President Mahinda Rajapakse calls it the `Final Battle` while the LTTE speaks of a `Highway of Death` terminology apart, the North-East war should be over in about four to five months time, authoritative military sources said.
This takes us to the battle front and the much disputed LTTE strength or more precisely its manpower.
The sources speaking to the `Sunday Island`, said that the LTTE has between 15,000 to 17,000 cadres. `But, only a small percentage of this number is battle hardened. Their sea tigers add up to around 1,500. The others are mostly new recruits who have yet to face the litmus test.`
Arms and ammunition are hard to come by and the LTTE is banking on home-made mortar and artillery with a firing range of about two kilometers, they claimed.
`The LTTE lost about 80,000 tons of mortar and artillery when seven of its Wanni bound ships were sunk by the Navy in the recent past. Three of its aircraft were destroyed during raids by the Air Force and 25 of their self-styled lieutenants have been killed. Our intelligence units are spot on. The LTTE is cornered and can do nothing about it`, the sources asserted.
If the LTTE is on the run, what is delaying mopping up operations and why do you need five more months? `We want to minimise casualties`, the sources said.
Asked about LTTE idealogue, K. Balakumaran s belief that the security forces would use the A-32 to enter Pooneryn or the A-34 to advance through Oddisuddaan, the sources said `We have other routes and will surprise them with our moves.`
Balakumaran told the National Television of Tamileelam (NTT) recently that the LTTE will bring `clarity` to the ethnic conflict in 2008 through a demonstration of military strength.
`Whichever path the Sri Lankan government chooses to enter Wanni, they will have to directly confront our fighters. As a precursor to the anticipated battle, they are trying to chip away and also probe our strength through small-scale skirmishes at the periphery. We understand the tactics and haven`t underestimated their strength either.`
As the psychological war of words continue and the day of reckoning nears, the billion dollar question is whether the `Final Battle` or `Highway of Death`, will be fought or the international community will prevent the `bloodbath waiting to happen