View Full Version : The US role in the Philippines (catch all)

12-06-2006, 01:10 AM
5 December Reuters (SWC member COL Dave Maxwell quoted) - U.S., Philippines Apply 'Soft Power' Against Militants (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/05/AR2006120500951.html) by Jonathan Lyons.

A map in the U.S. briefing room looks like standard-issue military, but the colour-coded markings are not shorthand for fighting units, defensive positions, or future lines of attack.

Rather, the patchwork of shaded circles and ovals across the figure-eight-shaped island of Jolo bespeak a different kind of warfare, one that Washington hopes will finally end the Muslim insurgency that has long plagued the southern Philippines.

"This is not about firing shots. This is about changing the conditions that give rise to terrorism," said Colonel David Maxwell, commander of the U.S. Joint Special Forces Task Force.

Where traditional tactics might dictate heavy deployment of troops, or destruction of local villages that can harbor insurgents, Filipino and U.S. planners seek to use "soft power" to win over local residents and deny the rebels a place to hide.

As a result, the Task Force's briefing room map is dotted with circles -- strategically placed across the island to cut off suspected enemy positions. Each denotes a new school or road, a medical mission to a remote village, a water project.

Longer-term programs include reform of the Philippines security forces, large-scale economic development and political empowerment of the disenfranchised Muslim minority in this predominantly Catholic country.

U.S. officials say their approach to Jolo, in the southern Sulu Archipelago, is based on a successful turnaround that began in 2002 on neighboring Basilan.

Today that island, which once tied down 15 Filipino battalions, requires just two. A local fast-food chain opened an outlet there in a widely hailed sign of "normality."...

More at the link...

02-14-2007, 11:00 PM
Where U.S. is Helping to Make Gains Against Terrorism (http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0215/p01s04-woap.html) - Christian Science Monitor.

... Gaining the trust of residents in Panamao, a stricken village on the edge of a combat zone, is why US and Philippine troops are dug in here. In counterterrorism jargon, this Muslim community is a "center of gravity" that can be swayed with targeted projects – a new well, a school classroom, or a toilet. "It's not the amount of people that you affect. It's who you affect," says Captain Battle, a civil-affairs officer.

At a time when success stories in the U.S.-led war on terror have been all but eclipsed by failures in Iraq, recent developments in the southern Philippines offer a degree of hope to Pentagon planners. But they also show the complexity of waging war in a contested, chaotic area, as well as the long slog needed to stand up a national army equal to sure-footed militants

Five years after Philippine troops, supplied and advised by US soldiers, drove Islamic militants from the island of Basilan, a major offensive is under way on Jolo Island, where the militants regrouped. The goal is to deny sanctuary to the remaining members of Abu Sayyaf, one of several insurgent groups who have been fighting for a separate Islamist state. Since August, elite Philippine units have killed or captured as many as half of an estimated 400 Abu Sayyaf on Jolo Island, including their slain leader Khadaffy Janjalani and several other senior operatives...

And of course...

... Even after five years of substantial military aid, US officers are quick to give credit to their allies for the victories.

"It's a Philippines success story. They're the one doing the heavy lifting and doing the fighting and helping the people and we're providing support," says Col. David Maxwell, commander of the joint taskforce, who led the 2002 Basilan operation....

02-15-2007, 05:17 PM
Thanks for posting that success story. There are more out there like that and the Public needs to hear more of them. I remember when the Corps of Engineers completed their 1200th project in Iraq - I think it was a school renovation - and there wasn't a peep about it in the national media.

02-15-2007, 11:38 PM
A USA Today article I almost missed (thanks Max!) - In Philippines, U.S. Making Progress in War on Terror (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-02-13-philippines-terror_x.htm) by Paul Wiseman.

Thousands of miles from the bazaars of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, U.S. military forces are quietly helping defeat terrorists in the jungles of the southern Philippines, a forgotten front in the global war on terrorism.

Working behind the scenes with a rejuvenated Philippine military, U.S. special forces have helped kill, capture or rout hundreds of Abu Sayyaf guerrillas who have links to the Islamic terror groups Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda, Philippine and U.S. military commanders say.

The Abu Sayyaf, responsible for 16 years of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in the southern Philippines, has been forced to flee into the mountainous terrain here on Jolo island in the remote Sulu Archipelago.

But its numbers are dwindling and its leadership almost wiped out, says Brig. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of Philippine special forces on Jolo.

"They are on the run," Pabustan says. "They are evading our troops now, and they are short of ammunition. … We are slowly neutralizing Abu Sayyaf."

American officials agree...

03-01-2007, 12:21 PM
1 March Christian Science Monitor - U.S. Troops in Philippines Defy Old Stereotype (http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0301/p07s02-woap.html) by Simon Montlake.

When US troops arrived in the southern islands in December 2001, a decade after closing its bases in the Philippines, critics assailed the move. They predicted a return of permanent US camps in its former colony, and a repeat of the sleazy bars and clubs still surrounding its former bases near Manila.

More alarming to US ears were dire warnings of resistance from Muslims whose island communities were to be rid of militants by US-assisted Philippine troops. Observers warned that the foreign presence could inflame the situation, as well as revive memories of a bloody US military campaign in the early 1900s to subdue Muslim-inhabited Mindanao.

Today, these warnings mostly ring false. About 450 US soldiers are still here, based inside Philippine military command centers in Zamboanga and the nearby island of Jolo. But the expected nightlife boom hasn't happened. Nor have militants taken the fight to the foreigners deployed here, though a US serviceman died in a bomb attack on a restaurant in 2002.

US officers say their small footprint in Mindanao, as well as a focus on joint development projects and counterinsurgency training of the Philippine Army, have smoothed their path. But further challenges lie ahead as US troop, and their Philippine counterparts who are notorious for human rights abuses, continue pursuing Muslim insurgent cells on the islands.

One measure of the US approach can be found on Basilan, where US troops first deployed in 2002. At the time, the extremist group Abu Sayyaf had turned the island, a 30-minute ferry ride from Zamboanga, into a no-go zone with a string of abductions, bombings, and beheadings...

03-02-2007, 12:11 PM


Incidentally, the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world where there is still much goodwill for the US and the Americans. Among Christian Filipinos at least.

And this is notwithstanding the love-hate relationship between Filipinos and Americans.

That is why the Philippines is not and will never be similar to Iraq.:=)


03-10-2007, 10:31 AM
H/t to max161.

Officials Say Philippine Fight Much Different Than Iraq, Afghanistan (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=44209) - Stars and Stripes.

It’s unfair to compare the Iraq or Afghanistan insurgencies with the one being battled in the southern Philippines, officials stressed during recent interviews.

