni Commander Wasantha Perera called a COM blackout. Pretty chaotic times.

su said...

Hmm....
Have you given up blogging?
Or just buzy with your work....
Anyway It has been a VERY long time since your last post...
:(
Just hope you will be able to squeeze in some time for a post...
(A Great Masterpiece which would match your other postings....)
Hope Health is not the issue...

E.T. Bailey said...

Thank you Su, I am in good health, but my family, and the great state of Texas are my first priorities. Unfortunately that has left little time for writing. I hope my absence hasn't caused you or any of the others to leave this site forever.

I don't see much sense in continuing the debate between myself and the others who have commented here at this point. Needless the say we disagree on some core issues and a great many minor issues.

As it stands now, it doesn't really matter anymore because the 58th has done what I was proposing anyway, and though the LTTE didn't volunteer to die, the strategic implications of this success will be worth many times the value of even a thousand dead tigers. The SLA did what I wanted, did it as quickly as I wanted, and it didn't cost them that much or cause the army to spread itself too thin. If the resulting supply constriction has a negative strategic impact on the LTTE, I'll be glad for it and will consider the strategy I've advocated a success. Like I've said before, I was opting for an operation to cause permanent strategic damage to the LTTE, not end the war by Christmas.

E.T. Bailey said...

I will say this to you three who did join me in this debate STD, LR, and W: The three of you taught me a fair bit about the conflict, especially in how Sri Lankans view their own conflict. Understanding why people do what they do is almost as important as the act itself and I hope my writing on the subject improves because of this.

I hope all three of you come back on future posts because anyone who reads this kind of opinon article should be able to see both sides of the coin. I hope that neither my absence, nor our disagreements have discouraged you from coming here again.