Feature Article

Shavendra-ban, COVID-19 no hindrance to SL Navy “Balanced Style” training with US Green Berets

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 April 2020, 22:23 GMT]
Members of a US Army Special Forces (Green Berets) Operational Detachment Alpha (SFOD-A) team, attached to the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) have conducted a four-week-long training with two notorious wartime formations of the occupying navy of genocidal Sri Lanka in Trincomalee in March. The Green Berets providing specialised training to SL Navy has a long history. The “Operation Balanced Style” sessions went on at secret locations in the South in 1996 and 2001. After 2009, the USINDOPACOM started to conduct naval port visits, various training programmes including the latest Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET). The US military has also experimented with “temporary air logistics hub concept” as well as grooming a marine force for the unitary state in the Sinhalicised and militarised district of the capital city of the occupied country of Eezham Tamils.

Genocide, Development and Geopolitics
Geopolitics, so-called development as well as Sinhala ‘heritage’ occupation projects and genocide against Eezham Tamils are interconnected. The various regimes of the SL state are continuously engaged in the balancing act of geopolitics with the global and regional powers to sustain the structural genocide that has accelerated post 2009 [Illustration by TamilNet based on the interpretations of various proposals by the SL NPPD in 2010 and 2019]
The travel ban imposed by the US State Department on the highest-ranking SL military officer, who is above the Commander of the SL Navy didn’t represent a shift in policy, the US Embassy had clarified in February.

Twenty-four elite commandos of SL Navy's Special Boat Squadron and eleven personnel of the 4th Fast Attack Flotilla, which is based at Trincomalee Dockyard, took part in the JCET, which was “augmented by six trainers from Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 1333 of US Army,” according to the news releases published in navy.lk.

The 4th Fast Attack Squadron, also known as the Dvora Squadron of the SL Navy committed several crimes in the genocidal war against Eezham Tamils, including the final phase in 2009.

This Squadron was responsible for killing several Tamil civilians, including the fishermen from Tamil Nadu in the Palk Strait.

Ten years after the genocidal war, the 4th Fast Attack Squadron was upgraded and commissioned as the 4th Fast Attack Flotilla in Trincomalee in June 2019.

The SL Navy’s Special Boat Squadron (SBS), raised as an commando unit of the SL Navy, also engaged in ground operations during the times of war (The SL military didn’t have a marine wing before 2009).

The SBS, which has committed several genocidal massacres in the islets off Jaffna during the times of war, is regarded as an elite unit of the SL Navy constituting “Sri Lanka Special Forces” along with similar specialized units of SL Army and the SL Air Force.

2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style”
Inauguration of 2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style” on 02 March at Special Boat Squadron HQ in Trincomalee [Photo courtesy: navy.lk]
2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style”
Inauguration of 2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style” on 02 March at Special Boat Squadron HQ in Trincomalee [Photo courtesy: navy.lk]
2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style”
Certification ceremony of 2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style” on 30 March [Photo courtesy: navy.lk]
2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style”
Certification ceremony of 2020/01 JCET “Operation Balanced Style” on 30 March [Photo courtesy: navy.lk]

The US Army Special Forces are known as the Green Berets.

The Green Berets are organised in smaller 12-member teams. A team commonly includes two weapons sergeants, two communications sergeants, two medical sergeants and two engineering sergeants, according to a description from goarmy.com website. A commander, assistant commander (warrant officer), operations sergeant and an intelligence sergeant complete the team.

The Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) Team 1333, involved in the month-long training in Trincomalee, belongs to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the Green Berets. It was reportedly fighting the Taliban at Ghazni in central Afghanistan in 2018.

The 1st SFG (A) is primarily assigned to the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) area of responsibility. It has one battalion based at Torii Station, Okinawa, Japan and three based in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

The elements of the 1st SFG (A) have also been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Philippines, according to americanspecialops.com, a website with detailed info on the US Special Operations Forces (SOF).

The 1st SFG (A) specialises in unconventional warfare, foreign internal defence, special reconnaissance, direct action, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation and information operations.

“Training with host-nation forces has evolved from just training small units on basic combat skills; our focus now is to build capacity by mentoring host-nation SOF leadership on topics such as command and control, intelligence fusion, joint operations, and sustainment,” according to the official website of the 1st SFG (A) of the Green Berets.