U.S. troops with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines provide “assistance and advice” to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops are fully engaged in combat operations. Recently, the Philippine military has killed several high-value targets and appears to have the Abu Sayyaf Group on the ropes on Jolo Island. Soldiers told Stars and Stripes that Abu Sayyaf hasn’t been able to mount any sort of attack in months...

Finding the Root of Home-grown Terrorism (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=44204) - Stars and Stripes.

There is no magic fix when fighting an insurgency, according to officials who are working that problem now in the southern Philippines. Col. David Maxwell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, briefed Stars and Stripes about the issue during recent interviews in Manila and at his headquarters compound on Mindanao Island.

Key to countering an insurgency is understanding that it is a political problem first and foremost, with implications for the military, Maxwell said. “An insurgency will be defeated if the underlying political and socioeconomic causes are properly addressed,” Maxwell said.

"You’ve got to be here and engaged, which we are, as a country … as a country team,” Maxwell said. “You’ve got to have patience. This takes a long time.”...

Special Forces Lend Hand to Counterparts (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=44205) - Stars and Stripes.

Dozens of U.S. Special Forces soldiers, many fresh from combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, have found themselves in a new role fighting the war on terror in the southern Philippines.

As one soldier with experience in Afghanistan explained, it’s tough to transition from actively fighting an enemy downrange to “advising and assisting” the Philippine military in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf terror group in the steamy jungles of Jolo, Mindanao and Basilan islands. But, he added, he understands the local population has to learn to trust its own government and military.

The U.S. soldiers -- National Guardsmen with the 19th Special Forces Group -- are part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. They are not allowed to actively engage the enemy, and they can return fire only if attacked.

They’re organized into 12-man “Liaison Command Element” teams and they eat, live and work with their Armed Forces of the Philippines counterparts...

Making Friends in Abu Sayyaf’s Territory (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=44207) - Stars and Stripes.

A tiny two-room school that sits off a dusty road in the middle of the jungle on Jolo Island could play a role in the battle between Abu Sayyaf terrorists and the Philippine government.

With its cracked foundation, peeling paint and major structural damage, it looks like hundreds of other rural schools scattered across the southern Philippines. But what makes the Tayungen Elementary School special is its location.

“The school is smack dab in the middle” of a north-south migration route used by Abu Sayyaf terrorists, said U.S. Army Capt. Steve Battle, a civil affairs officer with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. Battle runs a four-man Army civil affairs team in a strategically important location on the kidney-shaped island, where the land pinches together into just a three-mile strip from shore to shore...

Civil Affairs Team Members Roughing It at Remote Camps (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=44208)- Stars and Stripes.

When civil affairs soldiers with Team 761 head home after a day’s work on the island, it’s hard to tell if they’re on a military camp or the set of “Survivor.”

They live on Jolo’s “Seit Poblasion” Philippine marine base overlooking a volcanic crater lake, surrounded by a beautiful jungle and monkeys that screech through the night. Most of the buildings are bamboo with thatched roofs, though the team’s house is a bit sturdier.

U.S. Army Capt. Steve Battle, the team leader, lives there with a sergeant, a medic and an engineer. And recently they’ve added a U.S. Marine staff sergeant who is gathering information on a mission that will help the Marine Corps work on setting up its own civil-affairs teams...

Navy Helps Philippine's Sea Defense (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=44206) - Stars and Stripes.

U.S. Navy Special Warfare sailors are helping the Philippine navy learn to control the waters around islands where they’re fighting Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

Special Warfare Combatant Craft crew and their MK V special operations craft and rigid inflatable boats have followed the Philippine navy on more than 4,000 “visit, board, search and seizures” since arriving in the Philippines in October, said Chief Petty Officer Michael Andre, a RIB detachment commander.

The crewmen and an accompanying group of Navy SEALs are based at Coronado, Calif., and are supporting the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines by training counterparts in the Philippine naval special operations units...

03-11-2007, 08:06 AM
This is really good stuff, all around. It's good to see this getting out there, now if only more MSM outlets run with it.

From what I've seen on Filipino TV, it's not even getting much play there.

03-11-2007, 08:47 AM
This is really good stuff, all around. It's good to see this getting out there, now if only more MSM outlets run with it.

From what I've seen on Filipino TV, it's not even getting much play there.

I've posted this and some more on the SWJ Blog - COIN in the PI: Below the Doom and Gloom Radar (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/03/below-the-doom-and-gloom-radar/).

Just below the 24/7 “if it bleeds it leads” MSM headlines there is another story -- an encouraging story -- concerning our worldwide counterinsurgency efforts. What follows is a sampling of recent reporting on COIN efforts in the Philippines...

03-11-2007, 02:24 PM
Didn't catch it being blogged. I'm going to make an effort to catch the P.I. nightly news to see if the story does get picked up, and will try to report what the local sentiment is.

Bill Moore
03-11-2007, 03:58 PM
Having spent more than a few months in the Philippines one needs to keep this in perspective. First the successes being enjoyed are real, but the success is in no small part due to the fact that it has been kept out of the media. Like any other democratic country opposing parties will attempt to exploit the incumbent's policies. This is noted any time there is a hick up in the current operation such as the Marine who allegedly raped the Filippina girl. It received a lot press in the Philippines and there were movements (relatively small, but very vocal) to get the Americans out of the Philippines. When we say quiet professionals, we mean quiet professionals, and we need to keep it that way.

Another aspect is that Muslim separatist movement is focused on Minadao, the southern most island (not counting the little unpopulated or lightly populated islands) the Philippines, and for most Filippinos it is a local issue that doesn't impact them. The biggest threat to Philippine government is the New People's Army and their subversive communist party of the Philippines (NPA and CPP), and even that threat isn't that critical currently.

Success in the Philippines is relatively easy compared to Afghanistan and Iraq for a number of reasons. First the Philippines used to be a U.S. colony (a Spainish one prior to that), and many of its citizens still speak English and share many common cultural values (I'm not implying they are a carbon copy of America, they have their own unique and vibrant culture, yet there are many common threads). Second there is only a fringe minority that truely aspires to live under anything even ressembling Sharia. Third they are a hard working people, if giving the means (carrots) they will build a good life for themselves.

I still find it amazing that many on this site think information operations is primarily about what NBC or some other news station blasts out to the American audience, instead of the target audience in the country we're trying to persuade. Remember this is COIN, and we want the host nation to get the credit so we can work ourselves out of a job. We don't want a bunch of our officers taking credit for saving the world on the news, we want HN officers leading the effort with our help quietly behind the scenes.

Remember the fairy tale like good news stories about building schools in Iraq? Yet, it was (and remains in many places) to dangerous to send the kids to school, and we accuse the press of not reporting the good news? Maybe if we got our priorities straight, and provided security first they would have? Fortunately we're finally starting to do that.

