Exactly the Same and Completely Different 2: The Sri Lankan Way of War and Lessons for Nigeria

In the first part of this series we looked at the Sri Lankan Civil War, how it evolved and how the Sri Lankan government forces turned defeat into victory.

This process involved several key strategic and operational decisions and actions, which were translated into tactical innovations that isolated, outfought and outmatched the LTTE leading to their defeat.

In this instalment we will look at how these decisions and actions could be applied to the Nigerian conflict.

Strategic Lessons: the Sri Lankan victory derived specifically from having a clear strategy.

Political will: as recent events in Sri Lanka show President Rajapaksa rode the wave of popularity from the 2009 military victory to further electoral victory and embedding his family as the preeminent political dynasty in Sri Lanka. 3 brothers control 5 ministries and 70% of the national budget and 17 family members are either in government, parliament or key industries. This was only possible with the single minded determination that saw President Rajapaksa and his team through the nerve wracking peace process and then onto Eelam War 4 and victory. During this period beyond building his core team, Rajapaksa put politicking aside, building a coalition of disparate parties and focussed on defeating the LTTE

Lessons for Nigeria: the primary strategic intent must be to contain and defeat Boko Haram rather than fighting the next election or attracting international investments. It is not to say all other activities will freeze, but it must be recognised that victory against Boko Haram will guarantee success in all other endeavours whilst defeat or even perceived lack of success in this area completely subsumes all other high points.

Strategic planning: decisions about the war were made at the highest level and then a plan taken bringing various elements in order to make it happen. For example whether to defeat the LTTE in the East or North first. When they decided to focus on the East, a detailed plan was developed and executed, with a concerted intelligence operation to exploit the differences between Eastern and Northern Tamils, splitting off Colonel Karuna’s faction. Forces and stores were built up then Police and Army SF infiltrated LTTE rear areas softening them up for the assault. Likewise once the strategic decision was taken to destroy the Sea Pigeon logistic network, planning took into account finding and tracking the ships with human, signals and satellite intelligence. Then developing the means to interdict them, i.e. long range naval patrols but as they did not have dedicated blue water vessels or replenishments ships the Sri Lankans rigged up tankers and cargos ships as sea replenishment ships and developed the training, tactics, techniques and procedures to take this fleet to sea and interdict the Sea Pigeons. Thus one strategic decision needed a plan that involved foreign relations and intelligence liaison, industrial planning, naval training and acquisitions and the funds to implement it.

Lessons for Nigeria: similar strategic questions should be asked in Nigeria; is it better to deal with the rural guerrillas first or the urban terror cells? If urban terror cells should the focus be on cells in North Eastern population centres or those in the North Centre, Middle Belt and beyond. If rural ops, should the focus be on clearing the Sambisa Forest or Bama or the Mandara Mountains? Do you concede ground and allow the insurgents a space that they are then fixed to and forced to defend? Questions that can only be answered using detailed analysis of intelligence products (like from the #BringBackOurGirls international ISR effort). The Sri Lankan experience shows that a healthy comprehensive debate by experienced professionals’ means that the eventual plan that would have been ruthlessly picked apart by the competing strategists. The different courses of action would then have to be debated and stringently war gamed to the every possible outcome.

Unity of effort and Clarified chain of command: the Sri Lankan Civil War up to (and to an extent during) Eelam War 4 was characterised by intense interservice rivalries particularly at the Staff level. This lack of cooperation was typified by the Army having to walk (or wade) on many occasions to objectives when operating in the swamps, coastal areas or inland waterways despite the Navy having suitable boats and landing craft. Different services would launch operations based their own individual strategies rather than a combined one, thus the Air Force gave higher priority to targeting LTTE command bunkers over LTTE artillery positions or battlefield support, postulating that a decapitation of LTTE leadership would end the war quicker. The Navy initially focussed on defeating the Sea Tigers, who were giving them a bloody nose as opposed to a more logical strategic objective of destroying the LTTE’s logistic network that revolved around the Sea Pigeon cargo ships. The intelligence services as per intelligence services all over the world conducted their own secret operations that were so secret that a well planned attempt to assassinate LTTE leader Prabhakan was thwarted when the assassins’ safe house was raided by the police on suspicion of being a coup plot! This was eliminated in the end by the elevation of a constellation of professionals deeply scarred by the war and united in a belief that there was a way to win it. Strong willed and independent personalities like Army Commander Gen Fonseka, Air Force Commander AVM Roshan Goonatilake and MoD Permanent Secretary Col Rajapaksa were kept on track by an agreed Strategic intent as discussed above and mediation by the Executive and the civilian element of the MoD.

