The Sri Lanka Option: Brutal Dictatorships Learning Bad COIN Lessons


The Economist reports that military delegations from some of the world's less savory regimes have been visiting Sri Lanka ever since it crushed the Tamil Tiger insurgency in search of a model they can reverse engineer and apply in their own countries.

Sri Lanka's COIN approach is about as far from Gen. Stanley McChrystal's population centric COIN as you're likely to find, outside of maybe German counter-partisan operations during World War II.

"Louise Arbour, head of the International Crisis Group (ICG), says the Sri Lanka model consists of three parts: what she dubs “scorched-earth tactics” (full operational freedom for the army, no negotiations with terrorists, no ceasefires to let them regroup); next, ignoring differences between combatants and non-combatants (the new ICG report documents many such examples); lastly, the dismissal of international and media concerns.

A senior official in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office, quoted anonymously in a journal, Indian Defence Review, says “we had to ensure that we regulated the media. We didn’t want the international community to force peace negotiations on us.” The author of that article, V.K. Shashikumar, concludes that “in the final analysis the Rajapaksa model is based on a military precept…Terrorism has to be wiped out militarily and cannot be tackled politically.” This is the opposite of the strategy America is pursuing in Afghanistan. It is winning a widespread hearing."

-- Greg Grant

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