The Sri Lankan Army hopes to drive the LTTE out of the Eastern districts by February or March, and thereafter make a bid to chase the rebels away from the Northern districts also.
The independent Daily Mirror on Wednesday quoted the Army Chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka as saying in Kandy that the East would be totally rid of the LTTE in two or three months.
"After eradicating the Tigers from the East, full strength would be used to rescue the North," he added.
General Fonseka said this on Tuesday while on a visit to the Temple of the Tooth, the most famous Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka.
Earlier, in an informal year-end interaction with the local and foreign media in Colombo, General Fonseka had said that the Security Forces would be able to take the strategic eastern coastal towns of Vaharai and Kadirweli in about a month.
Only the rains and the slushy terrain were preventing the tri-services from launching an offensive to capture the two objectives, he said.
The LTTE, he said, had only about 800 odd fully-trained fighters in the East. It had in addition a militia of about 2,000, which could wield the gun when necessary.
All in all, the LTTE was heavily outnumbered by the Security Forces, and was having a severe manpower crunch, hence the strong bid to recruit kids forcibly, the General said.
He acknowledged that the LTTE cadres were "good fighters" and that the militant group was putting pressure on the security forces "on all fronts". But the rebels' top military commanders were all ageing.
The peace process had made them diversify their interests, he said, hinting that they were not were not as focused militarily as before.
Bid to hold elections in East
In her column "Mirror Politics" commentator Champika Liyanaarachchi quoted government sources to say they expected the East to be cleared of the LTTE by mid February so that elections to a newly created Eastern Provincial Council could be held sometime in 2007.
Following the Supreme Court's order annulling the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces into single, Tamil-dominated North-Eastern Province in 1987, the Rajapaksa government has gone about creating two separate administrations for the North and the East and is hoping to hold provincial elections, at least in the multi-ethnic Eastern Province.
On operations in the Northern districts, Liyanaarachchi quoted government sources to say that the Security Forces expected hostilities to begin in the Muhamalai sector at the mouth of the Jaffna peninsula in June-July.
This could lead to the Forces making an attempt to take Elephant Pass, from the LTTE and directly threaten the LTTE's main bases in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.
LTTE may agree to patch up to delay confrontation
The government was aware that the LTTE could agree to a compromise in order to avoid a confrontation and a resultant depletion of its cadre strength, Liyanaarachchi said.
However the government was unlikely to soften its military strategy, she felt.
"The military top brass is convinced that it would be able to bring the LTTE to its knees on all counts, if the forces can maintain the present military momentum till July this year, though it admits that it will take years to wipe out the residual LTTE pockets."