The Sri Lanka Army’s strategy of acting like guerrilla organisation, the restructuring of the Army, ending corruption, increasing its strength, firepower and a direct chain of command that went from the top to grass root levels, forced the end of terrorism in the country.
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Sarath Fonseka, in his first public appearance nearly three months after the elimination of terrorism in the country, made these comments at ‘Counter Point,’ organised by the PIM Alumni on Friday.
Speaking on ‘Winning Military Strategies – Lessons for Managers,’ General Fonseka said that when he took over the Army, the LTTE was acting almost like a conventional army and was considered to be unstoppable. Like a conventional army, they had to protect land, equipment and armaments.
“From our side, we changed our tactics and strategies. We started act ing like guerrillas, making incursions into their territories in small groups and carrying out daring attacks when the LTTE challenged us in the jungles,” General Fonseka said.
He said that the decission of going for war is a political decision. The Army, together with the other military forces, concluded the war according to political will.
General Fonseka was speaking on how he prepared the Army to fight the Elam War Four. He said that when he was appointed Commander of the Army on 6th December 2005, the organisation was in need of lot of changes, including enhanced manpower, excellent training and better equipment.
“30 years of war had caused a lot of frustration to the people, who had lost their faith in the Army and their confidence that the violence could ever be contained. The war was started in August 2006 in Jaffna. My first task was to prepare the Army for battle. For that, I restructured the entire Army deviating from traditional methods. I appointed new people, new faces of my choice to the battlefront, people untainted with corruption, people capable of carrying their duties effectively. I dramatically increased the manpower of the Army with recruitment. My strategy also included the procurement of arms and ammunition, battle tanks, armoured carriers, the best equipment could buy. I also changed the strategy of the battle from conventional tactics to guerrilla tactics. For that, I needed excellent commanders and improved firepower. We started operating in small groups and actively operated in the jungles. Earlier, it was the LTTE who operated in the jungles. When we moved into the jungles, they avoided meeting us at all costs,” he said.
The General said that during the war, the Army’s main strategy was to confront the LTTE’s strongest positions.
“During the Jayasikuru operation launched to liberate Jaffna, I observed through experience that when we attacked the LTTE’s most formidable strongholds, they became very weak. With that in mind, we commenced our assault from the A9 road, the Maddu road, Mannar and the Mulativu jungles. Sometimes it took us four to five days just to take control of one or two kilometres. But the results were good for us. We minimised our casualties and increased the losses of the enemy. At the end of 2007, we were operating 35 battalions on all fronts and the LTTE had to react to our plan. We were engaging them every day, 24 hours a day, weeks and months on end. We maintained our assault in all conditions. In pouring rain and floods, in the hot sun and drought, we kept the momentum going until we achieved victory,” General Fonseka said
Restructuring the Army made it necessary to stamp out corruption at all levels, corruption which was rampant from the lowest to the highest ranks.
“Every year, the government allocated lot of money to the Army, which is an expensive organisation to maintain. Because of corruption at every level, we were not doing what we were asked to do. I made it clear that not five cents will be spent by the Army without proper accounting. To that end, I implemented strict rules and standards. I sat on Tender Boards and was personally monitoring every detail. This was not a function of the Commander of the Army, but I personally went through every detail to ensure that the blight of corruption was eradicated from the Army.
General Fonseka also said that in the past, there was a tradition that when an officer is caught making money illegally, he would not suffer any punishment, his service and seniority would not be affected, and his next promotion assured, as long as he paid back the stolen money in full. “I ended this tradition. The guilty received appropriate punishment.”
Speaking on new recruitments and promotions in the organisation, the General said that he deviated from traditional methods of awarding promotions and selected all commanders on merit and performance, and not on seniority.
“We recruited and trained 3,000 to 5,000 men per month. We also promoted 1,500 soldiers from the ranks of corporals and sergeants to lieutenants. We achieved excellent results through these methods, as we made the best use of those with strong battle experience. My new methods of recruitment and merit-based promotions gave me the manpower to win the war, ‘ he daid
I also implemented a direct chain of command which goes down to grass root levels in the Army. There were many instances when I had to remove commanders from their jobs and appoint replacements. We had to have the correct men in place when the going got tough. And there was huge resistance from the enemy every day. At one point, we suffered many casualties and 130 troops died in a single day. Whenever there was a victory, I used to share that with my officers and when there was rise in casualties figures I took the blame to my self without passing to anyone. In that sense I my self was under pressure all the times but kept the momentum going” General Fonseka said
Speaking on Army intelligence and its performance the General Fonseka said that indigence was back word in the past.