Where you have security opening a school or a medical clinic is a big deal, like in the Philippines, because it has a notable impact on their quality of life.

We need to embrace reality and subdue our egos, no press is good press in many situations.

Bill Moore
03-12-2007, 04:50 PM
Some of my comments on the previous post were taken out of context my some of my friends who are currently on point for our nation doing great work as quiet professionals. In effort to put the comments in a more appropriate context I want to add (reinforce) the following:

1. As stated I think the U.S. Government (State and Military) is doing great work in the Republic of the Philippines (ROP). I did NOT take issue with any of the Stars and Stripes articles, they were well written and accurate.

2. I do NOT think any officer or NCO in the chain of command is seeking publicity, as a matter of fact I think they are shying away from it, unless there is a strategic reason to do otherwise.

3. My comments were directed (for purpose of debate) to some members of the SWJ council who seem to be calling for "more" media coverage of what we're doing in the ROP, because it is a good news story. I disagree (the debate issue) that we need more press coverage, for the reasons I stated. I think our current level of media coverage is helpful and sufficient, and that more could potentially backfire.

4. I think the last thing we want is a PAO standing in front of the camera spouting off about all the good work we're doing, thus the comment we don't want a bunch of our officers taking credit for saving the world on the news (this is what we don't want, it isn't happening now). It sends the wrong message, because we facilitate, the host nation executes, and the HN takes credit for what they did, and we eventually go home.

5. While I understand some member's desire to see more positive media coverage, I think we need to check our egos (collectively) and quietly continue to do good work.

6. For those on point I think you're doing the right things and having great effect, so keep up the great work.

09-13-2007, 04:41 PM
Are US Special Forces engaged in an ‘offensive war’ in the Philippines? (http://www.focusweb.org/pdf/unconventionalwarfare.pdf)

Focus on the Global South is a non-profit policy analysis,research and campaigning organisation, working in national, regional and international coalitions and campaigns, and with social movements and grassroots organisations on key issues confronting the global south. Focus was founded in 1995 and is attached to the Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute (CUSRI) in Bangkok, Thailand. It has programs in the Philippines and India.

Since January 2002, US Special Operations Forces (SOFs) have been stationed in the southern Philippines and have not left since then.

09-14-2007, 03:26 AM
Global South has been conducting an excellent disinformation campaign. Very sophisticated. Herbert Docena is currently fixated on making allegations we are attemptong to re-establish bases in the Philippines. He does an excellent job of data mining from the internet and then selectively piecing together out of context quotes, facts, and documents (inlcuding my own!) to make his arguments that the US is doing something wrong in the Philippines. The fact remains the US is supporting an ally in its fight against terrorism. The US respects Philippine sovereignty has been very transparent in its actions in Mindanao despite what Global South and Herbert Docena allege. I would love to see the press analyze what Global South is doing and take a good look at their methods and motivations (other than what is stated on their web site).



Ken White
09-14-2007, 03:59 AM
anyone with any experience but it'll fool many. Too many, unfortunately.

Slick presentation, too; takes big bucks to get a pub like that on the street. They're probably providing it free to University libraries worldwide...

09-14-2007, 10:45 AM
Global South has been conducting an excellent disinformation campaign. Very sophisticated. Herbert Docena is currently fixated on making allegations we are attemptong to re-establish bases in the Philippines. He does an excellent job of data mining from the internet and then selectively piecing together out of context quotes, facts, and documents (inlcuding my own!) to make his arguments that the US is doing something wrong in the Philippines. The fact remains the US is supporting an ally in its fight against terrorism. The US respects Philippine sovereignty has been very transparent in its actions in Mindanao despite what Global South and Herbert Docena allege. I would love to see the press analyze what Global South is doing and take a good look at their methods and motivations (other than what is stated on their web site).




Have either one of them every tried to talk to you personally?

09-14-2007, 11:01 AM

Have either one of them every tried to talk to you personally?

Interesting that you should ask that. The answer is no, not that I know of. Our PAO has never been approached while I have been here in the last year. But I say that is interesting because today I had a conversation with a Philippine Army Public Information Officer who happens to be a university classmate of Herbert Docena. We were discussing his allegations on US bases and she told me that she challenged him on this very idea and asked he has never asked to interview me or Philippine military officials. Of course he is writing reports (and an occasional letter to the editor) and he does his research through data mining on the internet and as I mentioned by talking quotes and facts out of context. I do not think he cares about talking to anyone who might not give him something to confirm his preconceived notions. But it will be interesting to see if he takes up the PIO's challenge to him.



09-18-2007, 04:46 AM

As of this posting, I admit to be firing from the hip.

I am pressed for time, but I simply have to comment regarding the bases.

Return of the US bases is a non-issue here in the Philippines. And to tell you frankly, anecdotal evidence suggests most Filipinos are happy with the American presence in Mindanao.

A caveat though. What did the US bases in was the fact that American policymakers until now appear not to understand the dynamics of Philippine nationalism.

My suggestion: study this first.


11-11-2007, 09:43 AM
The dynamics of Filipino Nationalism begin & end with $$$. Fact: The Philippine Senate was asking for $1.2 billion as rent for the U.S. bases annually (a huge mark up from the then, $800+ million) even though the U.S. was ready to give up ALL other bases/facilities here & just settle on Subic. Nationalism was the furtherest thing from their minds. It is only an after thought espoused by kids barely old enough to remember the bases being here & the $$$millions$$$ that were infused into the local economy because of it. I observed it going to college here & was quite amused. They complain about everything U.S., but their deepest desire is to immigrate to America. Go figure...:confused:

IMHO the best move the U.S. did was to leave the Philippines. This took away the "Kasi (because of you)" excuse making syndrome from Filipinos, at least as far as the U.S. was concerned. Sadly, the current "Stumble in the Jungle" is giving these loudmouths ammunition to once again blame the USofA for their ineptitude in becoming a successful country.

As for the bases on-going drama...I see it as piss-poor journalism. These Clowns are too lazy to do any real reporting, so they keep re-inventing the Boogey Man.

Fact: The GenSan base theory was an approved USAID project PRIOR to the closure of the bases for something like $144million, which was later reduced significantly after the termination of the lease on bases...period. This story keeps getting whipped around ad naseum.

General rule here: "Believe nothing you hear & only half (still verify that) of what you see."

The U.S. has no plans to even try to re-establish bases here according to offical statements...now, training areas is another subject & would be in-line with the Mutual Defense Treaty & VFA.

11-15-2007, 06:55 AM
Calm Seas:

I trust you are an American. Hence, I shall accept the fact that at times, you tend to be too forward in your speech.

The dynamics of Philippine nationalism begins with the opening of the Suez Canal, when inhabitants of the Spanish colony began to identify themselves as Fillipinos.