Lessons for Nigeria: although slightly improved with moves like the National Information Centre and formation of 7 Div, there is still a lot to do in terms of this effort. The Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Police and Defence ministries need to be better coordinated. Most civil services around the world are notoriously resistant to change or collaboration. It could be argued that with the geographic spread of Boko Haram activities an Army Corps Command could be set up to coordinate efforts across the North East, North Centre, North West and Middle Belt The Sri Lankans overcame this through the selection of forceful competent personalities and the use of such coordination mechanisms as the National Security Council, likewise chains of command were clarified with intelligence (be it police, national, international or military) filtered through a singular chain of command reporting to one of the 6 Security Force Headquarters.

Procurement: poorly equipped servicemen were one of the banes of the early incarnations of the Sri Lankan war effort. The establishment of Lanka Logistics Ltd was a master stroke which ensured the affordable purchase of standardised, quality equipment; cut out corrupt middlemen and brought local shipyards, vehicle manufacturers, arms factories and so on under their wing creating a unified national defence industry in the mould of South Africa’s Armscor or Israel’s Israeli Military Industries. By centralising procurement the LTTE was also cut off from intelligence about Sri Lankan purchases

Lessons for Nigeria: corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s very existence and has cost Nigeria dearly in every single facet of our development. The military is no exception and as several people serving jail sentences in the UK can attest even contracts for items as mundane as trucks are hyper inflated. Credit where it is due under the current administration the Nigerian defence industry grown has fabricated inland and sea going vessels, UAVs, APCs, utility vehicles, body armour and NVGS, small arms and other defence items. These can be supported and improved by establishing a single agency that procures all items for the military, reducing replication and saving money through economies of scale. Coordination of local defence industries produced such innovative weapon systems as the G6 artillery piece and platforms like the Ratel and Buffel in South Africa, which were perfect for local needs. Lanka Logistics Ltd enabled the Sri Lankans to fund their massive expansion of the military and police forces at a significantly lower cost simply by cutting out middlemen who made huge fortunes overcharging for weapons systems. The Sri Lankans spent approximately $5.5bn in the 3 years of Eelam War 4, during which they recruited, trained, paid and fed a 344, 000 person military and 127,000 person police and civil defence force. massively expanded and re equipped the security forces, expended huge amounts of ammunition, fuel and other consumables, yet the entire 26 year conflict has cost approximately $200bn. In contrast Nigeria has spent $12bn on defence since 2009 alone (although not exclusively on the Boko Haram insurgency).

External relations: the Sri Lankans sought advice and assistance from several powers most notably India, China, the US, Israel and Britain and absorbed this advice (much of which essentially articulated many of the issues that had frustrated people like Colonel Rajapaksa). The Sri Lankans accurately judged the Indians to be the critical foreign power due to their huge Tamil population (there are 3 times as many Tamils in India as there are people of all ethnicities in Sri Lanka), past history and regional geopolitics. India was the only country with the capability and inclination to intervene decisively on either side in the Sri Lankan Civil War. China provided loans, credit guarantees and weapons, getting in return a huge port concession- that would be fairly useless if the LTTE (with an extremely competent and aggressive naval wing) was not defeated. Thus their fate and investments were irreversibly tied to that of the Sri Lankans. China also helpfully had a UN Security Council veto on hand in the event of any resolutions were taken against Sri Lanka.

