People’s Liberation Army’s National Defence University (NDU), the most prestigious top education institution for military studies in Beijing, China, honoured Sri Lanka Army on Friday (08), having invited the visiting Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya to be a Guest Speaker at the NDU’s academic forum, comprised of both local and foreign student officers.
Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya in his address to the august assembly traced historical roots of LTTE terrorism, its build-up, its evolution with recruitment, irreparable damages it caused, strength of its firepower, its recruitment and expansions into ground, naval and areal spheres, international network and its final decisive battles.
He also reminded the audience how HE President Mahinda Rajapakse government’s ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ manifesto laid the blueprint to the success of the war with a clear roadmap for the war for peace.
Here is the full text of his speech, captioned, ‘Defeating terrorism and winning the peace’ at the NDU student forum;
DEFEATING TERRORISM AND WINNING THE PEACE
President, Senior Officers of NDU course, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentleman, standing at this podium today ignites nostalgic memories. Memories, which take me back in time to the 18th Defence and Strategic Studies Course, which I was privileged to follow, and that contributed immensely to my understanding of the ever so important subject of National Security. The theories and works of Sun Tzu still remain my favourite and have served me well in my rise through the higher echelons of command.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand honoured and privileged to present to this forum of intellectual elite, defeating terrorism and winning the peace, the Sri Lankan experience.
Our story is that of a beautiful island surrounded by an ocean and a rich culture of AHIMSA which means peace to all creatures, being ravaged by the devastation and suffering of terrorism. It is also an example of how, decisive political leadership and a united nation supported by a rejuvenated military could defeat terrorism. The strategies and concepts may at times not adhere to the fundamentals, principles and tenets of classic COIN thought and teaching based on western experiences drawn from unfinished or unsuccessful COIN/counter terrorist efforts in occupied nations, but are based on the successful defeat of the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization, the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Evolution of LTTE
The destruction of the LTTE leadership on the banks of a Lagoon in northern Sri Lanka brought to an end a brutal internal conflict, which claimed the lives of almost 150,000 civilians from all communities, ethnic denominations and Religions including men, women and children. A nation with demography of just 20 million living peacefully and harmoniously was ravaged and devastated by the LTTE, a ruthless terrorist organization bent on separating an island with the size of 65,610 km2
The LTTE was unlike any other terrorist organization in the world. It was a terrorist organization with a penchant for guerrilla warfare and a capacity for sub conventional or as the great leader Mao, would say mobile warfare. The origin of the LTTE can be traced back to 1972 and was a result of colonial occupation and related divide and rule policy. The LTTE through the early eighties adopting terrorism as logic rose to confront the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL). Since then, it had grown from a small organization comprising of armed individuals, to a large, sophisticated terrorist outfit. This includes the capability of conducting sub conventional warfare, Guerrilla warfare and suicidal attacks. At its height, the LTTE had more than 30,000 battle – hardened cadres; access to large stockpiles of modern armaments, ammunition and equipment; a sophisticated brown water naval wing and a fledging air wing. By 2005, the LTTE controlled almost a quarter of the country’s territory and approximately two thirds of its coastline. Under an internationally brokered Cease Fire Agreement, the LTTE even maintained the illusion of a state apparatus in the areas under its control.
It must be understood that not – withstanding this, the LTTE was one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world. The list of its atrocities is long. Over the years, the LTTE carried out ethnic cleansing in the North and East, brutally driving out the Sinhalese and Muslim civilians who lived there. Countless attacks on civilians were conducted. Villages at the periphery of the LTTE occupied areas were attacked and innocent men, women and children massacred. Places of worship such as the Sri Maha Bhodiya and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the two most revered places of worship for Buddhists all over the world were attacked. Massacres of Muslims at Mosques were frequent.
The LTTE attacked vital national infrastructure such as the international airport, the central bus stand and the main railway station in Colombo. Economic targets such as the Central Bank, World Trade Centre, oil refineries and civilian harbours were attacked. Countless parcel bombs, car bombs, truck bombs and claymore mines were set off in populated areas, killing thousands of innocent civilians. The deadliest of all attacks were conducted by suicide bombers. The Hezbollaha may have invented suicide bombing but the LTTE redefined it with the human bomber and naval application of suicide boats. The LTTE also unleashed a vicious campaign of assassinations against political targets, killing a President of Sri Lanka, the former Prime Minister of India, the Defence Minister, the Foreign Minister, several cabinet ministers, leaders of political parties, and a large number of parliamentarians.
