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Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)
'Surprise' in Prabha's strategy
The army is expecting the LTTE to pull out from the Vavuniya - Kilinochchi road once it has exhausted the maximum quantum of resources it may have allocated to the resistance of Jaya Sikurui. This expectation is obviously based on the army's experience in Jaffna during the Riviresa Operations.
The LTTE fiercely countered Operation Leap Forward initially, forcing the army to withdraw back to its former positions in the Palali- KKS base complex. But later it simply pulled out without offering much resistance when the army began to barrage its way through with heavy artillery in Op. Riviresa I. The lesson that seems to have been drawn from this behaviour of the Tigers is that they will not risk or expose their military resources in a suicidal resistance attempt but would rather save these (the resources) to fight another day. Similarly, it is assumed that the Tigers will not expose their manpower to the army's superior and massive firepower in continuing to resist the advance along the Omanthai- Puliyankulam road and the Nedunkerny- Puliyankulam road.
It is in this context that we should see headlines which appear frequently in the government controlled press such as " LTTE shuts down Omanthai camp and Alpha 2 base". The Reuters also reported that the LTTE was dismantling its defence positions along the A 9 trunk road. All this, I can confidently assert, is based on speculation drawn more from the Jaffna parallel than from facts. Here, in drawing conclusions about the LTTE's possible reaction to Jaya Sikurui in the coming weeks, a very important aspect of its behaviour in Jaffna after July1995 has been overlooked. The Tiger high command decided to withdraw all its military assets from the peninsula quite some time before Op. Riviresa began, among other things, for a very specific intelligence related reason.
The high command found soon after the withdrawal of Op. Leap Forward from the southern Valigamam sector that the army was capable of obtaining quite precise information about its military positions in the peninsula. Many key installations and supply dumps were exposed to very accurate artillery and air attacks.
With all these in danger of being destroyed, the very prospect of a prolonged resistance in the peninsula based on close combat in the built-up areas which could have inflicted heavy casualties on the army became impossible. The LTTE found that very precise information was going to the army from the local population. And there was no way, given the topography of the peninsula, that it could effectively hide the military positions required to counter the army's advance during Riviresa. Now this is not the case in the Wanni. Almost all the LTTE's military assets such as base camps, ordnance units, fuel dumps, underground military hospitals, communications bases and above all its artillery positions are located in thick jungle. Very few civilians have access to any of these.
Therefore the military intelligence has very little 'Humint' - intelligence gathered on the ground - in the Wanni. The army has been able to acquire some information of the LTTE's positions through aerial surveillance carried out with the UAVs (Drones). There are many who claim that the Drones had produced an impressively accurate picture of Tiger bases in the Wanni when the Jaya Sikurui was on the drawing boards. This is not correct.
Electronic intelligence, whatever the degree of its sophistication, is mostly useless unless it is matched with information gathered by operatives on the ground ( or Humint in the parlance of spooks) and is properly analysed . This is a major drawback the army faces in the Wanni. It is further compounded by the fact that the airforce has lost all its UAVs. This is the reason why the army, despite the heavy bombing raids behind the lines' by the airforce' and the firepower of the long range artillery, has not been able to pick out a single artillery position of the LTTE. The unusually high rate of wounded among the Jaya Sikurui troops has been largely due to artillery attacks by the Tigers. In short, the army is walking into a terrain where it is, and will be, intelligence blind.
It is therefore incorrect to assume that the Tigers will pull out of the Kilinochchi road area after a period of initial resistance as they did in Jaffna. And contrary to an expectation in certain quarters, the Tigers will not withdraw a substantial portion of their military assets from the Wanni to the eastern province once the army succeeds in trifurcating the region. Here one must take note of the fact that the LTTE has not exhausted all its options in the Wanni war. They are still opposing the army's advance 'frontally'.
The Directorate of Military Intelligence, it is understood, had been predicting a massive diversionary strike on a major target bordering the Wanni while the first phase of Op. Jaya Sikurui was struggling to gain a few kilometres north of Omanthai. A Mullaithivu style attack was expected on the Mannar mainland FDL or on the Kilinochchi-Paranthan complex or on Vavuniya. Logically this appeared quite probable. But nothing happened expect the attack on the cargo vessel Athena in Trincomalee.
The Tiger high command is apparently keen on drawing the army into the Wanni where the security forces are intelligence blind while fighting them into a certain level of exhaustion by resisting Jeya Sikurui frontally on the Nedunkerny - Puliyankulam road and the Omanthai - Pulaiyankulam road, and then go for the options that are available to it. In this connection one must take into account the fact that the Tiger high command did not call troops from the Batticaloa and Ampara districts for the sole purpose of fighting Jaya Sikurui. The elite 'Jeyanthan brigade' which was called up to the Wanni in March is said to be undergoing a special training programme along with some other units stationed in the Wanni.
The onslaught of Jaya Sikurui seems to have had no effect on on this training which seems to be aimed at something very specific. The element of surprise has always been the LTTE's strong point. Prabhaharan will not let it go despite the unprecedented calamity that Jaya Sikurui has created in the Wanni. One of the central problems the Sri Lankan state faces in prosecuting the Eelam War has been its inability to make him panic.