The US came in at the close of the 19th century--at a time when the first nationalist revolution in Asia and the last of the Hispanic revolutions was taking place in the Philippines.

That explains the love-hate relationship between the Philippines and the US.

Yes, the Philippines asked for US $1.2 billion. That's true.

But the US negotiators' handling of the bases issue showed how insensitive they were. And that's why a lot of Filipino senators remembered how the US backed the Marcos dictatorship until the end.

And that's why also , the anti-bases vote got through.

Moreover, a case can be made, the Philippines really did the US a big favor.

It was the end of the cold war, remember. Amercian bean counters would have started to view Subic and Clark as costly white elephants in need of major downsizing--at the very least.

That may have been financially rational. But for the US to have said it was getting out of the Philippines for reasons of money would have been a big political disaster for it.

I suggest that Americans by and large learn to be more sensitive to the aspirations of possible allies. Failure to do so would lead to disasters in the Long War.

Having said that, I am happy that Filipino-American relations are on the mend anew.

05-21-2008, 06:03 AM
I found this ICG report "The Philippines: Counter-insurgency vs. Counter-Terrorism in Mindinao" to be very good (http://www.crisisgroup.org/library/documents/asia/south_east_asia/152_counterinsurgency_vs_counter_terrorism_in_mind anao.pdf). I will say off the bat that while I have been tracking the Philippine situation from a perch in Okinawa, I am in no way am qualified to say how accurate the ICG report is. My experience from Iraq is that their stuff is good, if somewhat dated and is skewed by whoever they were able to actually interview.
What I found interesting, however, is the distinction they draw between counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. They assert that counterinsurgency seeks to split the insurgents from the people while counter-terrorism seeks to split the extremist terrorists from the more moderate insurgents. I'm not sold on the whole prospect, but I like the consideration of the complexity of the situation. It rang familiar to Iraq where there are multiple groups and the approaches that work with one, may actually make the situation worse by empowering (or threatening) another. In the case of the Philippines, the ICG asserts that the US success in Basilan and Jolo is driving the terrorists closer to Mindinao and may upset the balance between the government and insurgents (MILF, MNLF) there.
Actually, its much more complicated than that, but my point isn't whether the ICG is exactly correct in this instance, but their approach is a worthwhile call to always be aware of second and third order effects (a dirty word) from both "successes" and "failures" in counterinsurgency--to be wary of anything called a "model," which to unthinking minds gets applied where it shouldn't.

05-23-2008, 06:44 PM
Military Review, May-Jun 08: From Enduring Strife to Enduring Peace in the Philippines (http://usacac.army.mil/CAC/milreview/English/MayJun08/MoreaEngMayJun08.pdf)

....The conflict in the Mindanao has at least three interrelated dimensions: political, security, and economic. The point at which these three dimensions converge is marked by tension, but it also holds the potential for cooperation. It is towards this point that efforts for peace, in the form of amnesty, reintegration, and reconciliation (AR2), should be directed.2 AR2, a multi-staged and multidimensional approach to healing a fractured society, is fundamental to achieving a sustained peace. While there have been many attempts to pacify the Mindanao via AR2, these overtures have mostly been short-lived and narrowly focused. Hence, the conflict persists, and it will continue to do so until the GRP expands the breadth of its proposed AR2 solutions.....

12-27-2008, 11:28 AM
Max Boot and Richard Bennet discuss why a low-intensity counterinsurgency strategy seems to be working in the Philippines at The Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/956zznwj.asp).

The war on terror that the Obama administration is inheriting comes with a decidedly mixed record. Stopping attacks on the American homeland since 2001 has been the Bush administration's biggest accomplishment. Turning around the war effort in Iraq, which was on the verge of failure in 2006, has been another signal success. But, as the Mumbai attacks remind us, the threat of Islamist terrorism has hardly been extinguished...

Almost forgotten amid these major developments is a tiny success story in Southeast Asia that may offer a more apt template than either Iraq or Afghanistan for fighting extremists in many corners of the world. The southern islands of the Philippines, inhabited by Muslims known as Moros (Spanish for "Moor"), have been in almost perpetual rebellion against the Christian majority ruling in Manila...

03-31-2009, 09:55 PM
Part 1
I think we can agree that the limited press the JSOTF-P/AFP operations in the Southern Philippines has received has been largely positive. The strategy is working and there has been definable progress. I would like to offer some specific examples of how and why the operation was successful.
I recently graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School where I wrote a thesis that examined the recent US/GRP operations in the Southern Philippines, specifically Basilan and Sulu. The paper outlines the strategy that SOCPAC and the JSOTF-P developed to assist the AFP and improve their capacity to counter the ASG while addressing the conditions of relative deprivation on Sulu and improving the perceived legitimacy of the GRP. I also have the benefit of having served at the JSOTF-P during Operation Ultimatum in 2006-2007.
Laying the ground work:
Concerned by indications of a significant Al Qaeda presence in Mindanao and increased terrorist activity, PACOM and SOCPAC began working on a plan to improve the capacity of the GRP to address this internal challenge.
The first step in developing the strategy to combat terror in the Southern Philippines was to reestablish the US/RP mil to mil relationship that had been virtually severed in 1992. In February 1999, the Philippine government ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement which restored protections to U.S. military personnel deployed to the Philippines. This was the first step in renewed cooperation between the U.S. and GRP and was essential in paving the way to reestablishing U.S./RP military exchange training. The seven years of little US military exchange and aid had taken a toll on the AFP and degraded their capacity.
The next step was to coordinate the legal justification for U.S. assistance.
To reinforce and demonstrate U.S. respect for Philippine sovereignty, PACOM and SOCPAC planners worked with the GRP to develop the legal justification to support the presence and assistance of US forces. Fortunately, the U.S. and RP had previously signed a Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT). The U.S. is the only country with which the RP has a MDT. As planning progressed, this document became the framework on which the future strategy would be built. The importance of this document cannot be overstated. The MDT was the cornerstone document that supported U.S. military assistance to the Philippines, but there was a problem. The MDT was written to address outside threats and the Philippines was facing internal threats of insurgency and terrorism. Opponents to U.S. involvement within the GRP were adamant that U.S. involvement was not supported by the Philippine Constitution or the MDT. In response, PACOM representatives and the Arroyo administration drafted the Terms of Reference (TOR) for Balikatan 02 which outlined and clarified the extent of U.S. assistance. The TOR stated that the U.S. presence in the Southern Philippines would not exceed six months; U.S. forces would not participate in combat operations although they were authorized to defend themselves if attacked; all operations would be AFP-led; and U.S. personnel would always be accompanied by AFP personnel. This agreement was followed by the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and Kapit Bisig which further reinforced the legal justification and extended the US presence.
During my thesis research, I interviewed Undersecretary Edilberto P. Adan, Executive Director for the Office of the President, Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACOM), who told me that these documents have withstood close scrutiny and frequent challenges by members of the Philippine Congress. The establishment of the US Task Force and its continuing efforts depend on these agreements.
By 2000, with the kidnapping of several U.S. citizens by the ASG and an overall increase in attacks by terrorist and insurgent groups, President Arroyo approved a SOCPAC plan to address the threat. The plan included improving the counterinsurgency capacity of the AFP as well as establishing a counter-terrorism capability which included establishing the Light Reaction Companies (LRC) a counterterrorism force, A Naval Special Operations capability, Security Assistance funding and training for Army units in Mindanao and the establishment of a Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) to coordinate the efforts of Philippine Counter Terrorism Forces. These forces played a significant role during Operation Ultimatum in targeting the ASG and have proven a highly capable force.