Lessons for Nigeria: Nigeria enjoys advantages that Sri Lanka did not enjoy. Although there are significant Hausa, Yoruba, Fulani, Kanuri, Igbo and other diasporas in Africa and beyond none of them are sufficiently concentrated to form the type of political (and economic) powerblocks the Tamils had in India, Britain, the US or Canada. Boko Haram has zero political sympathy in neighbouring states or other states far removed. Their key terrain is Northern Cameroun and the Nigeria’s border areas with Chad, Niger and Cameroun. The common factor here is that these Francophone countries which either have defence treaties with France, French bases, French troops and/ or extremely Francophile leaders.

All of which would indicate the key international strategic relationship is with France, which has conveniently nominated itself (to the relief of the UK and US) as the Western powers pointman in North and West Africa. It is thus worth emulating the Sri Lankans technique of setting up a special diplomatic arrangement (The ‘Troika’) between the two countries with key high ranking members of the intelligence, defence and diplomatic community coordinating on a regular basis both formally and informally. Polite, responsive relationships should be maintained with the US and UK building on the #BringBackOurGirls effort. These relationships should be more intelligent and sympathetic to the power of the human rights lobbies in those countries (power being an imprecise word, convenience might substitute), with overt efforts to respond and pander to concerns raised.

Two other global powers of note are Russia as a UNSC member and major arms dealer and Germany, a country that is developing a strong military and diplomatic presence in Africa (a very interesting case of geopolitical projection) particularly Mali and Central African Republic. China should be cultivated in the same manner as the Sri Lankans did, with more concessions (although short of actually ceding territory to them I doubt they can get better concessions than they already have) in exchange for military manufacturing joint ventures, arms purchases and UNSC vetoes.

Similar troikas should be set up with key regional African states such as Cameroun, Niger, Chad, Mali, Libya and Sudan, leading to close cooperation and liaison with their police, intelligence and militaries. The 3 most complicated countries will be Libya, which is struggling with internal difficulties of its own, Sudan which has so many internal and external (and possibly extra-terrestrial) enemies it would need diplomats and liaison officers with strong local knowledge. Chad again has an extremely complex relationship with itself, Sahelian nations and Central African nations, thus nuance and local knowledge are key.

Military expansion: the Sri Lankans took the logical decision to massively expand their forces in order to outnumber and outmatch the enemy, take the initiative and maintain a constant operational tempo. This was done intelligently, by increasing the number of battalions in existing regiments as well as creating new units and command formations. This meant new troops joined existing units with structure and espirit de corps. In addition to increasing regular troops, the Sri Lankans mobilised and expanded their reserve battalions (between 10-20% of total strength), reducing the long term legacy regular army commitments (like pensions, accommodation and healthcare). Training for all troops reflected lessons learnt in the conflict, with particular emphasis given to junior leaders at the NCO and officer training schools. Procurement was stepped up to ensure that new and existing troops were properly (and uniformly) equipped. The military was glamourized in the media with an efficient PR campaign leading to an upsurge in interest but with stricter standards of entry, the quality of recruits actually improved.

Lessons for Nigeria: the Sri Lankan model clearly worked well and do so in Nigeria. Existing Battalions can take on new companies, brigades’ new battalions and divisions new brigades. Additional combat power can be generated by forming a new part time National Guard type force and recruiting more policemen. Higher entry standards and innovative recruitment campaigns, better pay, improved terms and conditions and intensive, realistic training would improve the quality of recruits and soldiers. Recruiting graduates, straight from basic training into NCO cadres. Improved terms and conditions, guaranteed pensions, healthcare, dependant benefits. Base promotions           on merit and proven ability, recruit and train better quality leader by.

Enemy Logistics: the Sri Lankan Navy defeated the LTTE logistics networks in a full spectrum battle. In the Deep battle they sank their floating warehouses, interdicted trawlers and boats smuggling from India in the Close Battle, and defeated the Sea Tigers in the Rear Battle. Without destroying the Sea Pigeons and the trawlers the LTTE could have kept fighting or when all was lost evacuated their leadership and heavy weapons at the end.

