New Divisions, ‘Mech Infantry’ bolster  fighting capability
By Shamindra Ferdinando

The army is in the process of building three infantry divisions as critical changes in deployment of ground forces are being effected to facilitate the ongoing ground operations in the northern theatre of operations.

Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s decision to set up three new infantry divisions since the outbreak of major ground battles in August 2006 had signalled a significant expansion of the army which has now gained the overall upper hand in the northern theatre of operations.

With the East firmly under security forces control following the fall of Narakkamulla-Thoppigala LTTE stronghold in the middle of last year, the army stepped up offensive action in the Vanni. The availability of additional strength has made the ground commanders’ job easier.

The 57 and 58 Divisions (Vanni) and 59 Division (Weli Oya) are currently engaged in operations with the Vanni thrust being spearheaded by the newly created Task Force 1 comprising Special Forces and Commandos.

The Mechanised Infantry Brigade- a combination of armour and infantry has been assigned to the 53 Division deployed in the Jaffna peninsula. The Brigade would play a critical role in the battle for supremacy in the north (Muhamalai sector) where the LTTE has no option but to commit all its available resources to thwart a multi-pronged ground assault. At the moment, Jaffna troops are engaged in small scale operations ahead of their fixed positions.

The Mechanised Infantry and the armour have been greatly strengthened with the acquisition of new armoured fighting vehicles.

According to the Directorate of Training over 5,000 regulars and some volunteers (all other rankers) passed out from training facilities during 2007. Over 7,000 personnel are receiving training at various centres across the country. The vast majority of them, both those who have passed out and receiving training would be with the infantry.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that over 30,000 had joined the service in 2007.

Alongside the strengthening of the infantry, the army is in the process of bolstering the armour, artillery, engineers and even the military police as the army undergoes a rapid expansion to meet the LTTE military challenge.

Despite the growing commitments, the army has been able to sustain its deployment in the Haiti where a regular infantry battalion with support elements is deployed, the first major UN supervised action.



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