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 Post subject: US-led military mission to evacuate Tamil civilians?
 Post Posted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 5:26 pm 
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US-led military mission to evacuate Tamil civilians?

According to American sources privy to the rescue plan, a marine expeditionary brigade attached to the US Pacific Command (PACOM) will go into Sri Lanka with the support of the US Navy and Air Force. The possibility of an international rescue effort led by the US loomed large during the weekend with France reportedly expressing support for Washington’s efforts, an Indian daily reported.

Monday, March 09, 2009
@ The Island


The United States is actively considering a plan to send its marines to Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka as part of an international rescue mission to evacuate nearly 200,000 Tamil civilians trapped inside LTTE-controlled territory with declining stocks of food and medicines, an Indian newspaper claimed today.

The Barack Obama administration will seek India’s support to the plan when Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon meets American officials in Washington on Monday, "The Telegraph" newspaper said in a report from the US capital.

The daily quoted US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher as telling a group of South Asian journalists in Washington on Friday: "We had some people there (Sri Lanka) to look at the situation to identify what the possibilities might be. We would do whatever we can to help these people."

According to American sources privy to the rescue plan, a marine expeditionary brigade attached to the US Pacific Command (PACOM) will go into Sri Lanka with the support of the US Navy and Air Force. It will be put before Menon, who will have a series of meetings with officials of the new US administration from Monday,

A team from PACOM was in Colombo a fortnight ago to discuss the outlines of the plan with the Sri Lankan Army, informed US sources told the daily. At the time of the PACOM team’s visit, the US State Department sent James Moore, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Colombo, to Jaffna peninsula for an independent assessment of the situation there. Moore’s report is said to have persuaded Hillary Clinton’s state department to line up behind the idea of a US-led evacuation of Tamils.

If the plan materializes, it will be the first time that the barely seven-week-old Obama Administration will flex its muscle overseas in a new show of American power. US officials are calling such a military mission as a "coalition humanitarian task force".

Boucher spoke on telephone to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on Friday. The two men discussed "Boucher’s concern over the fate of the civilian population being held hostage by the LTTE in the tiny coastal pocket in the Mullaitivu district," said a Sri Lankan foreign ministry press release issued in Colombo on Saturday.

Any request by the Americans for Indian support for a US-led military mission in Sri Lanka is likely to put Menon in a spot. There are serious differences in the Indian government on how to deal with the mounting crisis in the island. India’s National Security Adviser MK Narayanan is apparently opposed to any support for military action.

Narayanan’s main concern is a possible fallout on the Lok Sabha elections as the result of an evacuation without the explicit approval of the LTTE and any consequent spilling of Tamil blood. The possibility of an international rescue effort led by the US loomed large during the weekend with France reportedly expressing support for Washington’s efforts, the Indian daily reported.

However, if a US-led rescue of Tamil civilians from the war zone in Sri Lanka takes place without any role for India, New Delhi may suffer grave loss to its reputation as a regional power and an emerging global power.

It may be recalled that, on February 28, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee appealed to Sri Lanka to accept a ceasefire offer by the LTTE. "While this may fall short of a declaration of willingness to lay down arms, it is our view that the government of Sri Lanka should seize the opportunity presented by the offer to bring about a pause in the hostilities," he had said.

The Sri Lankan government is demanding that the LTTE lay down arms. "Once they (LTTE) lay down arms, it would automatically lead to a ceasefire," Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohana had said.

Also on Friday, UN’s Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told the Security Council that he had urged the Sri Lankan government during a visit to Colombo "to do all it could to make it possible for the civilian population to get out safely, including by means of agreement to a temporary halt to hostilities or a humanitarian corridor to allow people to leave, if this could be arranged and agreed, and in general ensure a peaceful, orderly and humane end to the fighting".


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