“I removed almost all the officers attached to it. I found that most of them has been serving that unit more that 15 to 20 years and filled with new young faces. They were brand new set of people committed, sincerely did their part, a very good job. If you take most of the Air Force targets, Navy ships targets are taken on Army intelligence unit.
Speaking on the support given by the other forces General said that Air Force, Navy and Police did splendid service with Army to gain the victory in war. The coordinated efforts and close monitoring of the battle changing of the tactics became as a daily routine.
“End of the day we had difficult time patience endurance demonstrating good results in eliminating terrorism from the country which one point considered unimaginable concluded General Sarath Fonseka.
At the conclusion of General Fonseka’s remarks the audience at the ceremony gave him standing ovation which is a rare sight.
Unconventional war strategies, a complete restructuring of the Army and major changes in military tactics lead to the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009. Chief of Defence Staff and former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka described the Army’s push to confront and attack the enemy in their strongholds such as Mannar and the jungles of Mullaitivu. The Army’s changing battlefield formations, command systems and weapons also left the LTTE totally unprepared.
Speaking last Friday at the Post Graduate Institute of Management Alumni’s (PIMA) annual ‘Counter Point’ seminar for 2009 in his first public appearance after the end of the war, keynote speaker General Fonseka said the Army began fighting like guerillas while the terrorists reacted like a conventional army with conventional weapons. The Army’s strategy this time was to go for the kill instead of holding onto the land. “The terrorists were put off balance,” he said.
General Fonseka also described the harsh battle conditions the Army was faced with, fighting 24 hours a day in bad weather, sometimes submerged up to their necks in water, at times forced to carry Army casualties as far as eight kilometers. General Fonseka credited others (services) as having contributed to the victory but said the Army definitely bore the brunt on the frontlines.
He described the last two years and 10 months of battle as the Eelam War Phase IV in which 5,000 soldiers were killed and another 27,000 were injured. After General Fonseka took over as Army Commander, the Army was getting 3,000 recruits a month compared to 3,000 recruits per year before taking over. The number of recruits has increased to 5,000 per month after the end of the war.
Following a four year ceasefire, General Fonseka said the Army was disorganized and not properly trained. After indications that the ceasefire would fail, battle preparations began prior to the start of Eelam War Phase IV where General Fonseka said he appointed commanders of his choice based on merit, not superiority. Good people were put into the ‘mainstream’ while others were put into the ‘common stream.’
The Army’s weak intelligence unit was restructured after removing senior intelligence offices and appointing people from the infantry divisions. He said the intelligence unit performed well by giving targets to the Air Force and Navy.
He also said he eliminated waste through constant monitoring and even sat on the tender board to ensure corruption was eliminated, even though it was not a part of his job. “I gave priority to ensure there was no wastage.” He added that the Army budget had never been so big in the past as government vehicles, shiploads of ammunition and rockets were purchased.
Under his leadership, the Army and in particular the infantry divisions, changed their battlefield formations, command systems and use of weapons. In the two years and 10 months of fighting, General Fonseka said the Army continually engaged the LTTE and never gave them any respite.
General Fonseka said he had direct command over the forces, going down to the grassroots level.
All formations and even the front line divisions were under his command, usually not part of an Army commander’s job. He said he went to Vavuniya every week to draw up plans and give orders to battalion commanders. He even removed some divisional and battalion commanders from duty during the course of the war. Around 2,500 soldiers were imprisoned due to desertion and around 15,000 were arrested and court marshaled. General Fonseka said soldiers were deserting due to the increasing number of casualties in 2008.
Operations were tough and demanding and grew more difficult towards the latter stages of the conflict.
General Fonseka said counter attacks from the terrorists would push the Army back as much as four to five kilometers. He had to provide moral support to the troops, shift troops around and provide additional manpower and firepower. General Fonseka said he himself was under a lot of pressure to push through and finish the war.
General Fonseka said additional troops are needed after the war to hold the captured area which is 10 times larger than what the Army was holding prior to the end of the war.
