The Taliban cannot be defeated by discrediting Sri Lanka
The Taliban are now carrying out attacks and suicide bombings deep in the heart of Pakistan. A sign that the Islamic extremist have the resources and the support to strike in two nations at the same time. It's safe to say that at this moment in time the Taliban have gained the upper hand in America's war on terror.
Hours ahead of President Barack Obama's crucial talks with his military chiefs, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asserted America is not losing the war in Afghanistan, but acknowledged "the Taliban has momentum"
It also appears that the United States has a new tactic in the fight against the Taliban. The Obama administration is trying to win over the Taliban with money.
A top Taliban political leader delivered a message Friday to President Obama, calling his attempt to lure away Taliban fighters with money "an old weapon that has failed already."
"The Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are not mercenaries and employed gunmen like the armed men of the invaders and their surrogates," Mullah Brader Akhund said in the statement. "This war will come to an end when all invaders leave our country and an Islamic government based on the aspirations of our people is formed in the country."
As a Sri Lankan who is neither Sinhalese nor Tamil, I watched the Sinhalese attempt to negotiate and pacify the Tamil extremist (Tamil Tigers) for two decades. Sri Lanka eventually worked out that trying to appease terrorist cannot bring peace. It took 26 years and over 100,000 deaths to figure it all out.
There is a ridiculous theory floating around these days that Sri Lanka resorted to war crimes and violations of International humanitarian law to defeat the Tigers. You have to be a complete imbecile to think that. Robert D. Kaplan is one such imbecile. Kaplan thinks that all it took to defeat one of the world's most dangerous terrorist organisations was indiscriminate shelling and silencing the media.
This is an excerpt from Robert D. Kaplan from The Atlantic,
Clearly, then, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps should be studying the Sri Lankan civil war for valuable lessons about how to win a counterinsurgency, right? Actually—no. In fact, there are no useful pointers to be gleaned from the Sri Lankan government’s victory. The war was won using techniques like the following, which the United States could and should never employ. The insurgents are using human shields? No problem. Just keep killing the innocent bystanders until you get to the fighters themselves. There is no comparison between the few civilians that have been killed by American Predator drones in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, and the many that were killed by the Sri Lankan government. The Americans have carefully targeted select Al-Qaeda members and, in the process, killed a few—at the most, dozens—of civilians among whom the fighters were surrounded. By contrast, the Sri Lankan military indiscriminately killed large numbers of civilians—as many as 20,000 in the final months of fighting, according to the United Nations. Bad media coverage is hurting morale and giving succor to the enemy? Just kill the journalists. That's what the Sri Lankan authorities did.
Sri Lanka's final thrust against the Tamil Tigers started on July 26, 2006. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were defeated on the 18th of May 2009. It took Sri Lanka nearly 3 years to destroy the Tigers. A sign that 'collateral damage' was always a cause for concern. When Kaplan heard of accusations of hospitals being shelled, the Tigers were already defeated. 99% of territory they held was in the control of the Sri Lankan government. They were cornered in a tiny patch of land and dependent on the naive who find it easier to digest Tamil Tiger propaganda than logic to bail them out.
Sri Lanka does not trust the developed world. When the Tamil Tigers were cornered and facing defeat nations home to a huge Tamil Tiger diaspora were pressuring Sri Lanka at the UN to stop it's offensive against the Tigers. All at the behest of sympathisers of the Tamil extremist movement. The people of Sri Lanka know that both the EU and US reports on the war in Sri Lanka were lobbied for by Tamil extremist. The same extremist diaspora who funded the Tigers. The Sri Lankan people have no faith in Europe or the United States, or anyone out there who think they, and only they, are the upholders of human rights.