These initiatives pre-dated September 11, 2001 and the GWOT and set the conditions for the deployment of US forces to Basilan as part of JTF-510 and later the establishment of the JSOTF-P and operations on Sulu Island.

The Sulu Strategy:
The COIN model that was developed for Sulu expanded on the Basilan Model and included valuable lessons learned during the previous three years.
The strategy included four lines of operation:
• PSF Capacity Building: The JSOTF expanded assistance and advice to include not only the AFP, but also Philippine police and other security forces. The goal was to assist them in providing a secure environment for the Sulu residents.
• Targeted CMO: The JSOTF assisted the RP in conducting engineering, medical, dental, veterinarian projects as well as fund and facilitate major projects to improve local quality of life and demonstrate GRP concern for regional citizens.
• Intelligence Operations: Collected, fused, and disseminated timely and accurate intelligence to the right agencies.
• Information Operations (or influence ops): Emphasized the success of GRP efforts in the first 2 lines of operation to change perceptions about GRP legitimacy.
The desired end-state was that “the increased capacity of the PSF in combination with reduced local support to terrorists will deny the enemy sanctuary in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago as well as the use of vital Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCS).

I won’t go into a blow by blow on Operation Ultimatum here for fear of making this so long that no one will read it but I would like to cover some key indicators of the success of the Indirect Strategy on Sulu and Mindanao.
*Continued in next blog*

03-31-2009, 09:56 PM
Part 2

Capacity Building: The JSOTF-P set out to improve the capacity of the AFP to conduct both kinetic and non-kinetic operations.
Preparing the AFP units on Sulu for Operation Ultimatum presented the JSOTF-P with some significant challenges. In late 2005, before the JSOTF-P had arrived on Sulu and Special Forces detachments had not begun exchange training with the AFP, the AFP launched Operation Shadow, an offensive on Sulu to destroy the ASG. The offensive involved artillery and aerial bombardment of areas on Sulu believed to be ASG safe havens and caused significant damage to property as well as the population’s approval of the government. The AFP operation also experienced significant logistical challenges and after just 12 days, unable to resupply combat units, the AFP returned to their bases and ended the offensive.
Once you compare that outcome with the performance of the AFP during Operation Ultimatum you begin to get a sense of just how much progress the JSOTF-P had made in increasing the capacity of the AFP to conduct combat operations. Op Ultimatum lasted 8 months during which time the AFP remained largely in the field in pursuit of the ASG. On D-Day, of Op Ultimatum, the AFP conducted two simultaneous, nighttime, beach landing assaults and over land movement to 5 separate ASG targets, hitting them simultaneously. The AFP sustained themselves in the field while receiving some transportation support from the JSOTF-P. The JSOTF-P also assisted in the development of a partnership between MIG9 (the AFP intelligence unit organic to WESMINCOM) and the LRC which resulted in several highly successful raids.
The AFP also demonstrated dramatic improvements in conducting Joint Operations including air and maritime assets. Initially hesitant to employ OV-10s in conducting close air support, the JSOTF-P worked with pilots, improving their bombing accuracy. The improved accuracy of these strikes led the AFP ground forces, especially JSOG units, to employ these assets more frequently. The JSOTF-P also assisted the AFP in developing basic NVG capabilities which greatly enhanced the AFP's ability to conduct nighttime infil and Medevac operations.
The Bottom line is that the AFP was able to keep the ASG under tremendous pressure which in turn significantly disrupted their operations, movement and ability to conduct attacks on Sulu or in other parts of the Philippines.
Civil Military Operations:
As planning began for Op Ultimatum, the AFP was concerned with the MNLF on Sulu becoming involved in the fighting. The AFP had fought a major war against the MNLF in the 1970’s and tensions were still high. Through negotiations with MNLF leaders the AFP was able avoid a confrontation with the MNLF. This achievement is significant because it kept the thousands of MNLF members out of the fight and allowed the AFP to pursue the ASG. A similar agreement with the MILF in Mindanao called for the MILF Central Committee to denounce the ASG and JI as bandits and outlaws, clearing the way for the AFP to conduct operations in MNLF and MILF areas against ASG and JI targets. I would argue that the ongoing peace negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF and MILF contributed significantly to the success of these agreements to not interfere with AFP operations. The MNLF/MILF desire to resolve their claims for independence and continue to participate in the peace process forced them to become more moderate, or at least publicly. This meant that they had to distance themselves from more extreme members of their groups. While the MNLF likely still provided some support to the ASG/JI on Sulu during Op Ultimatum, they avoided any implication of major support which allowed AFP to more effectively pursue and target them. The situation with Commander Kato and Bravo is similar in that the MILF Central Committee publically distanced themselves from the “Rogue Commanders” which effectively split the MILF and allowed the AFP to target them.
After the successful operations on Basilan, the AFP, who in the past had sometimes employed a more heavy handed approach, embraced the effectiveness of the Indirect Approach. Although they admit in after action reports that they underfunded CMO initiatives during Op Ultimatum, they are working hard to correct this shortcoming. In September 2007, the AFP established the AFP National Development Support Command (NDSC). This command was established to centralize government, non-government, and military efforts to conduct civil-military operations. The establishment of the NDSC institutionalized the valuable lessons learned during the Basilan, Bohol, and Sulu. The NDSC is a unified command and has become the Philippine government proponent for CMO, development, and disaster response. The
NDSC also has operational control of all AFP engineer units as well as the authority to establish task forces to operate in support of regional unified commanders. This command will also coordinate the efforts of all Civil Affairs, SOT, and SALAAM teams in the specific region to maximize synchronization of effort. The NDSC mission “is to undertake development projects in support of national development programs to establish a physically and psychologically secure environment conducive to socio-economic growth.”