He explained that Jaffna was captured in 1996 with 15,000 troops but 35,000 were needed to hold it. “Even a few terrorists make you vulnerable,” he said. Around 200 terrorists have been arrested from the IDP camps in the last month.
On Prabhakaran’s death
General Sarath Fonseka said LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed on the morning of May 19, 2009, dismissing all other rumours of him having been captured earlier and brought to Colombo. General Fonseka said Prabhakaran and a group of 100 LTTE adres were cornered in a one square kilometer area. On the evening of May 18, the Army had killed around 70 of the cadres. On the morning of the 19th, the Army had fired at the rest of the cadres with tanks and machine guns and had subsequently found the body of Prabhakaran in a mangrove.
General Fonseka said one of the LTTE’s strategic failures was that they did not want to lose even an inch of land. He also said the LTTE expected some world power like the UK or the US to intervene.
General Fonseka speaks on military strategies
Watch ART Television this Saturday (2009.09.29) at 7.00 pm (and repeat on Monday(2009.09.31) at 10.00 pm)
Postgraduate Institute of Management alumni will bring Sri Lankan television viewers the unique opportunity of listening to the recent presentation made by Chief of Defence Staff and former army commander, General Sarath Fonseka, at the Counter Point 2009 organized by the PIM alumni.
Speaking under the title of “Winning Military Strategies: Lessons for Managers” at the PIM alumni’s event — Counter Point 2009 — the former Army Commander outlined some of the important strategic moves the Army took to win the war against the LTTE.
General Knowledge (An evening with General Sarath Fonseka,)
I was not sure what to expect. But of course the title really intrigued me. Winning Militiary strategies for management. I have read about big conglomerates such as GE holding cross pollination brain storming and management sessions with Military personnel in order to fine tune their management processes. You see if you look at it there is beauty in the way a fine army moves forward. On one side it has very strict guidelines on how to operate and on the other it has to respond really fast to ground situations with speed skill and creativity instantly otherwise everyone risks losing their lives. Well that was the back ground.
We were asked to come in to the Hilton at least by four which we did and it was a good thing. Firstly the entire surroundings were bristling with military personnel toting machine guns and looking at you menacingly. Then there was a long line of people waiting to be registered. And sadly once you are registered you have to hand your phone over. I was looking forward to taking some pics and uploading them into face book along with updating my blog and doing some stuff while we would have to wait for everybody to come in and the place to be secured before the general came. But it was not to be. Well after registration it was time for checking.
I must say I was checked thoroughly. Everyone had to even remove their shoes. I am thankful that I did not wear any socks with holes in them.
Once inside I could see lots of big names around me. You could say that one could feel the excitement and the anticipation. And after a long wait the man himself walked in. Firstly I have always thought of him as kind of cruel. He did not come dressed in his uniform but decided to don a civilian outfit instead. The place was also full of other Army top brass they too were not in uniform. However it was easy to identify them because they were allowed to carry their mobile phones inside.
I thought he would talk down to the people. After all he was a great man who had achieved the impossible. Even though there were lot of top businessmen and CEOs present at the function you could see the heroic adoration in everyone’s eyes. Well he started by saying “I have a difficult task ahead of me” and everyone burst into laughter. And then I knew that I had made the right decision to come for the event. He was humble and straightforward and came across well. He apologized for not being a good public speaker.
But he did give some wonderful insights about what measures had to be taken to make sure he won the war. Actually some of his statements really inspired me and gave me food for thought. Actually what he said made brilliant business sense. He said capability should take priority over seniority. As well as execution was important. As well as keeping to a time line.
This is so true I have a friend who was leading a battalion of men in the front and he told me he was given targets just like a CEO and his mission was to achieve them as per the plan. He had the freedom to use whatever resources were available instead of asking for permission. And he would sometimes get calls from the general while an operation was going on giving him instructions.
Well the general got two standing ovations which I thought he richly deserved. Also it was nice to see Prof. Gunapala Nanayakara fawning over him and equaling him to all the great military types in the world. From sun tzu to ho chin minh to Genghis khan.
I must say I never expected to laugh as much as I did at this function. But I did there were two extremely hilarious moments. Both were during the question and answer session.