The LTTE strategy aimed at the attainment of EELAM, a separate state. To this end, terrorism, insurgency, and guerrilla warfare was cunningly blended to contain the GOSL, create and promote the impression of its invincibility and establish an international environment conducive to its demands. The principle weapon of strategic proportions was the suicide bomber, and indiscriminate application of violence that drove fear and invincibility. The attack of high value targets such as promising politicians both Tamil and others and physical infrastructure was carefully designed to undermine the economic capacity and political leadership, around which the counter terrorist response hinged. At the epicenter of the strategy was the application of propaganda both nationally and internationally to undermine the image of the GOSL and influence internal opinion. The centre of gravity of the LTTE was its external support that sustained the org and combat power, which had developed into conventional proportions.
A Government’s Response
Terrorism in Sri Lanka had dragged on for nearly three decades. Four previous Presidents as well as several successive Governments inclusive of various political parties had grappled with the issue, without success. Over the years, a range of different approaches including military campaigns, peace talks and even international mediation had been attempted. None worked. Strengthened and sustained by the large global financial network of the Tamil Diaspora, a sub conventional military capability, control of almost a quarter of the country and a form of governance of its own, the LTTE was not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict. A ceasefire agreement brokered to their advantage by the Norwegians provided the much needed breathing space for reorganization and preparations for conflict.
The equation in favour of the LTTE was changed, when a disgruntled nation elected a new president and government at the end of year 2005. President Mahinda Rajapakse a strong and decisive leader made a genuine attempt to talk peace with the LTTE, but by then the LTTE had decided to resume the conflict. Disregarding the ceasefire, the LTTE began military operations to secure the strategic harbour areas of Trincomalee. Compelled and obligated to the protection of its peoples, the Government responded decisively. The campaign was waged successfully from the tactical areas of responsibility and theatres of combat to the forums of international diplomacy. A cohesive application of the instruments of national power supported by the will of the people resulted in the defeat of the LTTE.
Ladies/Gentlemen, in view of the strategic nature of this forum and the paucity of time, I have confined the presentation to strategic aspects and where important operational and tactical aspects.
Conduct of the Campaign
The humanitarian operation or campaign, as it was called aimed at eradicating terrorism and reunifying a divided nation. It was a vision encapsulated in the election manifesto of the President. The strategy of the Government of Sri Lanka, developed after the LTTE commenced operations in the east was the application of the instruments of national power to initially contain the LTTE and subsequently dismantle it. Salient aspects of the national strategy were as followings;
a. Drive all sources of national power and the government’s resources towards the Centre of Gravity (COG) of the LTTE which was external support and sustenance, and military power.
b. The political power emanating from the popularity of the President and initial military successes were blended with an objectively executed information strategy, to win and sustain the national will, which had failed with previous Governments.
c. The military strategy focused on the destruction and dismantling of the LTTE’s military power followed by clearing and pacification of areas controlled by the LTTE. Clearing the strategic port city of Trincomalee district in the East was priority. Subsequently, the destruction of the main LTTE forces in the Northern Province was to be effected. This was in consonance with Naval and air operations to isolate the LTTE from its external support.
d. Isolation of the LTTE internationally and disruption of external support through diplomacy. This included winning world opinion towards the cause of eradicating terrorism and countering false LTTE propaganda. Relations with friendly countries were to be improved. Containing our powerful neighbours with interest in the conflict was given priority.
e. Development and key economic projects of relief to the populace was to continue.
The Liberation of the East
Military operations in the east were spearheaded by Special Operation Forces supported by the infantry. The intent was to gain ascendancy over the LTTE in the first fight after four years of peace. It was also essential in the light of the bulk of the infantry being deployed in other important provinces. Moreover, the jungle terrain interspersed with vast open areas favoured the small group nature of Special Forces and specialized infantry.
The LTTE’s intention in the east was to exploit the positional advantage gained at the mouth of the Trincomalee harbour during the peace process to disrupt naval operations in support of the North. This would directly impact on the naval operations conducted from Trincomalee to interdict LTTE arms movements in high seas. The East also provided the much needed recruits and bases that facilitated suicide operations into Colombo.