The success of the CMO approach had not gone unnoticed by the MILF
who had begun to conduct their own MEDCAPS and CMO projects in Central Mindanao.
The effectiveness of the JSOTF-P’s indirect strategy is illustrated by the quote from the Deputy Chairman of the MILF Committee on Information, Khaled Musa, who stated in an article posted on the Central Committee website April 2007, that the AFP/U.S. Indirect Approach
was “more lethal than brute force.”

*Continued in next blog*

03-31-2009, 09:58 PM
Part 3

Information Operations:
SOCPAC and JSOTF planners developed a comprehensive IO strategy to
support the deployment of AFP and U.S. forces to Sulu. This phased strategy had been
effective in driving a wedge between the foreign fighters and the local population by
publicizing the manipulative and self serving nature of the foreign fighters by
highlighting the brutality they used on the populace. In the next phase, the information
strategy was able to separate the population from the insurgents by advertising the
improved socioeconomic conditions due to the improved security situation. It also
discredited the ASG by highlighting their brutal attacks on the population. The JSOTF
also developed excellent rapport with many RP journalists and gave them a direct line to
the JSOTF Commander and his staff. By doing this, the JSOTF staff encouraged
journalists to contact the JSOTF directly to get the Commander’s explanation of
developing situations. In this way, the AFP/JSOTF was able to get the correct story out
quickly and effectively. The JSOTF developed iron clad credibility by providing quick
responses to media inquiries and quantifiable proof to support the JSOTF position.
Media analysis conducted by the SOCPAC MOST team and Brand Labs
demonstrates a significant trend in Philippine media coverage of the Sulu operation. In
late 2005, when the U.S. first began deploying to Sulu, the media carried mostly negative
stories about the U.S. involvement. By August 2006, less than one year later, the number
of negative stories had dropped to a minority percentage. In April 2008, MOST
reported media coverage of Balikatan 2008 consisted of 306 articles of which the
majority (58 percent) were neutral and viewed as objective. Thirty percent were
assessed as negative and 11 percent were positive. This was a significant improvement
over the 2005 media coverage.
In September 2007, an ASG pamphlet was found on Sulu that illustrated that the IO themes were reaching the ASG leadership. The pamphlet bore the publishers mark of H.I. Media Bureau and had been prepared by Abu Hamid Al-Luzoni. Abu Hamid Al-Luzoni was otherwise known as Ahmed Santos, the leader of the Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM), a group known to have assisted the ASG in conducting the Superferry bombing in 2005. In the pamphlet, titled in
English, “Frequently Asked Questions,” the ASG leadership defended their actions and
provided a counter-argument to the themes distributed by the AFP/JSOTF. The ASG
document asserts that their jihad was legitimate and they make a feeble attempt to support
this assertion with quotes from the Koran. In a series of questions and answers, the
ASG explained why it was necessary to kill fellow Muslims and civilians describing
them as not being true Muslims because they work with the enemy (Shaytan forces)
against the Mujahadeen. They also explained their rape of women as their right and choice under “Sabaya,” that was defined in the pamphlet as taking a woman as a concubine. The pamphlet goes on to explain why Al Harakatul (the original name for the ASG) conducts kidnap for ransom, will not accept peace negotiations, and does not do drugs. The pamphlet provides a thoroughly unconvincing argument and an excellent example of a product intended to counter a successful information campaign.

I hope that this information sheds some light on how and why the Indirect Approach strategy was and continues to be successful in the Southern Philippines. I think the important lesson to take away from this operation is that SOCPAC and the JSOTF-P did not apply a template from some previous campaign but instead recognized that the strategy had to be built around the context of the local conditions. Developed from in-depth assessments and analysis, the strategy was constantly reassessed and modified to address the specific conditions where effects were needed. Lines of Operations (The Joint Pubs definition) were applied and sequenced differently from area to area and from island to island. While the Indirect Strategies of Basilan and Sulu do not offer a template for other areas they do provide some significant lessons learned and a starting point for developing a successful counterinsurgency strategy in other conflict areas.

Major Jonathan Hastings
Student, CGSC

04-01-2009, 04:22 AM
Thanks for posting that success story. There are more out there like that and the Public needs to hear more of them. I remember when the Corps of Engineers completed their 1200th project in Iraq - I think it was a school renovation - and there wasn't a peep about it in the national media.

The more we succeed.

Quiet Pro
10-01-2009, 12:11 PM
On 30 SEP 09, two US Service members were killed in the Philippines. This marks the first time in 7 years that a US Service member has been killed there.

What are everyone's thoughts on how this will change how the US operates in the Pacific Theater. In addition, don't forget that the Philippine Senate is attempting to get the VFA re-negotiated, while others are calling to remove US Soldiers from the country all together.

10-01-2009, 12:56 PM
On 30 SEP 09, two US Service members were killed in the Philippines.

Quiet Pro,
Thanks for the heads up on the story ! Please also include the link(s) so the rest of us don't have to go searching around. In this case, searching around turned out to be useful. USPACOM (http://www.pacom.mil/web/site_pages/media/news%20200909/20090928-SouthernPhilippines.shtml) and CNN (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/29/philippines.american.dies/index.html) stories jive as far as their vehicle driving over something - one was an IED and the other a landmine :rolleyes:

Please also take a second to introduce yourself here (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=1441&page=55).

Quiet Pro
10-01-2009, 08:36 PM

Sorry I didn't post links. I was kinda in a hurry to get to class (work). I found a bunch of links. The one think I noticed was that several places noted the guys were SeaBees while others stated they were Special Forces. I haven't been on Jolo for a couple of years, but I am guessing they were SeaBees. I did see a 5 gallon water can explode (along with the aftermath) in Mindanao in 2006. Fortunately, the only casualty was a bad guy. The ASG set up a great ambush that looked like it was going to be initiated by the IED. We assessed that the IED failed to detonate and when the bad guy was checking it he blew himself up. The AFP resupply convoy went through safe and sound.

I am surprised that there have not been more incidents involving US Soldiers considering we have had a permanent presence in the Philippines since 2002.

I am also concerned that the Lawless Elements and ASG are now using RPGs alongside the improvised RPGs they have always made.


10-02-2009, 09:26 AM
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Thu, 01 Oct 2009 20:11:00 -0500

October 01, 2009
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

On the Web: http://www.defenselink.mil/Releases/

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DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died Sept. 29 in Jolo Island, the Philippines, from the detonation of an improvised-explosive device. The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Killed were:

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw, 37, of Markham, Ill.

Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III, 26, of Bethany, Okla.

The incident is under investigation.

For more information media may contact the U.S. Army Special Operations Command public affairs office at (910) 432-6005; after hours (910) 689-6187, or visit http://news.soc.mil .

Quiet Pro
10-02-2009, 12:31 PM

Thank you for providing the link. Of course, when a US Service member is killed it is a sad day but this one hits a lot closer to home.