The first was when someone had asked a question why was the military still hiring when the war was over? His first response was I thought I had to explain this only to the president. Well I must say I too had been skeptical about the ongoing recruitment. In fact I was of the opinion that they were hiring because certain designations (ranks?) required a minimum number of people which one should command over.
But his answer made complete sense. He said to hold the area with people coming back in to the war zone you need a larger force than when just attacking. His example was Jaffna. It took 15,000 to capture Jaffna but now it takes 40,000 to hold it. He said otherwise what would happened is it would end up like what Iraq and Afghanistan have become today. I must say this makes sense. So guess we will see more bodies in the military than before.
The second situation was when professor GN asked him about people from other forces taking credit for the victory he was told he could refuse to answer the question. The generals answer was I don’t believe in retreating which had the house roaring once more.
Well sadly once everything was over I had to rush out without getting a chance to talk to him because I had to have access to my phone as some important stuff was being done at the agency. Otherwise maybe I might have been able to pose for a photograph with him. He he. Well all in all it was a pretty eventful evening and I must confess that I am glad I did not miss it.
(The Oxymoron Chronicles)
GENERAL FONSEKA SAYS THE ROLES OF GUERILLAS AS WELL AS THE ARMY WERE REVERSED THAT ULTIMATELY ENDED UP IN TRIUMPH FOR THE ARMY
Addressing the Project Management Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka who led the island nation to its historic military triumph said the victory was achieved by adopting guerilla tactics while letting the rebel group adopt conventional military strategies.
Pakistan , another South Asian country , attacked by guerillas has already expressed their desire to send small groups of combat troops to Sri Lanka to learn from the Sri Lankan experience.
General Fonseka, who has now been elevated to the position of the Chief of Defense Staff by President Rajapaksa described the secret of success of the Sri Lanka Army at as the transformation of the way of going into battle at the Eelam War 4 and reversal of methods both by the army and the guerilla force.
General Fonseka said the LTTE as expected behaved almost like a conventional army while his forces stepped into the shoes of a guerilla outfit.
He said the army, as guerillas do, started making incursions into Tamil Tiger territories in small groups carrying out daring attacks when the Tamil Tigers challenged the army inside the jungle.
He described the Sri Lanka resolution to go to war was a political one and said with the other forces , like the navy, air force police and the civil defense force in unity fought the war with that political will.
He said, “Thirty years of war had caused a lot of frustration to the people, who had lost their faith in the Army.…I restructured the entire Army deviating from traditional methods, appointed new people of my choice untainted with corruption and dramatically increased the manpower of the Army with recruitment.
“We commenced our assault from the A9 road, the Maddu road, Mannar and the Mullaithivu jungles. Sometimes it took us four to five days just to take control of one or two kilometres. But the results were good. We minimised our casualties and increased losses of the enemy.”
Speaking at a conference at the University of Sri Jayawadenepura in Colombo last week, Sri Lanka’s former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka who led the island nation to its historic military triumph said the victory was achieved by adopting guerilla tactics while letting the terrorist group adopt conventional military strategies.
Pakistan, another South Asian country, attacked by guerillas has already expressed their desire to send small groups of combat troops to Sri Lanka to learn from the Sri Lankan experience.
General Fonseka, who has now been elevated to the position of the Chief of Defense Staff by President Rajapaksa described the secret of success of the Sri Lanka Army at as the transformation of the way of going into battle at the Eelam War 4 and reversal of methods both by the army and the terrorists.
General Fonseka said the LTTE as expected behaved almost like a conventional army while his forces stepped into the shoes of a guerilla warfare.
He said the army, as guerillas do, started making incursions into LTTE strongholds in small groups carrying out daring attacks when the terrorists challenged the army inside the jungle.
He described the Sri Lanka resolution to go to war was a political one and said with the other forces, like the navy, air force police and the civil defense force in unity fought the war with that political will.
He said, “Thirty years of war had caused a lot of frustration to the people, who had lost their faith in the Army…. I restructured the entire Army deviating from traditional methods, appointed new people of my choice untainted with corruption and dramatically increased the manpower of the Army with recruitment.
“We commenced our assault from the A9 road, the Maddu road, Mannar and the Mullaittivu jungles. Sometimes it took us four to five days just to take control of one or two kilometres. But the results were good. We minimised our casualties and increased losses of the enemy.”
(Ministry of Defence)