Travis Sinniah’s Note on the SL Army’s Land Warfare Campaign in 2006-09:

The SL Army’s Land Warfare Campaign in 2006-09: Debating the Lines of Strategic Emphasis TWO: Travis Sinniah’s Clarification

In a telephone conversation in June 2020 relating to the Sri Lankan armed forces successful military campaign on land against the formidable LTTE forces during Eelam War IV,[1] issues arose regarding the lines of strategic emphasis. As I was not au fait with one of the summary terms mentioned in this chat, I formulated a ‘QUESTION’ which I sent to several personnel with a military background.[2] In a deliberate presentational ‘tactic,’ I am placing the Memoranda I received in reply from Retd Admiral Travis Sinniah[3] ahead of the Question I presented to him.

Answer from Retd Admiral Travis Sinniah, 18 June 2020

Answer from Retd Admiral Travis Sinniah, 18 June 2020

You are correct in your assumption. The strategy uses a multi-pronged approach.
Using the basic principles of war to combat insurgency that has reached its third phase.
For example, dividing enemy forces, isolate, encircle, cut off logistics, disorganize, disrupt communications, break confidence in leadership,
Remove popular support,
Discourage enemy forces,
Ultimately breaking down their will to fight . 
This is the aim, where once achieved drives fear into rebels and they surrender .
At the same time, the SL forces used the initiative of multi-pronged small victories and continued the battle rhythm until the enemy was exhausted and lost all hope.
This led to a mass surrender .

This was a counter insurgency strategy of man our religion and not attrition. The numbers of casualties over thirty years confirm this, when compared with other global wars/internal conflicts.

*********  *************

The Issues raised by Michael Roberts, 17 June 2020

Dear Travis

In conversation with an acquaintance with some military know-how about the GoSL’s successful campaign [on LAND] against the LTTE in E-War IV, he spoke of the programme as

  • One of Attrition ….. contrasting it with
  • A strategy of counter-insurgency.

Now, in my amateur fashion I had previously come to the conclusion that Sarath Fonseka and his command had intelligently

A = concentrated on reducing the fighting numbers of the LTTE rather than the capture of territory ….and

B= re-tooled the infantry regiments via the gradual expansion of the SIOT concept from 2002(?) onwards and

C = encouraging bottom-up planning for forward movements and assaults [a revolutionary move in our hierarchical society]

So: please enlighten me

X = what does the so-called “counter insurgency strategy’ entail?

Y = and comment, correct and elaborate on my three points A, B and C


*****  *****


[1] As most people will know, the LTTE was considerably weakened by the defection of Karuna Amman and many Eastern Province cadre in 2004. This was a major factor. But note that Pirapharan remained confident of winning the war when he activated the process at Mavil Aru in late 2006. So, the focus here is on the land battles thereafter. This is not to discount the importance of the services provided by (A) the SL Navy; (B) the SL Air Force; and (C) the SL police, STF and the forces in the east placed  under Sarath Weerasekera during the period 2006-09. Note, too, that the region around Colombo city remained a war front.

The SLN Navy’s initiative in locating and destroying several of the LTTE’s warehouse ships in the year 2007 was a major factor in the GoSL’s eventual success (see Roberts, Tamil Person and State, Pictorial (2014: pics …. and ……………. now reproduced below ). However, to reiterate, the focus in this Thuppahi item is the military strategy on land.

[2] Though I had met them earlier during some of my inquiries, I have not approached General Shavendra Silva or General Kamal Gunaratne because they are on active duty at present.

[3] Retd Commodore Sinniah now resides in Brisbane and is pursuing further studies. His Response has been a brief memo sent by Ipad

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One response to “Travis Sinniah’s Note on the SL Army’s Land Warfare Campaign in 2006-09:

  1. Asoka Kuruppu

    Not Commodore Sinniah but Admiral S.

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