The Rise of the Liberation Tigers: Conventional Operations in the Sri Lankan Civil War, 1990-2001
Technical Report,01 Jun 2018,01 May 2019
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS FORT LEAVENWORTH United States
Pagination or Media Count:
A key, but rare, development for nonstate armed groups is gaining the ability to fight conventionally against state forces. Many of these groups develop such capabilities through sponsorship from friendly states. Traditionally, it is assumed that such groups otherwise draw their strength by building mass support from their privileged communities. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE, which fought to establish a separate state for the Tamil minority of Sri Lanka until its annihilation in May 2009, developed impressive combat capabilities within a short time mostly without state sponsorship or the mass mobilization of the Tamil civilian population. The LTTE built its force structure with child fighters and crafted a secular cult of martyrdom that enabled it to raise a suicide bomber corps. In the early 1990s, the LTTE began to upgrade from a guerrilla force into an infantry force and formulated doctrine to destroy the bases of the Sri Lankan security forces. It later integrated its growing firepower to create a nascent combined-arms capability. The Tigers measured their success in terms of their ability to fight the security forces, not in territory or control over people. By the end of the decade, they reached their high watermark after defeating a Sri Lanka Army division. The example of the LTTE challenges orthodox understanding of how nonstate armed groups generate combat power. Although the LTTE no longer exists, its example suggests that similar armed groups could emerge elsewhere, under the right conditions, to threaten the stability of other governments in the developing world.
- Government and Political Science
- Civil Defense