Operational and tactical lessons from the Eastern operations
a. Blending Special Forces and infantry operations to suit the nature of the threat and terrain provided the right mix of capabilities which cannot be matched by a terrorist or guerrilla.
b. Most operations by both the infantry and Special Operation Forces were based on infantry, small groups and were conducted at night, which even the LTTE could not counter.
c. The clearing of the East denied the LTTE the ability to leverage other operations into the north, as was the case in the North. This was a critical decision at strategic level which enabled the focus of all resources on the LTTE strengths in the north.
The success of the eastern operations was followed by a mammoth development campaign which ensured separation of the people from the LTTE and thereby successful pacification.
Taking the Campaign to the Heart of the LTTE
The successful defeat of the LTTE in the east boosted the confidence of the nation and dented the invincibility of the LTTE. This confidence of the people provided the much needed manpower to prosecute the campaign henceforth.
The primary effort in the military strategy was to be applied in the northern theatre, a major proportion of which was under LTTE control and consisted of the infrastructure that made the LTTE one of the most sophisticated hybrid non state actors in the world. The challenge was to defeat the LTTE in their own backyard whilst securing the safety of almost 300,000 people.
Some of the key operational and tactical aspects were as following.
a. The LTTE modus operandi was based on preserving force by applying minimum cadres support by Improvised Explosive Devices and maximum indirect fires to hold critical areas. This would be supported by guerrilla and conventional style counter attacks. The LTTE had increased its arsenal of Artillery including Field and medium guns and heavy Mortars.
b. Suicide attacks would be launched on high value targets in the theatre and south of the country to undermine rapidly developing national cohesiveness.
c. The overall operation design was to create a stalemate, undermine pubic support and continue towards EELAM.
The Northern campaign was timed and sequenced to attain the following objectives.
a. Destroy and dismantle the LTTE organization and infrastructure by initially clearing and securing the western jungles and coastal areas, thus denying any logistical support or interference from across the Palk Strait.
b. Reunify, the north and south of the theatre through Pooneryn which would facilitate shifting and concentration of combat power for the final push into the heartland of the LTTE.
c. Concurrently, prosecute a subsidiary effort to the east and eastern coast to create simultaneity and overwhelm the strong bases and infrastructure of the LTTE.
d. The sea tigers, a vital force with sea and land fighting capabilities were to be confronted by the Navy at sea and land forces on land. Added to this was the airpower which would provide the much needed lethal power application in depth and close support.
The northern phase of the humanitarian operation was conducted over a period of 2 years and involved the commitment of almost ¾ of the Army well supported by the Air and Naval power. I am proud to stand before you and say that I was appointed as the ‘Wanni’ Security Force Commander immediately on my return from course in NDU China on 07 August 2007 and all the troops were under my Command. In view of the vastness of the campaign I am compelled to confine myself to the salient aspects of the execution of the campaign.
a. Commencing on 5 March 2007 the northern campaign was launched in the west and continued towards its initial objectives of clearing the west and the western coast. The coast and the jungles were contested employing small groups of infantry in numbers over jungles terrain and SOF into the depth.
b. Overwhelmed by the infantry small groups swarming all over the jungles the LTTE, could not bring to bear the indirect fires which was the centrepiece of its concept, due to the Security Forces not operating in conventional formations. A guerrilla was confronted by a more astute guerrilla. Air interdiction was effective due to the employment of UAV and SOF elements for target acquisition.
c. Loosing the contest for the jungles, the LTTE was pushed into classic conventional defence based on fortified villages. Having forcefully evacuated the civilians into depth areas, the LTTE stood its ground thus exposing itself to the enormous firepower of the Security Forces.
d. Halfway through the western objectives, another front to the east and eastern coast was opened in order to clear the LTTE and threaten the very existence of the organization. Here too, the infantry small group concept adopted in conjunction with SOF overwhelmed the LTTE. Gradually, the combat power of the LTTE began to shrink. The myth of the sea tigers was broken as its bases and cadres fell.
e. Surprised by the Security Forces’ modus operandi, which was based on fighting a guerrilla as a guerrilla, and defeated day by day, the LTTE changed its concept by using the hapless civilians as human shields. Establishing defence positions amidst civilian habitation, the LTTE moved from battle to battle amidst civilians, leading to the largest rescue operation in military history.
f. Towards, the last stages of the conflict, the LTTE along with its leadership held almost 290,000 people hostage in a strip of land on the eastern coast. Conditions were appalling and some civilians who attempted to escape were killed by the LTTE. Repeated requests by the Government to release the civilians were not heeded compelling military action. SOF spearheaded the crossing of a lagoon along with the infantry and fought their way through LTTE positions using only small arms to rescue almost 290,000 civilians.
g. The defeat of the LTTE terminated with the destruction of the LTTE leadership on the banks of a lagoon, bringing to an end 3 x decades of conflict.
