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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 79

War in Sri Lanka is the Legacy left by the European Colonialism - Dr.Peter Leitner

By-Leel Pathirana - Asian Tribune

Dr. Peter Leitner, is the President Higgins Counter Terrorism Research Center, and former Professor with the National Center for Bio Defense of the George Mason University US. Dr. Peter Leitner addressing the Sri Lankans at Veterans Memorial Auditorium Los Angeles CADr. Peter Leitner addressing the Sri Lankans at Veterans Memorial Auditorium Los Angeles CA

He is also a Senior Fellow and Professor with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies responsible for Terrorism, Intelligence, and Cyber War issues.

Dr.Leitner has over 30 years of Federal service in a variety of national security positions including 21 years in the Department of Defense. He has testified numerous times before the US Congress and he holds a Doctorate from the University of Southern California and four Master's degrees as well. Dr.Leitner's in-depth study and understanding about the country's Separatist Conflict has brought the attention and admiration of many Sri Lankans who are living in and out of Sri Lanka.

Dr.Leitner has stated that Sri Lanka is the world's greatest learning lab for Countering Terrorism.

Below is the interview he had with the latter exclusively for Asian Tribune:

Leel Pathirana: Welcome to Asian Tribune Dr.Leitner. As a long standing Researcher and an Analyst, in which perspective do you see the Separatist War in Sri Lanka?

Dr.Leitner: I see the war as part of the sad legacy of European colonialism in whose wake has been left most of the contemporary conflicts that we are now coping with around the world. Sri Lanka is an unfortunate case study of how the former colonial powers set one ethnic group against another in order to perpetuate their own power through divide and conquer strategies. And now they pretend that they have no responsibility to bear for the divisions they fostered and the resultant bloodshed.

This history in no way excuses LTTE, and its supporters, from direct responsibility for the barbarous acts of terrorism, mayhem, and nihilism that they perpetrate upon innocent civilians on a daily basis.

Leel Pathirana: LTTE were a conventional Guerrilla Organization around late 1983. But later on they were innovative and became ever stronger and managed to assassinate couple of Head of State, Premier Rajiv Gandhi of India and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa. They innovated their own Suicide Bombers, Sea Tiger Wing and trained on piloting Ultra-Light Air crafts. How do you describe their development?

Dr.Leitner: The mutation of LTTE into the modern terrorist machine it is today is an unfortunate result of the intersection of technological expertise, financial support from a highly educated and successful Diaspora, ruthless and amoral leadership, a perverse absolutist mentality among LTTE leadership, misguided support from certain outside countries, and a vacuum created by a genuine ambivalence among the Western democracies for conflicts in far-away places that do not involve oil and gas deposits. Within this dangerous prescription for perpetual conflict arose an increasingly frustrated and radicalized LTTE that attempts to wage all out conflict on its own terms. The lack of any meaningful international response to LTTE atrocities – to include the murder of two sitting Heads of State – taught them that there is no negative consequences to their actions no matter how brutal and heinous.

Leel Pathirana: How do you classify LTTE and Al Qaeda?

Dr.Leitner: LTTE and Al Qaeda are distinctly different entities who share a common set of tactics and a belief that it is possible to affect political change by engaging in the wholesale murder of innocent civilians. Of the two groups, LTTE is far more professional, technologically competent, innovative and multifaceted in their tactics. Al Qaeda imitates while LTTE innovates. LTTE is the malevolent teacher and Al Qaeda is the student sociopath.

Leel Pathirana: Mainly from which countries they have procured Armaments? What are those and how?

Dr.Leitner: LTTE arms have been acquired through a network of unscrupulous arms dealers in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Cyprus, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Croatia and elsewhere. They include the following:

1. Tamil Nadu - Explosives, weapons and other supplies

2. Bulgaria - SA 14, LAW

3. Ukraine - 50 tons of TNT and 10 tons of RDX

4. Cyprus RPGs

5. Cambodia - small arms

6. Thailand - small arms

7. Burma - small arms

8. Croatia - 32,400 mortars

Leel Pathirana: Since the past couple of years, LTTE strategies were dramatically changed and most of their offensives launched against the Sri Lankan forces were ended up causing heavy losses. How do you see this?

Dr.Leitner: I believe that, in part, by demonstrating a willingness and capability to attack government forces directly they hope to convince supporters, Western Governments, in particular the EU and USA that they are a National Liberation Movement and should not be subject to sanctions arising from the “terrorist” label. By engaging in conventional warfare tactics – aerial bombing of military bases, ship-borne assaults on government naval vessels, small unit assaults on government troops, etc., they hope to derive some propaganda value in spite of the fact that government forces win virtually every such engagement. This is an important part of the ‘Psyops’ and ‘Infoops’ campaign they are waging in parallel with their unrelenting campaign of terror being waged against the civilian population by LTTE.

Leel Pathirana: First time of the history in Sri Lanka war with the LTTE, last year Government could liberate the entire East of Sri Lanka with limited civilian casualties.

At present, Government is on the process of resettling Internally Displace Persons (IDP) of East and building massive infrastructure. Are you happy with these Government initiatives and what is your point of view?

