Wise lessens for the future for U.S. and Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s Counterinsurgency Strategy

This brilliant thesis written by Francis L. Tozzi for Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University has wise lessens for the future for large nations such as the U.S. and Sri Lanka.


A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University

By Francis L. Tozzi, B.S., Washington, DC

These are our notes:

The LTTE’s primary sources of income came from the Tamil Diaspora, either through voluntary donations or forced taxation.

This massive financial apparatus generated over $80 million per year. With only an $8 million operating cost for its parallel government in Sri Lanka the Tiger’s were able to spend handsomely on military hardware and propaganda. Monthly revenues from Switzerland, Canada, and the United Kingdom amounted to (US) $650,000, (C) $1,000,000, and (US) 385,000 respectively!

Tiger’s continued to fundraise in countries that had ban them vis-à-vis charity associations like: the United Tamil Organization, the World Tamil Movement, and the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization.

The terms of the CFA, backed by the Norwegians, gave an international terrorist organization equal status to a democratically elected government, seriously threatening Colombo’s legitimacy.

In November of 2007 the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of the LTTE front group, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization-the same entity that had lobbied U.S. congressmen in an attempt to get the Tigers removed from Washington’s list of terrorist groups.

LTTE also had an extensive international support structure that utilized propaganda to highlight human rights abuses committed by the government of Sri Lanka, undermining Colombo’s legitimacy in the west and emphasizing the Tamil people’s struggle for independence.

In late 2007 Washington imposed the Leahy Amendment on Colombo, effectively halting US training and aid to the Sri Lankan armed forces. (Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is lobbied by the LTTE) … Washington’s enforcement of Leahy appears arbitrary and based upon its own interests and agenda. The United State’s recent implementation of the amendment  on roughly half a dozen Pakistani military units serves as one example. Saudi Arabia and Israel provide great examples for the U.S.’s arbitrary application of Leahy. Despite the Kingdom’s long list of human rights abuses, like internment without trial and summary executions, Washington just announced a $67 billion rearmament deal with Riyadh.

 Conclusion with lessens for the future:

While human rights are important, the U.S. needs to examine the manner in which it enforces this amendment and the degree to which it is effective. If not, this may encumber our relations with foreign partners and foster indecisiveness where the U.S. seeks decisive, timely, and aggressive action. Washington should not only consider lifting the Leahy ban on Sri Lanka, but it would be wise not to pursue such measures in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan in the future-as some rights groups have advocated.

Furthermore, Council on Foreign Relations writer Lionel Beehner reminds us that Colombo’s success ran counter to counterinsurgency doctrine’s core element- winning the population’s “hearts and minds.” He explains that the United State’s Afghanistan endeavor struggles with the “Goldilocks” paradox: in which it uses enough force to agitate the local populace but not enough to end the insurgency and win the war. Breehner is not advocating for indiscriminate violence, like the Soviet’s scorched earth policy during the eighties; however, U.S. policy makers should consider revising the rules of engagement (e.g. use of air power) to give American troops greater leverage in bolstering the lagging capabilities of the nascent Afghan National Army. If American forces cannot help the Afghan government establish a monopoly on violence, it will be exponentially more difficult to implement a political solution favorable to U.S. interests.

If Washington fails to take away relevant lessons from such cases, it’s reasonable to believe that their efforts will continue to be frustrated and that they will fall short of their objectives in current and future endeavors. Otto Von Bismarck once remarked that a fool learns from experience, while a wise man learns from the experience of others. To date, Washington has only proven itself to be a fool.

August 11th, 2012

Alastair Reynard

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