Lessons for Nigeria: defeating the enemy logistics should be a key task. In Nigeria’s case the enemy replenishes itself from the Sahelian and Central African arms market as well as from captured stocks. The Deep battle could be defined as using coordinated intelligence and military operations to target these networks with arrests and raids. Several resources such as the new West African Intelligence Fusion Unit are ideal for this effort as well as #BringBackOurGirls ISR assets. The Close battle relates to capturing their arms caches and suppliers within Nigeria and interdicting smuggling routes, using Police/ Intelligence as well as SF and ISR to identify areas of interest and conduct thorough searches. These might not completely cut off external arms supply to Boko Haram but should sufficiently push up the price to make purchases more expensive. The Rear Battle in this instance would be to prevent Nigerian arms, ammunition, vehicles and other stores from falling into enemy hands which can be best accomplished through better training, techniques and procedures.

Maintenance of momentum: the Sri Lankan government had a clear objective; defeat of the LTTE. In some ways this task was easier for them than the Nigerian government in that the LTTE was a visible organisation, with a leader, manifesto, areas under its control and a defined military wing. The LTTE had a sophisticated and extensive local and regional terror network that was always linked to the conventional struggle. Thus battlefield reverses could be countered with urban terrorism however it is clear that to defeat Boko haram there needs to be an unrelenting effort by the police, intelligence and military.

Lessons for Nigeria: maintenance of momentum is a function of all the previous other factors. Without political will, there can be no strategic planning. Strategic planning informs external relationships and military expansion upon which procurement is based. Unity of effort and a disciplined and clarified chain of command will ensure that the operational tempo can be sustained despite enemy counter moves and actions. This calls for a relentless use of all resources and assets and the intelligent utilisation of combat power.

Information/Media Ops: as part of their strategy, the Sri Lankans undertook a strategic PR effort. They focussed on countering the LTTEs sophisticated propaganda networks and boosting the home populations’ morale as well. Enemy propaganda was used as a double edged sword, i.e. LTTE videos of Sea Tiger suicide boats sinking Sri Lankan ships intended to motivate pro LTTE viewers, could also be used by the Sri Lankans to generate a siege mentality and desire for revenge. A slick PR campaign, involving the internet, social media, TV, print and billboard ads as well as films and TV shows, reshaped people’s perceptions of the military and the conflict. The Sri Lankans also utilised ‘propaganda of the deed’ such as genuine military reforms in terms of pay, terms and conditions pensions and care for veterans and the wounded naturally generated a positive narrative, this narrative essentially went viral and began to write itself when the Armed Forces began delivering dramatic, tangible visible victories.

Lessons for Nigeria: Nigeria can again take this lesson wholesale from the Sri Lankans. Boko Harams media operation is crude but slick, although its narrative is fairly illogical, videos of its exploits and captured equipment are fairly undeniable evidence of their presence. This can be effectively countered by emulating the Sri Lankan example and creating a cult of veneration around the security forces particularly those operations, using news, Nollywood, musicians, comedians, print, electronic and other media. Likewise it is important to recognise that the media much like the jungle or the ocean is not an enemy, it is just another battlespace to be shaped and manoeuvred over. Fresh content is the fuel of 24 hour news cycles, if they are constantly provided with still and video footage, interviews and journalists are embedded with units; the news cycle will be dominated with images and stories from the friendly forces perspective.

Operational Lessons: although Nigeria has made many positive moves there are still several important lessons at the operational level to be derived from the Sri Lankan experience.

Clear and hold: this commentator has been an advocate of Nigeria implementing a form of Op Entirety in which all the military’s spare resource are dedicated to the counter insurgency effort. This worked very well for the Sri Lankan’s with the combat and combat support arms taking the fight to the enemy and all spare units and other services securing their gains, completely freeing up the manoeuvre formations to carry on the fight to the enemy.

