Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lessons From the Tiger Defeat

(newsweek)Can insurgencies be crushed by purely military means? Many counterinsurgency -theorists doubt it, arguing that guerrilla wars are won and lost primarily on the political front. It will be interesting, then, to see what conclusions they draw from the dramatic end of Sri Lanka's brutal civil war against the Tamil Tigers.

Last week the Tigers admitted defeat in their two-and-a-half-decade insurgency after the death of their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, at the hands of the military. Sri Lanka's strategy relied on a few key tactics. First, the government created heavily armed village militias to protect civilians—mostly civilians who belonged to the majority ethnic Sinhalese population. Second, whenever it cleared an area of rebels, it quickly moved in enough professional soldiers to hold the ground. Third, Colombo used highly trained commandos to snoop out guerrilla bases deep in the jungle, where they used GPS to call in airstrikes. Many of these tactics are replicable elsewhere—in fact, they should sound especially familiar to Central Command chief Gen. David -Petraeus, whose military surge in Iraq relied on just such techniques. Full text Share on Facebook