‘Sri Lanka Army not a counterinsurgency force’

Observing that the Sri Lanka army “cannot be separated from the wider political culture of entrenched Sinhala nationalism and militarism in which it exists” and the LTTE “was not a typical insurgency and is better considered as a de facto quasi-state with institutions covering taxation, policing, judiciary and public services”, it is unwise to consider the SLA as a counterinsurgency force, argues Rob Pinney, researcher at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. In a paper published on Small Wars Journal on 23 June, the Mr. Pinney further concludes that “failure to address the political grievances of the Tamil population is likely to imperil the prospect of a durable peace.” A Tamil analyst, however, alludes to genocidal nature of the unitary Sinhala state as the prime reason of its “failure” to provide a political solution.

Mr. Pinney’s paper “Can the Sri Lanka Army be described as a counterinsurgency force?” was published on Small Wars Journal on 23 June 2014.

Pinney bases his argument that the SLA is not a COIN force on four points – that the LTTE was not like other insurgencies but rather was a functioning de facto state, that the SLA adapted irregular techniques in its war on the LTTE making it a ‘hybrid warfare’ and not a typical COIN operation, that the SLA cannot be separated from the Sinhala-Buddhist state building project, and finally that there is a failure of the GoSL to provide a political solution to the Tamils.

The last point is derived from the classical COIN theoretical position that a military victory over an insurgency is incomplete without a political victory.

However, the GoSL is structurally incapable of providing a political solution to the Tamils because the unitary state itself is based on genocide of the Eezham Tamil nation, comments a Tamil analyst.

Further comments from the analyst follow:

While veterans in the global COIN field like experts David Kilcullen and Ahmed Hashim and British foreign policy analyst Paul Moorcraft have praised the ‘victory’ of Sri Lanka model of COIN, Mr. Pinney differs in his refusal to confer the status of a ‘counterinsurgency force’ to the Sri Lanka Army.

That the acceptance of the ‘Sri Lanka model’ as a credible and effective model of COIN by military quarters is not just a threat to world peace, but is also pernicious to the very nature of war studies has been pointed out by analysts earlier.

British military historian Liddell Hart defines strategy as the application of military means to fulfil the ends of policy of a state.

The policy of the Sri Lankan state, ever since its creation by the colonial powers, towards the Eezham Tamil nation has been one of genocide.

As a result, a reading of “war” or “counterinsurgency” by itself without taking into account this policy itself produces only a part of the picture.

World powers, despite being aware of this policy of the Sri Lankan state, fully equipped it militarily and theoretically in its war on the Tamil resistance, the result being the genocidal onslaught on Tamils in 2009.

For instance, Gordon Weiss, former UN spokesperson in Sri Lanka, was fully aware that the Sri Lankan military was using cluster bombs against the Tamils. He remained silent on the fact at that time, and after May 2009, wrote a book with the theme of ‘war crimes of both sides’.

While the nature of the internationally trained Lascarine military of Sri Lanka is recognized by the Tamil people as an occupying, genocidal army, many Tamil thinkers observe that their struggle for national liberation is still viewed under the COIN paradigm by world establishments. This only further contributes to the intransigence of the Sri Lankan state.

External Links:

Small Wars Journal:

Can the Sri Lanka Army be Described as a Counterinsurgency Force?

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