Lessons for Nigeria: Nigeria has a plethora of uniformed and armed paramilitary units. Many of these forces would be infinitely more useful garrisoning villages in Borno than annoying people at checkpoints. A short 4-6 week course can teach the basics of force protection tasks, fieldcraft, weapon handling and marksmanship. However it must be noted that to successfully defend secured areas, there must be well constructed defensive bases and structures as well as adequate logistic support but as the Sri Lankans demonstrated utilising all available forces for a ground holding role, is a war winning task.

Joint Fires: the Sri Lankans generally had superior firepower from both ground and air based weapon systems, however the LTTE skilfully built up a fairly significant artillery and anti aircraft capability to essentially negate the Sri Lankan advantage. The Sri Lankans regained fire superiority by purchasing new artillery platforms such as MBRLs and 152mm howitzers, utilising a variety of aircraft form the ubiquitous Mi24s and Mi28s, Kfirs, Mig 27s to Chinese Y-12 Harbin (converted transport aircraft) for air support, developing an ISR capability centred around UAVs, SF patrols and aerial and sea patrols, countering LTTE artillery with first US and then Chinese counter bombardment radar and then finally linking all these together with an integrated command, control and communications network. They achieved fire superiority by using the new weapon systems in conjunction with the radar and communications systems to achieve overwhelming local fire superiority wherever it was needed

Lessons for Nigeria: Nigeria has overwhelming firepower in terms of operational support weapons such as mortars, artillery, attack helicopters and ground attack aircraft, however this firepower does not appear to be used to correct effect. Boko Harams attacks even against defended fixed positions rarely seem to be subject to defensive fires, despite the only way they achieve spectacular victories is by massing men and vehicles presenting a large target. The lesson for Nigeria in this is that operational support even in an environment where the enemy is easily outranged and outgunned is by itself is only marginally useful without the kind of situational awareness provided by patrols, and aerial surveillance or targeting using forward fire controllers and the necessary communications to allow this to happen. Unless artillery and mortars are interlinked with overlapping fields of fire and all communications from police, Air Force, Army, civil defence etc are integrated not just up and down but side to side, Nigeria’s fire support will not be decisive.

Special Forces Action: Sri Lankans utilised SF for its land, sea and air forces generating a strategic effect far outweighing their numbers (although numbers were considerable with 10 SF Regiments). These units were used in classic long range strike and recce operations. Infiltrating (on foot) deep behind enemy lines to pass information, attack, ambush and harass the enemy. They were also used as force multipliers to defeat LTTE attacks, rescue failure and reinforce success using their superior skills and fighting power. Police Special Task Force operated mainly in rural environments however SWAT type units were used in urban counter terror ops for high risk raids and arrests. The Sri Lankans developed their SF capabilities in the dark days when the LTTE was rampant and they had few effective counters. This investment paid off by eventually producing some of the toughest and most experienced jungle fighting units in the world. These SF operations had a decisive effect on offensive and defensive operation and took a steady toll of LTTE key personalities, significantly affecting morale at all levels.

Lessons for Nigeria: the operating environment in the North East is tailor made for classic SF type operations. Unlike Sri Lanka Boko Haram does not have fixed lines, bases or the conventional force structure of the LTTE but it is extremely vulnerable to the type of counter guerrilla operations that the South Africans and Rhodesians carried out with enormous success in the Liberation Wars. Well trained, equipped, properly deployed and supported SF would have a fairly devastating effect on Boko Haram operations, tie up a lot of their time and efforts on force protection and rear security and adversely affect their morale.

Combined ops: unsupported operations generally ended in disaster in Sri Lanka but by the end interservice cooperation had greatly improved due to strong military and civilian leadership and clear chains of command. The Sri Lankans trained in British, Pakistani, Chinese and even Filipino doctrines and refined their combined arms doctrines to their need and to their enemies’ weapons and capabilities.

Lessons for Nigeria: Nigeria needs to rapidly develop a combined arms doctrine that reflects the reality of combat operations in the North East.

Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance: the Sri Lankans utilised ISR to obtain information and direct fires utilising a wide variety of sources however their main assets were Special Forces, manned and unmanned aircraft as well as the sensors on patrolling naval vessels and combat aircraft. By the end of the war the Sri Lankan forces had almost complete situational awareness of the area of operations.

