Sri Lanka recently turned down a US call to deploy Air Mobile troops instead of Special Forces or Commandos alongside US personnel for a joint training exercise in the East. The Sri Lanka Army has asserted that there was no point in involving Air Mobile troops in an exercise designed for elite forces.
The US has called for Air Mobile troops, consequent to a decision not to participate in joint training exercises with elite Special Forces and Commandos, who had played a pivotal role in Sri Lanka s triumph over the LTTE. Among the extremely difficult tasks undertaken by the Special Forces and Commandos was hit and run attacks behind enemy lines, which caused chaos among LTTE leaders.
The Army finished off the LTTE, including its top leadership in a series of battles on the Vanni east front last May after President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa thwarted a last minute bid by a section of the international community to throw a lifeline to the sinking Tigers.
Although the Army had not participated in Balance Style exercise, US personnel, including Special Forces and the Sri Lankan Navy s elite Special Boat Squadron (SBS) and the Sri Lanka Air Force s Regimental Special Forces took part in the three-week exercise. This was the second such exercise involving the US personnel, since the collapse of the LTTE.
Defence sources regretted that the US had shunned joint exercises with the Sri Lankan Army over unsubstantiated war crimes charges during the final phase of the ground assault on the LTTE. Sources said that they had conveniently forgotten the Army led the rescue operation to save over 300,000 Tamil speaking civilians and over 11,000 LTTE cadres.
Sources said that the SBS, too, played an important role, both at sea and on the ground to help defeat the Sea Tigers. The SBS, set up in 1993, comprises about 600 officers and men, including 56 personnel, who joined the elite fighting unit recently.
The Investiture ceremony of the 18th Intake of the SBS comprising 56v personnel was held at the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee on March 25. They were among 200 personnel, who joined this particular course last year.