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War Crimes charge: Urgent need for reappraisal of GoSL's response A Changing us Role and "Numbers Game"

2014 Jan 08

Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp with Maj. Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe during his Feb 2012 visit to Palaly

 By Shamindra Ferdinando

There couldn’t be a better choice than the US to examine the circumstances leading to eelam war IV and the bloody conclusion of the conflict on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May 2009.

Having studied the capabilities and weaknesses of the Sri Lankan military vis a vis the LTTE in late 2002, on the invitation of the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, the US made a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing the fighting capabilities of GoSL forces to meet any eventuality. The US conducted the assessment as the was country rapidly heading for eelam war IV, though Norway remained confident of a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

There hadn’t been a similar assessment conducted during the entire war. The credit for having the US to scrutinize Sri Lanka’s military capability should go to Premier Wickremesinghe, whose meetings with US President George W. Bush in July 2002 paved the way for the Department of Defence to deploy a five-man team led by Ambassador Robin Raphel, Senior Vice President of the National Defence University.

In accordance with the US study, USPACOM, having closely examined the military at operational as well as tactical levels, attributed the armed forces failure to defeat the LTTE largely to economic shortfalls and operational inefficiencies. The US asserted: "This situation threatens to place the government of Sri Lanka in a precarious position at the negotiating table or on the battlefield, if hostilities resumed."

Sri Lanka reciprocated by arresting a wanted Al Qaeda operative taking refuge here and handing him over to the CIA. The arrest was made on information provided by the US. The removal of the suspect was in line with what the US called extraordinary rendition, a special project targeting those who posed a security threat to US interests.

The military proved experts wrong by executing a multi-pronged offensive on the Vanni front (March 2007-May 2009) after having liberated the Eastern Province in June 2007. During eelam war IV, the US provided decisively intelligence leading to the destruction of four LTTE floating arsenals on the high seas in two separate missions. The US also enhanced Sri Lanka’s offshore operational capacity by delivering a former US Coast Guard vessel to the Sri Lanka Navy. But today, the US is pushing Sri Lanka on the diplomatic front demanding, that the country explain the conduct of its armed forces during the final phase of the offensive.

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