Some of the critical lessons learnt are as follows.
a. Any insurgent or terrorist organization that reaches levels of sub conventional warfare are vulnerable and has to develop a greater if not parallel level of political strength. The LTTE had this opportunity to enter mainstream political activity but believed in its invincibility.
b. A total security approach encompassing the nation was designed and effectively implemented by the Secretary of defence. The citizen was also a part of nation security. These bonds stimulated patriotism and contributed to national will.
c. The key to success is decisive and strong political leadership that could muster national will. The military successes reaching the homes of the people through new media added to the national will.
d. The containment of India through smart diplomacy, personally managed by the President, was a critical imperative for winning the conflict. Diplomacy was also successful in evading international pressures and creates alliances that ensured financial and military aid continued.
e. A vital question for the practitioners of COIN is whether to follow an insurgent/terrorist centric strategy or population centric strategy that naturally espouses protection of the population. A population centric response could entail political dialogue that could last for years and therefore run the risk of losing national will and impeding development of the country. Terrorist centric response suited our environment.
f. A successful COIN strategy is troop intensive and therefore relies on national will to sustain campaigns. The Sri Lanka Army increased to almost 225000 over a period of just 3 x Years. As the LTTE depleted in strength and success the Security Forces increased due to the popularity of the cause.
g. The Sri Lanka Army adopted a policy of deliberate confrontation as an operational policy and avoided the terrain oriented missions. Previous attempts to defeat the LTTE failed as the Sri Lanka Army was oriented towards terrain enabling the LTTE to preserve force.
h. Concern for the Tamil civilians was induced into planning at all levels through a zero casualty’s policy. Safe corridors and No Fire Zones (NFZ) were introduced at the cost of the Security Forces.
i. The substantial improvement in intelligence at all levels was a force multiplier that made the difference. The coordination of intelligence between services under the Secretary defence provides a better and more accurate picture of the threat. The infantry small group concept too improved intelligence at the contact level contributing to their overall effectiveness.
Ladies/Gentlemen, We are simple islanders and do not look forward to conflict but pursue the path of peace. We do take pride in victory but as people of one nation regret the loss of life. The counter terrorist strategy executed under the leadership of our President was not by choice but thrust upon us. During this campaign, many a nation abandoned us, some opposed us, and a few like your great nation stood by us. This victory against terrorism is yours too.
Winning the Peace
However, it is only when the dust settles and the cost is counted that the magnitude of the damage to the nation and national interest could be ascertained. Ladies and gentlemen, whilst the economic cost which is unimaginable could still be worked out; the most damaging was the negative impact on the social fabric of the people living in the North and east of Sri Lanka. The Political and socio – economic structures and physical infrastructure in the north and east of Sri Lanka which were critical to the existence of people, were destroyed and systematically dismantled by the LTTE terrorists. The economic development of the early eighties which was once hailed as a model of development and prosperity in the region by none other than the father of modern Singapore, Dr Lee Kwan Yew, reduced in momentum.
But, what is most alarming is the toll on human life of people of all communities and the psychological scars and separation, which needed to be healed and bridged. Ladies and gentleman, the Government of Sri Lanka has responded to this mammoth and complex undertaking of post conflict nation building with an ambitious all encompassing national strategy for sustainable peace and prosperity.
Ladies and Gentleman, I stand privileged and pleased to present some of the salient aspects of our nation building endeavour to win the peace and be the emerging wonder of Asia.
