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    Default The US role in the Philippines (catch all)

    5 December Reuters (SWC member COL Dave Maxwell quoted) - U.S., Philippines Apply 'Soft Power' Against Militants 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...

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    Thumbs up Where U.S. is Helping to Make Gains Against Terrorism

    Where U.S. is Helping to Make Gains Against Terrorism - 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....

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    Default Thanks

    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.

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    Default In Philippines, U.S. Making Progress in War on Terror

    A USA Today article I almost missed (thanks Max!) - In Philippines, U.S. Making Progress in War on Terror 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...

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    Default Not so Fast?

    I found this ICG report "The Philippines: Counter-insurgency vs. Counter-Terrorism in Mindinao" to be very good (http://www.crisisgroup.org/library/d...n_mindanao.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.

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    Military Review, May-Jun 08: From Enduring Strife to Enduring Peace in the Philippines
    ....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.....

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    Default The less you hear

    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    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.
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

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    Default U.S. Troops in Philippines Defy Old Stereotype

    1 March Christian Science Monitor - U.S. Troops in Philippines Defy Old Stereotype 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...

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    Hi:

    Yup.

    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.:=)

    Cheers.

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    Default Stars and Stripes Series on Philippines COIN Operations

    H/t to max161.

    Officials Say Philippine Fight Much Different Than Iraq, Afghanistan - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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...

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    Default

    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.

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    Default SWJ blog Entry

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    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.

    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...

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    Default Ahhhh...

    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.

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    Default In Perspective

    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.

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    Default Unconventional Warfare Focus on the Philippines Special Report

    Are US Special Forces engaged in an ‘offensive war’ in the Philippines?


    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.
    Last edited by sgmgrumpy; 09-13-2007 at 05:13 PM.

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    Default Unconventional Warfare Focus on the Philippines Special Report

    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).

    V/R

    Dave
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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    Default It is that. Sophisiticated, I mean. Transparent to

    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...

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    Quote Originally Posted by max161 View Post
    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).

    V/R

    Dave

    Sir,

    Have either one of them every tried to talk to you personally?
    Example is better than precept.

  19. #19
    Council Member max161's Avatar
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    Default Global South and UW

    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Sir,

    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.

    V/R

    Dave
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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    Hi:

    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.


    Cheers.

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