10-02-2009, 08:47 PM
The BBC News report adds some context: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8279852.stm (Incudentally far more coverage on the natural disasters in the region).


10-05-2009, 01:10 AM
New group BNLA claims responsibility for killing US commandos in Jolo

Sunday, 04 October 2009 0 0:00

By Al Jacinto, Reporter

ZAMBOANGA CITY: A previously unknown group has claimed responsibility for the roadside bombing that killed two US Special Forces soldiers and a Filipino Marine in Jolo on September 29 and alleged that American troops have been engaged in combat operations in the southern Philippines.
Madarang Sali, who identified himself as deputy supreme commander of the Bangsamoro National Liberation Army (BNLA), said the attack in Indanan town that claimed the lives of Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Shaw of Markham, Illinois, 37; and Staff Sergeant Jack Martin 3rd of Bethany, Oklahoma, 26, was in retaliation for what he said were continued operations by American and Filipino troops against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu province.

Even before the attack, allegations have been raised of US involvement in combat operations in the country, a violation of both the Philippine Constitution and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with the government in September 1996, but many of its members remain disgruntled with the accord and have accused the government of failing to uplift their living standards.
Shaw and Martin belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, the US Department of Defense said, contrary to earlier pronouncements by the Philippine military that the two were members of the Seabees, the US Navy’s construction battalion.

Sali said in a statement that MNLF and BNLA fighters planted the improvised explosive device that killed the three soldiers and wounded two more Philippine Marines.

“The BNLA and MNLF members planted the bomb. The US forces are really involved in the operations in Sulu. The landmine used in the attack was that of the BNLA,” Sali said, belying statements by Marine Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, blaming the Abu Sayyaf for the attack and the subsequent bombing of bridges in Sulu.

Dolorfino earlier said government forces were tracking down 200 Abu Sayyaf fighters led by four senior commanders—Dr. Abu, Albader Parad, Isnilon Hapilon and Yasser Igasan—and two operatives of the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiaah, Mauiya and Quayem.

“It is purely the operations of the BNLA and the MNLF, not the Abu Sayyaf or the Jemaah Islamiah,” Sali said.

The BNLA is led by Lt. Gen. Abdulnasser Iskandar, and the MNLF fighters are under the command of
Ustadz Habier Malik, Khaid Ajibun and Tahil Usman, Sali said.

Sali, who also described himself as the spokesman of the Bangsamoro Federated States of Sulu Archipelago, said fighting again broke out on Saturday afternoon in Bunot village in Indanan.

It was also in the town where Marines assaulted what authorities claim was the main Abu Sayyaf camp in
Sulu on Eid’l Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

There has been talk that US Special Forces troops joined this operation, which the military said left 42 combatants dead.

Sali last week said the military offensive actually targeted the MNLF in Sulu. He said Ajibun escaped a military raid last week.

Sali said only 10 MNLF rebels had been killed in the fighting—seven under Malik and three under the command of Ajibun.

He warned of more attacks against the Americans if they continue participating in combat operations in Sulu. The US and the Philippine government maintain that no Americans are engaged in combat despite persistent reports from civilians and civil society groups.

“Fighting again erupted and they will suffer defeat. The Bangsamoro revolutionary forces have declared a jihad [holy war] against the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine government for the Bangsamoro homeland,” said Sali.

The clashes erupted after the rebels bombed a bridge in Bunot on Friday, the third time in two weeks they have attacked a bridge.

On Thursday, the rebels ambushed Marines in Panamao town, sparking a fierce firefight that left one soldier and three rebels dead. Nine soldiers were also wounded.

10-05-2009, 01:11 AM
MNLF ally owns up to attack on US troops
10/03/2009 | 07:10 PM

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A group claiming to be allied with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Nur Misuari claimed responsibility on Saturday for a roadside bombing that killed two US Navy personnel and a Filipino marine in Jolo Island last Tuesday.

Madarang Sali, deputy commander of the Bangsamoro National Liberation Army, said the attack on the American soldiers was in retaliation for the continued operations of the US and Philippine military against the MNLF in the southern province of Sulu.

“The BNLA and MNLF members planted the bomb. The US forces are really involved in the operations in Sulu. The land mine used in the attack was that of the BNLA," Sali said in a statement.

The MNLF, chaired by former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Nur Misuari, has maintained its armed units despite its after the group signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996, but many of its members were disgruntled with the accord and accused the government of failing to uplift their living standards.

Sali last week said the military offensive targeted the MNLF in Sulu. He said Ajibun escaped a military raid last week in the province.

Sali said fighting between rebels and government troops broke out again late Saturday afternoon in the village of Bunot in Indanan town.

“Fighting again erupted (in the village) and they will suffer defeat.The Bangsamoro revolutionary forces have declared a jihad (holy war) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine government for the Bangsamoro homeland," said Sali, who is also the spokesman for the Bangsamoro Federated States of Sulu Archipelago.

The clashes erupted after rebel forces bombed a bridge late Friday in the village of Bunot. It was the third time rebels bombed bridges in Sulu in a span of two weeks.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the bombing of the bridges and the attack on the US forces.

Dolorfino said troops were tracking down at least four most senior Abu Sayyaf leaders – Dr Abu, Albader Parad, Isnilon Hapilon and Yasser Igasan – including two foreign Jemaah Islamiya terrorists Mauiya and Quayem and some 200 followers.

But Sali said Dolorfino was just engaging in propaganda. “It is purely the operations of the BNLA and the MNLF, not the Abu Sayyaf or the Jemaah Islamiya," he said.

He said the BNLA is headed by Lieutenant General Abdulnasser Iskandar, while the MNLF are under the command of Ustadz Habier Malik, Khaid Ajibun and Tahil Usman.

The killing of the two US Special Forces soldiers further bolstered suspicions that American troops are often engaged in counterterrorism operations in Sulu, where 42 militants and soldiers were killed in recent clashes in Indanan town.

The Philippine military previously blamed the extremist Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah for the attack on the US soldiers. It said those killed in the roadside bombing were non-combatants, but members of the US Navy Seabees who were involved in humanitarian missions in Sulu.

US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney earlier said the soldiers “lost their lives serving others and we will always be grateful for their contributions to improve the quality of life on Jolo."

The military did not immediately respond to Sali’s claim.

Sali said only 10 MNLF rebels were killed in the fighting – seven under Malik and three more under the command of Ajibun. He warned of more attacks against US troops if they continue participating in combat operations in Sulu.

US troops have been are deployed in Sulu since 2006 and assisting the Philippine military in defeating the Abu Sayyaf. Although security officials deny US forces were directly involved in combat operations, there were numerous reports from civilians and various civil groups that American soldiers actually participated in the operations aimed at capturing or killing militant leaders in Sulu and other parts of Mindanao.

