I have nothing but respect for Andrew Exum and the inimitable Abu Muqawama, but today he has a misfire.
In a post titled “Sri Lanka: The Last Battle”, Exum describes the war between the Colombo government and the LTTE as an “increasingly successful counterinsurgency campaign”. If by “counterinsurgency” he simply means a war against insurgents, he’s of course right — the conflict indeed pits an army against a rebel force. But if he means classic COIN, as defined by Galula and his followers and spelled out in FM 3-24, then no — that is not what the Sri Lankan army is conducting. It is waging a conventional war, using air strikes and artillery to hit an enemy hiding among civilians, with inevitably high casualties. Population security? Not so much.
And just so we don’t get too carried away with the “successes” of the war, let’s keep in mind that the 28-year conflict has turned Sri Lanka into a police state, where “journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders are living in fear and need better protection from violence,” according to a recent UN investigation.