Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Devil You Know

So far this year, the LTTE has lost nearly 6,000 dead, while the army has lost nearly 600 soldiers. In the last two years, since the ceasefire collapsed, the LTTE has had over 9,000 of its fighters killed, while the army has lost nearly 1,800 dead. In that time, LTTE controlled territory has shrunk from 15,000 square kilometers, to 4,000.

The LTTE personnel and territorial losses are accelerating because the LTTE can no longer maintain a "front line" of bunkers. The army is thus able to move deep into LTTE controlled territory, taking towns and major bases the LTTE depend on to recruit troops and extract supplies, especially food. Over the last few months, over 100,000, mostly Tamil, civilians up north have fled their homes and are being housed in refugee camps. The LTTE population losses mean fewer recruits, and less armed resistance to the army.

The air force and navy have crippled LTTE smuggling efforts, but not eliminated them. Tamil fishermen from India are still willing to risk arrest or injury to move weapons, medicine and diesel fuel to LTTE controlled beaches in northern Sri Lanka. The fee paid for these trips has been going up from about $1,000 to over $2,000. But the blockade has eliminated the use of cargo ships for these supply runs. So instead of getting hundreds of tons of supplies at time, the LTTE has to be satisfied with a few tons.

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