On Thursday, Moro rebels ambushed Marines in Sulu’s Panamao town, sparking a fierce firefight that left one soldier and three gunmen dead. Nine soldiers were also wounded in the clashes. - Geonarri Solmerano, GMANews.TV

Bill Moore
10-05-2009, 03:59 AM
What the local insurgents are writing on their websites.


August 27, 2009 - The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu is bracing for war after the government forces assaulted the MNLF lair in Matanguli Island, Balabac Palawan on August 19 which resulted to the death of 7 MNLF regular members.


The call to jihad circulating in Sulu and nearby islands, purportedly coming from Commander Habier Malik of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is verified as true and genuine.

Malik studied in one of the Islamic universities in Saudi Arabia and it is only logical that he gives Islamic color to his efforts, the report added.


With the death of two U.S. soldiers in Sulu doing developmental works, according to reports, it’s now high time for President Obama to listen. “Piecemeal solution like constructing school building, clinic or a stretch of road in the conflict-affected areas here is not the solution to the problem,” said the MNLF secretary general. Since the American government has a hand in this lingering problem in the South of the Philippines, the same American government must again help in resolving it.

When asked how, the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University graduate said: America and the United Nations must exercise their governmental influence and institutional rights in implementing fully all their pertinent resolutions, mandate and covenants, particularly the one—The Granting of Independence to all Colonized Countries and Peoples of the World—vis-à-vis, the Bangsamoro country.

10-05-2009, 04:05 AM
The terms "IED" and "land mine" are used interchangeably in local media reports. My understanding is that the device was of the type commonly used by the communist NPA, detonated by a direct observer.

The "Bangsamoro National Liberation Army" is a new arrival, possibly yet another MNLF splinter faction, possibly a rather grandiose name for the followers of a single autonomous leader or group of such leaders. There's no shortage of armed groups in the area and affiliation with any one umbrella group is often nominal and transient. We'll see.

Given the recent threat by the CPP/NPA to target US personnel and given the close similarity to devices and tactics the NPA has been using for years, I have to wonder if there could be some collaboration involved. By no means certain, but a possibility.

There has been a good deal of talk in Manila lately about US forces engaging in combat, which would violate the existing Visiting Forces Agreement. It's driven largely by the left, which has limited influence but is capable of making a good deal of noise, but a number of mainstream politicians have picked up on it, largely to be seen wielding the nationalist card in the upcoming elections, and simply because the issue draws media coverage. The GMA administration is talking about renegotiating the agreement, which would probably result in few if any changes, but there will be pressure to terminate it.

This incident is being used to support claims that US forces are operating in combat zones. It wouldn't be such a big deal, but very recently a female Philippine Navy officer, who had previously (and I suspect accurately) accused senior officers of appropriating funds for joint exercises, came out with a whole barrage of charges against US forces in the area. Among others, she claimed that US forces were participating in combat operations, were having prostitutes shipped into camps to service them, were engaging in racist behaviour toward Filipino officers, etc etc. Before that we had the infuriatingly avoidable circus of the Daniel Smith rape case. Of course all the allegations have two (or more) sides, but the media and politicians eat it up and the politicians and a segment of the populace does take note. The government of course denies all but at this point the government has so little trust that their denial is reflexively taken as confirmation.

There is of course a great deal of talk about ulterior or self-serving motives on the part of the US. In some ways I think the best US policy would be to announce that unless the post-election government clearly indicates a desire to continue the current operation, the US will unilaterally terminate it. That would effectively cancel out the allegations that the US is angling for a permanent presence and toss the ball back to the GRP, and when push came to shove I think most officials - even many of those who like to make an issue of the deployment - would prefer to see the US presence continue.

10-05-2009, 05:25 AM
I am surprised that there have not been more incidents involving US Soldiers considering we have had a permanent presence in the Philippines since 2002.

It's best to never use the term "permanent presence". Sounds crazy, I know, but stuff gets picked up. Not long ago someone dug out an old interview with a US officer who proposed that foreign support for the ASG and MILF would justify a US combat role under the mutual defense treaty. That made it into a lot of newspapers here, wildly distorted.

A permanent presence is what a lot of critics in Manila are accusing the US of trying to build.

I am also concerned that the Lawless Elements and ASG are now using RPGs alongside the improvised RPGs they have always made.

Are RPGs appearing regularly? They've always been quite unusual in Mindanao and surrounding islands, mainly because the Philippine military and police don't use them and illicit sales from the AFP and police are the main source of the black market small arms that end up with the various armed factions. If a substantial quantity of RPGs have been brought in it would indicate a relatively new external source of weaponry.

Quiet Pro
10-08-2009, 01:29 AM

I'll agree... I shouldn't have used "permanent." I know how sensitive people can be about that word. But, I don't think I was wrong. I haven't taken the time to research this, but from 2002 until 2009 I believe that there has always been a US personnel in the RP that I can think of.

RPGs. I can't confirm or deny this. I saw it mentioned in a couple of news articles... and I cannot find them now. I guess I should have done more research on this before I began to let my fingers hit the keyboard. Lesson learned on this also. Although, if the RP was seeing an increase of weapons from external sources it would create another big problem. Not to mention what inferences you could gather from that.

10-16-2009, 11:34 AM
I usually say the US presence has been continuous from 2002-present... whether or not it becomes permanent is something the Filipinos need to decide. I'm personally not convinced that an indefinite presence in the southern Philippines is in the US interest, and I suspect that we may have achieved as much as we're likely to achieve there. The conflict can be (and has been) supressed to a certain extent, but it cannot be resolved without major reforms on the part of the Philippine government, which I don't expect to be forthcoming. I'm not sure we want to stick around indefinitely.

On RPGs, local news is notoriously unreliable on these details. I'd think it unlikely, though not impossible, that they are being widely used. There is some foreign support for the ASG, MILF, and MNLF, though far less than is often claimed. It normally comes as money, though: moving money is a lot easier than moving shipments of weapons, and there's plenty of hardware available here to anyone with the means to pay.

10-23-2009, 08:13 AM
Philippine media are reporting that a meeting was recently held between a US Embassy official and the head of the MILF, and that the meeting was held without the consent or knowledge of the Philippine Government or military. Other reports suggest that the MILF is openly requesting a US role in peace talks, a few (though I can't find any online) have claimed, possibly incorrectly, that the US is seeking such a role.

A typical example of the reporting on the meeting:


Some editorial reactions, from sources that might generally be described as moderate, even conservative



The reactions highlight some of the problems inherent in trying to balance the perceived need to resolve issues motivation the MILF with Philippine public opinion overall, which regards the MILF as an entity dedicated to trying to divide the Republic and suspects the US of conspiring to aid and abet the process.