Challenges and Opportunities
It could be safely stated that the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE was none like any of its kind in the recent history of conflict. But, what is astounding is the completeness of the defeat, and the abrupt cessation of violence, which created a sudden “mission vacuum”. The soldier in high intensity combat yesterday, had to continue to be the guardian, whist transforming overnight in to peace facilitator, law enforcer, administrator, health service provider, humanitarian agency and subsequently in to a nation builder. “Adapt and learn” being the dictum, adapt he and she did, rapidly transforming from war fighter to a peace warrior.
In the aftermath of the conflict, it was appalling to see the pitiful state of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka which had been controlled and administered by the LTTE terrorists till then. The infrastructure, Government administrative system, health services, community services, power and energy service, education and housing, had been destroyed and disrupted. The social fabric and religious structures, which are critical to social and community coherence had being systematically reduced and manipulated to enable better population control.
Adding to the above was the displacement of almost 290,000 people, who subsequently had to be fed, clothed and sheltered until the province was restored for habitation.
Ladies/gentleman, in to this critical period of national complexities, the Army stepped forward to shoulder the burden and take on the challenges of humanitarian support, and subsequently play an important role in nation building.
For easy understanding let me first introduce you to some of the early challenges faced after the Humanitarian Operation and subsequently build my talk to include development and nation building phases.
After the successful completion of the Humanitarian operation to liberate the north and Eastern areas from the LTTE terrorists, the Government developed a coherent national plan integrating all Government ministries and agencies, UN agencies, NGO’s, INGO’s and other aid organizations. This comprehensive strategy was in two parts. Part I, Eastern awakening focused on rebuilding the east which was in better shape and began even before the launch of military operations to clear the Northern Province. Part II won the northern spring concentrated on rebuilding the Northern Province, which had been devastated due to the LTTE control of the area.
Towards Enduring Peace and Prosperity as A United Nation
Ladies/Gentlemen, there could be no doubt that we are on our way to winning the peace after winning the war. After decades of violence and conflict we face the new millennium as a united nation with hunger for prosperity and enduring peace. The nation’s progress towards where we are today, is governed and guided by the ‘Mahinda Chintana’, a vision for the future declared by HE the President in his second election manifesto. The opportunities for our nation are many and so are the challenges that run parallel
a. The eradication of terrorism comprehensively has provided an opportunity for enduring peace for all communities. Reconciliation enabled through effective resettlement, reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration continues steadily. However, challenges in the form of attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the nation through false human rights allegations could derail the ongoing reconciliation and peace building efforts. The challenge of the Army will be to maintain its “Army for all” image, which will support the reconciliation process. Ultimately, the hearts and minds of the people will decide the fate of the nation.
b. The comprehensiveness of the victory over the LTTE terrorist which has resulted in immediate peace provides opportunities for early peace building, rapid development and economic growth. Understanding the need to exploit this gain, the government has initiated moves towards longer-term political solutions.
c. By virtue of the geo-strategic positioning of the nation, a host of regional and international challenges emerge and needs to be addressed. These could challenge the non aligned policy the nation has always followed. The reshaping of the Army into a more professional outfit will provide deterrence and contribute to the effectiveness of foreign policy.
d. The Government’s policy for enduring peace gives prominence to economic prosperity. The President’s vision for the future encapsulated in the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ exploits the geo strategic positioning of Sri Lanka and aims at developing the nation as a naval, aviation, commercial, energy and knowledge hub linking the east and west. This will include the regeneration of the urban centres such as cities and implementing of rural centric integrated initiatives to empower villages. In addition to the war fighting skills the Army would have to acquire a new set of skills in reconstruction and particular development fields, to aid the development process. Our manpower, organization and planning skills could be put to good use for development. Already we play an active role in urban regeneration.
e. The Army is ideally placed to contribute to mentoring and shaping the youth into better and productive citizen’s thus adding vigour to new generations. Organized and objective leadership programs could be some of the many means implementable.
f. Training the Army whilst contributing to national development will undoubtedly be a continuing challenge. The creation of doctrine to support training and employment of the Army in this new role will improve effectiveness.
Ladies/Gentlemen, our nation is emerging as the wonder of Asia and will play a vital role in the region as well as the world in the not too distant future. You could be certain that the Army will play an active role in this endeavour. Yet, this will be achieved by retaining the values, ethics, traditions and rich culture we proudly showcase. Ladies and Gentlemen, the men and women I lead have done the nation proud and will continue to do so. Terrorism is that of the past and we intend keeping it that way.