Dr.Leitner: Resettlement, repatriation, infrastructure building, reintegration into the national economy are all vital measures to be taken if the nation is to remain whole. Forgiveness and redemption are essential if one hopes to rebuild trust and confidence in the concept of a pluralist state with a single central government. This is a two-way street, as well as an investment, with the government taking the first steps in being magnanimous, welcoming, forward-looking and representative of all religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups. The loyalty and allegiance of those displaced people will be monitored and assessed to determine the effectiveness of these programs. One thing is always certain in these situations – half-measures never work – the commitment must be genuine and backed up with deeds and money.

Leel PathiranaL Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) withdraws from the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) officially on the 16 th of January 2008, since it was signed on 22nd February 2002, LTTE has violated the CFA on 3830 occasions and the GOSL on 351 occasions. What is your point of view of abrogating the CFA in terms of fighting with the LTTE?

Dr.Leitner: Ceasefires in name only never work. While diplomats may argue they are confidence builders and a step toward reconciliation – unless the respective leaders of the warring parties take them seriously -- they are exercises in self-delusion that tolerate the continued spilling of innocent blood. When rational leaders finally realize that a military victory is not possible they will consider alternative approaches such as negotiation. A government that appears to be tired of conflict or worn-down by a ruthless opponent will never know peace and the atrocities committed by their opponents will increase. I terms of LTTE’s current strategy -- an increase in their operational tempo may signal desperation and an attempt to be seen as a relevant power to be reckoned with.

Leel Pathirana: Facilitating for the Sri Lankan Peace process by Royal Norwegian Government has miserably failed. 85% of the Sri Lankans are not happy with the role played by the Norway and their Sri Lankan Monitoring mission (SLMM). The reason is, hiding behind the curtain of the CFA; LTTE procured massive amounts of Military Hardware. Even the Ultra Light Air crafts were also believed that they smuggled to the Island after CFA was singed on 2002. Facilitating for a Peace Process in a country, how it should be Administrated and monitored?

Dr.Leitner: Multinational peacekeepers do not heal societal divisions. They are only a short-term expedient that, if left in place indefinitely, will only perpetuate divisions. A unique Sri Lankan solution to problems on the Island is required. It is possible that continued military pressure combined with a generous resettlement/ rebuilding and modernization program will yield the greatest probability for a long term peace. A formula for sharing prosperity and egalitarian opportunities must be constructed while the government continues to assert its determination to keep the country whole under any circumstances.

Leel Pathirana: Fighting with the world most dangerous and deadliest Terrorists outfit for the past 27 years, how do you see the capability of the Sri Lankan Forces? Are they capable of meeting any type of unconventional Guerrilla War?

Dr.Leitner: The Sri Lankan Forces are remarkably skilled in unconventional warfare; however, no military force on the planet is able to immediately meet all threats. New enemy tactics must be recognized, analyzed, countered, or neutralized. As the initial initiative is always with the aggressor and his ability to innovate and maximize the effectiveness of a new tactic or strategy it is impossible to say that strategic surprise will not happen in the future – it will. With an adversary as innovative, smart, bold, and creative as LTTE the ability to mitigate or limit the impact of whatever they do in the future seems within the capabilities of the Sri Lankan forces. After all, it takes massive amounts of hardware and manpower to effectively wage war and to seize and hold territory. Engaging in a series of one-off raids using a small airplane, fast boats, a mini-sub, etc., are attempts to secure press coverage to magnify an image but they have little to no military significance.

Leel Pathirana: Listed the LTTE as the World's most dangerous Terrorist outfit, the FBI has asked donors to be careful about charities established as front organizations by the Rebel group to raise funds to finance it's terrorist activities.

Why the US took such a long years to ban them despite the Sri Lankan Government numerous request made to the US since nineties?

Dr.Leitner: Again – out of sight out of mind – is often the reason for US policy inaction. It is very significant that the US FBI formally characterized LTTE as the “World’s most dangerous terrorist group.” The FBI has long been ultra cautious in applying the terrorist label their doing so now, I think, represents an acknowledgement of the centrality of LTTE to the broad array of terrorist groups and movements around the world.

Leel Pathirana: Having said that why the US Government suspended their military assistance to Sri Lanka when a country wage a war against Terrorism?

Dr.Leitner: This is part of the diplomatic balancing act that is a fact of life. Often politicians don’t want to bother to understand conflicts that do not directly affect them and in so doing create a moral equivalency between victims and their executioners. This is born of ignorance, expediency, and a desire not to be bothered by more problems from cultures different from our own.

Leel Pathirana: You stated that Sri Lanka is the world's greatest learning lab for countering Terrorism in the world. Why do you say that?

Dr.Leitner: Because (1) other terrorist groups emulate the innovations and tactics invented by LTTE,, and (2) governments fighting terrorism the world over can benefit by studying those very tactics and developing counterstrategies.

Leel Pathirana : Finally, what is your point of view for a solution for this pressing issue?

Dr.Leitner: I think I expressed my views in the above answers already.

- Asian Tribune -

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