Lessons for Nigeria: an old adage states that time spent on recce is seldom wasted (unless you get lost of course), Nigeria’s basic situational awareness of the area of operations got a boost from the #BringBackOurGirls effort which should have built up a baseline ‘pattern of life’ profile of the area of operations. Improved ISR will improve operational planning and strike operations. Nigeria has manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, unfortunately the overpriced Israeli UAVs purchased (in a classic example of poor procurement) no longer work. Indigenous UAVs such as the Gulma and Amebo are in development, however they are not yet operational and Nigerian satellites can only provide still photos. Human sources of information such as hunters, farmers and vigilantes are invaluable.

Joint intelligence: the Sri Lankans brought all their intelligence activity under a single chain of command under Secretary of Defence who controlled the State Intelligence Service and the Chief of National Intelligence who coordinated Local and Foreign Intelligence with regular weekly briefings and updates from friendly nations such as India, USA, UK etc. Clear chains of command and delineation of areas of responsibility eliminated interservice clashes and replication and allowed decision makers at all levels access to fresh intelligence.

Lessons for Nigeria: the stream lining of intelligence collection and collation under a single chain of command with coordination at all levels is a practice that would be of immeasurable use in Nigeria. The various streams of intelligence from the DSS, DMI, Vigilantes, operational units, Air Force, foreign partners etc ought to be collated and analysed and the products fed up to a single entity under a single coordinating chain of command in a Chief of Intelligence type post. This could be a stand alone office similar but subordinate to the NSA or it could be a roving position amongst the various intelligence chiefs. The objective should be to eliminate compartmentalisation of information and to give the operational planners access to timely intelligence products.

Training, techniques, tactics and procedures: The Sri Lankans evolved from a small poorly trained force led by incompetent officers, to a large well led credible fighting force. Generally expanding a force leads to a dilution of quality but in the Sri Lankans case it was the opposite making the achievement all the more remarkable.

Tactics: the Sri Lankan Army adapted its tactics to counter the LTTE’s conventional and unconventional tactics. Fighting a skilled, well equipped enemy in terrain such as jungle, swamp, rice paddies or hills required light, well armed, well led units that could manoeuvre and react quickly and easily. Every infantry unit developed Special Infantry Operation Teams (SIOT); small patrols that operated 1-2km to the front of own troops gathering information and harassing the enemy. When infantry units advanced, they moved in smaller formations which were easier to control and presented a less attractive target to LTTE artillery. Infiltration particularly for SF units became an art form, at the battle of Narakamulla in Thoppigala in the Eastern Province after frontal assaults with tank and artillery support failed, 50 Commandos, infiltrated LTTE trenches and bunkers capturing the position in a classic action.

Lessons for Nigeria: Nigeria also needs to expand a comparatively small force quantitatively and qualitatively and outfight a confident enemy in their perceived safe areas using flexible tactics but more skilfully and more often. Unwieldy motorized columns should be replaced by small agile fighting units both on foot and in vehicles that can defeat enemy forces by using mobility and firepower. The same applies for airpower, which needs to be utilised quickly, more accurately and intelligently and in closer coordination with ground forces.

Training and procedures: to support the new tactics training was improved and standards lifted. Particular emphasis was given to training junior leaders to have the confidence to make intelligent tactical decisions. Practices were improved with enhanced obstacle breaching techniques, equipment carriage and usage, weapons states, patrol skills etc.

Lessons for Nigeria: training needs to be as realistic as possible with evaluation teams constantly shadowing actual combat units to observe what works and what doesn’t and refine training appropriately. Basic skills such as ground sign awareness, fieldcraft, marksmanship and battle skills such be emphasised for recruits, whilst junior leaders from Corporals to Lieutenants should be trained rigorously in small unit tactics, both day and night. Advanced training for all troops should be conducted with live ammunition.


