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The last roar of the tiger

Not many may have noticed, but the Tamil Tigers are on the verge of defeat in Sri Lanka. The Strategy Page writes

he government lost control of most of northern Sri Lanka in the late 1990s, during a series of embarrassing defeats. Since then, the army has become better trained, equipped and led, while the LTTE has suffered morale and leadership problems. A civil war within the LTTE three years ago cost the organization over a third of its combat forces. The Tamil population became disheartened by over a decade of sacrifice, and not much to show for it. ...

The campaign should be over in a month or so, with the remaining LTTE force being killed, captured or scattered. The navy and air force are ready for a massive effort to prevent key LTTE personnel from leaving the island. The government wants to capture and prosecute the LTTE leadership. Few nations will allow LTTE leaders to openly take refuge, but there are many LTTE supporters overseas that would be willing to try and hide the LTTE leadership. The government expects a period of guerilla war in the north, and the continued threat of LTTE terror bombings. The war may be over soon, but the violence will go on for a few more years.

The India Times looks ahead to creating guarantees to protect Tamils from the Sinhalese, suggesting that "India must assist the Sri Lankan government to take out the LTTE, and the same time tell President Rajapakse that following the end of the LTTE, India reserves the right to intervene militarily if the Sri Lanka government does not implement, as promised, a proper devolution of powers for the Tamils under the Constitution of Sri Lanka. "

It's interesting to note that the LTTE was defeated after the Sri Lankan government refused to renew its participation in the internationally brokered Ceasefire Agreement. One wonders how much of the Sri Lankan government's victory is attributable to the relative obscurity of the conflict. While it is commonly believed that international monitoring "humanizes" conflict, it also tends to politicize disputes and perhaps causes them to last longer than they should.

Whether the Tamils and Singhalese can work out a way to live together remains to be seen. But one chapter has ended in the saga.