Four factors can be highlighted to explain the collapse of the UNF strategy, although there is insufficient space to analyse them fully here.
Firstly, the strategy did not take into account the political battles within the Sinhala community, represented by the two main parties. Managing these is integral to dealing with the relationship between Sri Lankan Tamils and the state. The UNF strategy was implemented in a context where the two main parties controlled different parts of the political machinery, institutionalising their rivalry within the state structure. The failure to manage the relationship between the Sinhalese parties was a contradiction that ultimately led to the dismissal of the UNF government by the PA president. In a way, the CFA simplified a complex conflict by privileging the relationship between the LTTE and Wickremasinghe regime. This left no room to take into account any of the complexities that a conflict of this nature demands.
Secondly, the UNF government suffered the political fallout from its economic reforms. It did not give the impression that it was conscious of the social issues facing a country reeling in economic crisis, but rather that it was largely concerned with stabilising the country through concessions to the LTTE so that private sector oriented economic reforms could continue – an impression that contributed to electoral defeat.
Thirdly, the LTTE found it could not manage the international dimension of the strategy. It had initially welcomed the opportunity for greater international recognition that international involvement brought. Moreover, the CFA gave it the opportunity to engage in political activities, even in government controlled areas, while continuing to bear arms, to expand into new areas (especially in the Eastern Province) and to increase its arms supply. It also made use of the privileged position that the CFA conferred to continue to get rid of any opposition within the Tamil community. But the LTTE viewed the international support that the government was receiving with suspicion, dubbing it the government's 'international safety net.' On the economic front this was increasing the capacity of the Sri Lankan state, while the institutionalisation of the role of external actors in the negotiation process was viewed as an attempt to corner them into a position where they would have very little room for manoeuvre. The refusal of the US government to invite them to Washington confirmed these fears.
Finally, there has been no one coherent approach amongst external actors towards the conflict parties. Among their diverse policies and foreign policy positions, two broad policy perspectives can be identified. The first is reflected in the CFA: it accepts the presence of two armies in the country and control of territory by these armies and the need to treat these two parties on a par with each other and promote negotiations. A basic underlying assumption of this position privileges the relationship between the LTTE and government as the central issue to focus on in conflict resolution. The starting position of the second perspective is stability and security of the Sri Lankan state, which in the post Cold War security architecture is part and parcel of the security of the entire South Asian region. This position implicitly accepts the possibility of negotiations with the LTTE that would lead ultimately to their disarmament, but does not conceive of treating an armed group on a par with a government. The fact that the Sri Lanka government broadly follows the liberal economic model and is not antagonistic to Western interests is taken into account in formulating this position. Hence the strategy is to put pressure on, encourage, as well as support (not unconditionally) the Sri Lankan state to resolve the conflict. If the civil war deteriorates to such an extent that Sri Lanka become a major source of instability or its foreign or economic policies change significantly this attitude can change.
The period of negotiations between the LTTE and government of Sri Lanka was characterised by the presence of both these tendencies. This led to diverse and shifting positions among the international actors. Sometimes within the same country the emphasis changed as events unfolded. For example, Norway adhered to the position of treating LTTE and GoSL on a par with each other all along. Japan had a similar position early on, but once the negotiations unravelled it moved to its usual position, offering the Sri Lankan state 'soft support' through aid. From the beginning the concern of the US was security of the Sri Lankan state, which for US policy is part of the security of the South Asian region. Within this framework the US supported the negotiations, but did not hesitate to support the Sri Lankan government strongly when the LTTE crossed over a line.