* * *

Commander of the USINDOPACOM Admiral Philip S. Davidson, witnessing before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on US Indo-Pacific command posture on 12 February 2019, had the following observations on USINDOPACOM's military-to-military engagement with Colombo:

Sri Lanka remains a significant strategic opportunity in the Indian Ocean, and our military-to-military relationship continues to strengthen.

However, political turmoil and ethnic tension between the Tamil and Sinhalese populations remain drivers of instability and potential obstacles to continued growth in our partnership.

Moreover, Sri Lanka has handed over the deep water port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease due to its mounting debts to China, which has caused international concern.

Despite the political upheaval, it is in our interests to continue military collaboration and cooperation with Sri Lankan Forces.

USINDOPACOM cooperation with the Sri Lankan Military centers on building capacity in maritime security and maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as humanitarian de- mining, medical assistance, and peacekeeping operations.

Increasing navy-to-navy engagement with Sri Lanka will be a USINDOPACOM focus in 2019.

The Sri Lankan Navy is a well-trained and professional force with the potential to contribute to multi-lateral maritime interoperability in the Indian Ocean.

The recent transfer of an excess U.S. Coast Guard cutter to Sri Lanka in August 2018, along with additional platforms from Japan and India, provide the Sri Lankan Navy greater capabilities to contribute to regional maritime domain awareness initiatives.

Going forward, it is necessary to sustain engagement with Sri Lanka, particularly the navy, and construct a multi-lateral approach to capacity building with like-minded partners to rapidly enhance the Sri Lankan Navy’s capabilities.

* * *

The Green Berets involvement in the island has a long history and the first SFO training session with the SL military dates back to 1996. Also the name used for the latest month-long session in Trincomalee, “Balanced Style” dates back to 1996.

Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State during the presidency of Bill Clinton, designated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) for the first time on 08 October 1997.

However, the US military-to-military relationship offering Special Forces training to the military of genocidal Sri Lanka goes as far back as 1994, according to publicly available media records.

Despite the horrific human rights records of the SL military, the Pentagon launched an “unannounced and unreported” training programme, codenamed as “Operation Balanced Style” reportedly since March 1996.

The details of Green Berets “Operation Balanced Style” training to SL military was first revealed by a US journalist attached to the Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Marc Kaufman in June 1996.

Kaufman who visited Wirawila where Green Beret specialists were training SL soldiers in “combat medical-evacuation techniques, radio work, field engineering” and “live-fire exercises”.

The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 June 1996
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 June 1996

“Unlike most joint military exercises, the Pentagon has not publicized this mission. Sri Lanka denies any active U.S. troops are in the country. And the mission has not been mentioned in Sri Lankan newspapers,” Kaufman wrote at that time.

The “presence of U.S. military advisers over the past two years” was increasingly frequent, the US journalist wrote in 1996. His article was also citing US Military Attache in Colombo, Col Carl Cockrum, who had helped bring in the Green Berets.

In 2001, US Navy Seal commandos were also providing training to the SL Navy at a secret location in the South, according to a CNN report. That training operation was also codenamed ‘Operation Balanced Style’.

“Arriving last month to see them in action and to discuss future programs was Brigadier General Donald Wurster, Commander of the Special Operations Command, Pacific (COMSOCPAC). He is the commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces in the Pacific,” Iqbal Athas reported to CNN on 04 March 2001.

Apart from Special Forces training, the US has been providing naval cutters and shared crucial intelligence to the SL Navy Commander on LTTE vessels in the deep sea during the last phase of the genocidal war.

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External Links:
The Sunday Reader: SL Navy’s 4th Fast Attack Squadron commissioned in grand ceremony
navy.lk: Certificate awarding ceremony of JCET Balance Style 2020/01 held in Trincomalee
Sunday Times: US troops to help counter LTTE
PACOM: U.S. Welcomes Sri Lanka's Contribution to Security in the Indo-Asia- Pacific Region
The Center for Public Integrity: Sri Lanka's Endless War (Jane’s Defence Weekly from 12 January 2000)
Seattle Times (Archives): Green Berets Playing Role In Bloody Civil War
navy.lk: JCET Balance Style 2020/01 commences in Trincomalee
The Economic Times: Pentagon seeks sustained engagement with Sri Lanka
US Army Special Operations Command: Green Berets: 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
CNN: Sri Lanka army deserters win second chance
TIME: Exclusive: Inside the U.S. Fight to Save Ghazni From the Taliban



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