The core lessons for the Nigerian leadership is that the precise nature of the problem must be understood and they must be completely committed to solving it. Once the problem is well understood then the appropriate strategic planning can take place bringing in all elements of the intelligence, police and defence to work towards a solution, supported by a robust diplomatic effort that ties into the strategic intent. Eradicating corruption and undue influence in procurement and military welfare in order to support a cost effective qualitative expansion of the military with an intelligent, well understood narrative that is delivered with conviction and not opportunistically.

Operationally the Sri Lankans demonstrated that although quantity has a quality all of its own the two need not be mutually exclusive. By restructuring their forces and working from their own and others experience they revamped their tactics used infiltration decisively to fix and cut off and harass the enemy repeatedly. Fire support was used intelligently to suppress the enemy and neutralise his most dangerous weapon systems. Technology aided all of this with radars, aerial reconnaissance and communications enabling the infantry to close with and destroy the LTTE.


The Sri Lankan Civil War is completely different from the Boko Haram insurgency it is actually more comparable to the Nigerian Civil War. However it is exactly the same in that an ill prepared polity and military finds itself struggling to contain that continuously reinvents and operates virtually at will.

The key lesson for Nigeria is that, the war can be won with a restructured, well trained, well equipped force supported by a wide range of fire support, logistic, intelligence and the appropriate weapon systems that can attack and defend in depth.

One of the boasts of the infantryman is that the entire Army exists to get him to close with and destroy the enemy. A bit of bar room bravado to be sure but with an element of truth, the Kfirs, Mi24s, radars, Dvora, UAVs, MBRLs and much more did not capture or kill Prabhakan and end the war, it was Sgt Muthu Banda of 4 Battalion, Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment, Special Infantry Operations Team, who observed a group of LTTE fighters in a mangrove swamp in the Nandikadal Lagoon and manoeuvred his 8 man patrol reinforced by others and engaged them in a 2 hour firefight that killed Prabhakan and 30 of his bodyguards, most of whom were killed with head shots as they broke cover. The war did not end through technology, but the fieldcraft, situational awareness and skill of an infantry junior commander and the marksmanship of his men.


About peccavi

A Nigerian with interests in defence, security, geopolitics, the military particularly small unit tactics, COIN, stabilisation and asymmetric warfare
This entry was posted in Counter insurgency, Defence, Nigeria Strategy, Terrorism, West Africa Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Exactly the Same and Completely Different 2: The Sri Lankan Way of War and Lessons for Nigeria

  1. jimmy says:

    I really need to follow this blog. oga peccavi. This is an eye opener please keep me informed.

  2. Kay says:

    Solid piece. Part 1 and 2!

    I’d thought I left a comment here before…
    Anyway I hope the powers that be read this blog. Or hopefully can be escalated to the right authorities.

    Your articles look like especially tailored handbooks for the current theatre we are engaged in, only say ‘them no dey hear’
    Keep doing this Sir.

  3. Mango says:

    Outstanding analysis regarding your situation in Nigeria and ours in SL. Sri Lanka had to quell three insurgencies since independence – which is not a good thing, obviously. The most brutal was the 2nd JVP insurgency, which was amongst the majority Sinhalese community. https://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/search-interrogate-and-destroy-hard-coin-for-hard-times/

    Have things improved in your battle against Boko Haram etc?

    • peccavi says:

      Hi, thanks for you kind words.
      Things have evolved in the war against Boko Haram, whilst they no longer hold significant territory, they still have the ability to attack and take the fight to the military.
      All of the lessons and prescriptions are still relevant today

      • Mango says:

        Your insights (from a non-Sri Lankan) on how SL forces re-invented their capabilities are remarkably accurate and fair-minded. The lessons learnt and paid for in blood are there for Nigeria to adapt to its own situation.

      • peccavi says:

        I was fascinating for me to examine the Sri Lankan case and see how well the crisis was managed and victory accomplished particularly after 30 years of defeats.
        Having read your piece on the JVP, it is even more incredible that Sri Lanka was facing a bloody insurgency amongst the majority SInhalese as well as the LTTE.
        From a military point of view its fascinating but the human toll is truly saddening

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.