The main fighting in the West Coast, as of now, is concentrated in the outskirts of Adampan and Pallaikuli. Other areas like Uylankulam entry-exit point and Sirikulam are almost entirely under Security Forces control. Brief skirmishes continue in Parappakandal and Giant's Tank West (8 GW) and East, Mud Spill and Ittikandal to the west (not shown in map).
The above map indicates the small tanks scattered across the terrain. The tanks west and east of Adampan are under SLA control. The Giant's Tank is to the east of Uylankulam and is slightly larger.
The weather, as it is customary, has worsened. The ground is soggy and the small tanks shown in the above map that act as barriers are full of water. Only tractors, some captured from the LTTE, can travel in the muddy jungle routes cleared by troops. The houses in Adampan have underground bunkers in them where Tigers hide and launch attacks.
Foot bridges, culverts, trees, bushes, abandoned Tiger bodies are booby-trapped. The uniforms of the officers and men get wet in the rain and become heavy. The boots have to be sealed for many days in the mud. The muddy ground conditions makes stealthy reconnaissance and group attacks a formidable challenge.
A comparison between the situation then and now
In May 1997, Operation Jayasikurui advanced towards Mankulam via Omanthai. Operation Rivibala launched in December 1998 captured Oddusudan and made further inroads into Mulaithivu.
In 1999, Operations Ranagosha I,II and III captured Sinnapandivirichan, Periya Pandivirichian, Thatchanamaranthamadu, Periyamadhu, Thampanai, upto Palampiddi. The operations managed to capture over 800 square Kilometers in Mannar, Weli Oya and Mulaithivu. The Army relied on Sri Lanka Air Force and Navy troops (example Walagamba Camp) to man the area. It also established small bases inside the jungles.
Barely a year after, in November 1999, the LTTE launched Oyatha Alaikal III (Ceaseless Waves-3) under the leadership of its Military Wing leader Balraj. The offensives were led personally by Karuna (Field Commander) and his Jeyanthan Regiment troops. Charles Anthony, the Karum Puli (Black Tigers), 'Leopard Commandos' Victor Anti-Armour unit etc were also involved.
The Navy and Air Force personnel broke ranks with the Army (example Oddusudan). The Army was forced out of Mankulam and fell back all the upto 'Lanka Handiya' in Vavuniya. The Mannar and Weli Oya ranks also fell back. The total loss of life, although not revealed was close to 1000 troops killed. Over 800 square kilometers captured painstakingly from 1997 to 1999 were lost in November 1999.
Between now and then..
In Operations Jayasikurui(also Watershed), Rivibala and Ranagosha, the elite units of the 53 Division were heavily involved, both in breaking through LTTE defenses and in defending against Oyatha Alaikal. As a result, 2 and 3 SF for example had lost a lot of men and the defence establishment thought of collapsing the 3 Regiments into one. This is no longer the case.
The most prominent regiments involved in the fighting today are the regulars from Gemunu Watch (GW), Gajaba IR, Vijayaba Regiment, Singha Regiment and on occasion, 2 and 3 Commando. The Armoured Corp also chips in. The Brigades now in operation are additions to the Army. These include the 57, 58, 59, Mechanized Infantry and soon, the 61 Division. This is a remarkable achievement.
This has also freed up the Special Forces to carry out specialized missions in the deep and medium battle-space (LRRP), raids, reconnaissance, decapitation strikes (example Charles) etc.
The fighting is planned and executed by the Sri Lanka Army and the Army alone. No Naval or Air Force detachments have been deployed. No bases have been established in jungles infested by the LTTE.
In 1999, the small satellite camps established in jungles in Jayasikurui, Rivibala and Ranagosha Operations were surrounded and overrun one after the other. In 2007-8, the satellite camps existing in the area are those of the LTTE and they are being overrun by the SLA (Don't die for your land, let them die for theirs).
The Operations of today have no name. They have no superficial goals like grabbing land or roads, but have the objective of killing a minimum number of Tigers a day. The results speak for themselves. From 22nd September 2007 todate, over 1300 Tigers have been killed in Mannar alone.
The most important aspect of the entire Operation by the Army is the leadership and morale. General Fonseka has been studying the LTTE since he joined the Army's 3rd Officer Intake. His thesis/'doctoral dissertation', unlike his predecessors, has been the LTTE. His knowledge of the terrain is remarkable and no officer serving can challenge it.
The Army under General Fonseka has a no-nonsense policy in making promotions , which are based primarily on merit, rather than saeniority. he is also a survivor of an LTTE suicide attack!
The LTTE's capacity, or lack of it, an independent analysis
- No capacity to launch Ceaseless Waves after significant losses since 2002 (perhaps over 6,000 due to disbanding, death, serious injury)
- Experienced field commanders and 2nd and 3rd line leadership like Karuna, Ramanan, Charles, Rabat, Reggie, Mangalam, Riyaseelan, Ineya Parathi are either dead or defected
- Prabha, Balraj, Sornam, Soosei, Jeyam, Bhanu etc are now older by 9 additional years and less energetic
- The experienced rank and file is also getting old. Younger rank and file is less experienced
- Decapitation strikes and LRRP operations restricting Tiger leaders mobility and command
- Defensive mindset in contrast to the offensive mindset of 1999
- Heavy use of artillery in 1999 has drastically subsided after destruction of arms ships
- Heavy use of trappings. Less conventional and tactical warfare than in 1999
- Loss of key intelligence personnel like Charles
- Loss of political strategists like Balasingham and Thamilselvan