Most of us on this island view you as naive and foolish. All ethnic groups in Sri Lanka have suffered at the hands of the Tamil Tigers. The Tigers killed Muslims, Burghers, Sinhalese, and thousands of Tamils they claimed to protect. For 26 years the world forgot Sri Lanka as the Tigers stole our kids, hacked sleeping villagers with machetes, bombed our train stations and civilian infrastructure. We were then forced to negotiate with and please cold blooded killers. It's human nature to want to portray compassion. Even if it's false and misplaced. No one wants to look like the bad guy. So gutless politicians who care not for facts along with naive journalists and rights groups are out with all guns blazing against Sri Lanka. The call was for a war crimes investigation. That too an independent one. How can one expect Sri Lanka to trust the US and Europe to carry out a fair investigation when it has displayed it's ignorance to us?
Instead of discrediting Sri Lanka's achievements, and instead of swallowing Tamil Tiger propaganda whole the US and it's allies must first give credit where it's due. Sri Lanka is the first nation this century to defeat an insurgency. Sri Lanka proved that guerilla warfare wasn't an un-winnable war. If and when the US and it's allies recognise the achievements, the sacrifices, and the strategy involved in defeating the Tigers, only then will they identify the path to defeating Islamic extremism. They may even gain the trust of the Sri Lankan government. There are valuable lessons to be learnt from Sri Lanka's victory over the Tamil Tigers.
For example the split in the Tigers' ranks led by Colonel Karuna shows us how the Sri Lankan government looked within the Tamil Tiger movement for moderates who have had enough of war.
Previously, the Sri Lankan government attempted to take the Tigers on deep in their heartland, on this occasion the Sri Lankan government fought the Tigers on various fronts. This meant the Tigers had to spread their combatants over many regions to defend territory.
Sri Lanka guarded it's borders closely. The Sri Lankan Navy gathered intelligence for several months on the Tigers' arms smuggling channels and destroyed their weapons smuggling ships. Although the Tigers were never short of ammunition, the Navy's vigilance kept the Tigers' activities at sea in check. The fact that the senior Tiger leadership were unable to flee to neighbouring India by sea stands as testimony to the Navy's blockade.
Despite being considered by most military experts as a feared fighting force the Tamil Tigers failed to carry out guerilla style attacks on territory it had lost. The recruitment drive of the Sri Lanka Army literally flooded military personnel into newly captured areas to maintain law and order. New recruits held newly captured ground whilst experienced soldiers moved into the front lines.
The Army's engineers worked tirelessly to ensure supplies and personnel moved through tough terrain. During the monsoon rains everything turned into mud. Although the Tigers thought the fall of their administrative capital Killinochi would be delayed due to rain, the terrain, and the mosquitoes the Sri Lankan armed forces marched on.
On several occasions the government paused it's offensive to allow civilians to move out of the conflict zone. The air force dropped leaflets informing civilians of safe routes and Red Cross facilities. This was no senseless bombardment.
Sri Lanka's victory wasn't achieved by slaying the innocent till the last Tiger was killed. This was a calculated battle plan. A strategy which must be given it's rightful due.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal is right. Without more troops the US cannot defeat the Taliban. The US and it's allies must flood Afghanistan with troops to counter the Taliban in every corner. Where Sri Lanka failed, the US must excel. Sri Lanka faired poorly when it came to combating the Tamil Tigers propaganda. It's response to allegations was a disaster. The US must recognise the importance of recruiting moderate Muslims who are well versed in the Quran to prove to Muslims that the Taliban's actions are un-Islamic. The US must do more than Sri Lanka to counter false information on civilian casualties and other Taliban propaganda.
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan - Hundreds of angry protesters in Afghanistan's capital burned an effigy of President Obama on Sunday, acting on rumours that American troops had desecrated the Koran. U.S. military officials emphatically denied that any copies of the Muslim holy book had been mishandled, and they accused the Taliban of spreading falsehoods to incite hatred against Western forces.
Terrorist have always lied to appear as though their cause is noble. They exploit rights groups, humanitarian agencies, MPs, Congressmen, and the weak to keep terrorising. Those who yearn for global peace and those who hold positions of responsibility must be above the fray when dealing with them. As America leaned from 911 ignoring terrorism and extremism in a distant land will one day bring it to your own doorstep. The Taliban cannot be defeated by discrediting Sri Lanka's accomplishments.
Bailaman is a Blogger from Sri Lanka. His Blog can be found here.