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Old 08-14-2009   #1
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Default Postscript to "The Basilan Model"

Recent events on Basilan, reported by the Christian Science Monitor...

Quote:
Wednesday's firefight was the bloodiest battle involving the Abu Sayyaf in at least two years. It also raises questions about the effectiveness of US support to Filipino troops.
http://features.csmonitor.com/global...and-islamists/

Quote:
In Basilan, Philippines, a US counterterrorism model frays

Renewed violence on the island shows the challenge of wiping out militant groups for good.
http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1211/p04s04-wosc.html

Local reporting suggests that, as has happened frequently in the past, ASG units had advance knowledge of troop movements and were able to move reinforcements into the fight faster than the Philippine military:

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakin...-comingsoldier

There are also reports that MILF forces were involved, though probably not with the approval of the MILF Central Command.
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Old 08-14-2009   #2
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The key to victory (i.e., some enduring state of peaceful good governance in the Southern Philippines), has always been in Manila. The military effort helps create conditions for success, but until the government in Manila seriously addresses the legitimate concerns and perceptions of the entire populace it is only a finger in the dike.

The Supreme Court's decision to stymie the peace process was devastating to good results coming from the Basilan Model. This in no way invalidates the model, it actually proves the model. What it invalidates is the positions of those who think these things can be wholly addressed through military means; or engagement by US military.
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Old 08-16-2009   #3
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
The key to victory (i.e., some enduring state of peaceful good governance in the Southern Philippines), has always been in Manila. The military effort helps create conditions for success, but until the government in Manila seriously addresses the legitimate concerns and perceptions of the entire populace it is only a finger in the dike.
I agree. The defect in the model, from the start, was that it relied on the Philippine Government doing what it has neither the will nor the capacity to do.

I should note that I think the model has virtues and is by no means a bad thing: my criticism is of the wave of simplistic and naive pronouncements of success that emerged from it, which seemed to me to be both deceptive and self-defeating. Announcing "success" prematurely reduces the will to carry on and complete what has been begun, and generates disillusionment when the inevitable complications arise.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
The Supreme Court's decision to stymie the peace process was devastating to good results coming from the Basilan Model. This in no way invalidates the model, it actually proves the model. What it invalidates is the positions of those who think these things can be wholly addressed through military means; or engagement by US military.
I'm not really sure how much impact the court decision would have had in Basilan. The MOA/AD was a primarily Maguindanao initiative that was viewed in the Tausug/Sama/Yakan regions with a fair amount of suspicion and cynicism from the start. The negotiations took place almost entirely between the GRP and the MILF, with little effort made to include the numerous other stakeholders among both indigenous and immigrant populations. I personally think the agreement ws doomed from the start; even before the Supreme Court decision I thought it a likely candidate for a "peace agreement least likely to produce peace" award. In some ways it's a positive thing that it never came around to implementation, which would have been a major mess. Given the degree to which immigrant and indigenous settlements are mixed, an ancestral domain/territorial autonomy "solution" is going to raise massive problems: either you will have an autonomous region that is not even close to geographically contiguous, or you will include numerous people in regions where they will violently resist integration, or you will have to move large numbers of people: not an attractive set of alternatives.

A far better approach, IMO, would be for the Manila government to try to reverse the tragic and stupid mistakes of the 1970s by positioning itself as a neutral arbiter between the immigrant and indigenous populations, targeting equitable justice and fair resolution of disputes instead of taking sides... but unfortunately, that won't happen either.

At this stage very little is going to happen, and all I could suggest would be for the GRP and MILF to agree to cease hostilities until after the 2010 elections and pick up negotiations from there. The current administration is so controversial and so unpopular that anything it initiates is going to be rejected out of hand by both the legislature and the majority of the populace.

It will be difficult and probably not advisable for the US to take a direct or even an open role in negotiations. The (generally exaggerated) involvement of USIP in the MOA/AD negotiations was widely perceived as a US attempt to promote a breakaway entity for some self-interested purpose (resource extraction privileges, a military base, whatever), just as the Arroyo administration's promotion of an agreement that would have required constitutional revisions was perceived as a backdoor attempt to open an amendment process that could be used to remove term limits and keep her in power. Whether or not these ulterior motives actually existed (in the first case probably not, in the second not at all unlikely) is less important than the impact of their perceived existence on public opinion.
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Old 01-25-2011   #4
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Default New COIN strategy fails to address the causes of conflict

I think this article fits here and yes, I know very little about this area. In the UK we rarely see anything on the Phillipines, whether it is more than advocacy you can decide:
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A new, purportedly human rights-orientated counter-insurgency strategy has little chance of success in the Philippines if the clientelism of a flawed political and economic system is not simultaneously addressed.
Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensec...uses-of-confli
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Old 01-26-2011   #5
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I suspect there is a little bias and a couple of inaccuracies in that piece, but if one can look past that to the essence, the tone, to the populace's perception, one gets an idea of why this nation has never been able to resolve the conditions that give rise to such persistance of insurgent challenge.

Many want to argue "facts" but facts mean little in insurgnecy, what matters is perception. The final sentence is telling:

"As insurgency expert Robert Kilcullen notes, the aim of counter-insurgency is to “return the insurgency’s parent society to its normal mode of interaction.” In the Philippines it is the normal mode of interaction itself which promotes insurgency, with the veneer of Philippine ‘democracy’ and economic growth sating only the relatively few who benefit from it."
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Old 01-26-2011   #6
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David, I actually think the article would fit better in a thread discussing the NPA insurgency, since it relates more directly to that... but of course that's not even directly related to OEF/P, so I'm not sure where such a thread would belong!

Yes, some bias, some inaccuracy, and a great deal of superficiality... essentially a transcription of what might be called the moderate left position, with little evident effort to challenge or refine that position. The conclusions are of course true enough, but don't reveal anything that isn't already known to anyone half looking, and don't offer much of a solution. That's not unusual: the Philippine left invariably has all the right questions and all the wrong answers.

Probably the most glaring misperception, a very common one in observations of the Philippines, is the Manila-centric perspective the article takes, notably toward extrajudicial killings. The left has consistently tried to portray these as a policy of the Manila government, but that's generally inaccurate. Virtually all political violence in the Philippines revolves around local issues and local rivalries. We always hear about election-related violence, but this rarely if ever stems from Presidential or other national elections. Village, municipal, and provincial elections are where the killing happens: this is where the clan rivalries and family feuds kick in, and where the results actually mean something. Manila politics to most Filipinos is analogous to the Tagalog-dubbed Mexican soap operas that proliferate on daytime TV: entertaining, but distant and with little or no impact on day to day life.

Most of the people being killed on the left (the left does its own share of killing, which of course they don't talk about) are no threat at all to the central government, and the killings actually cause the central government more harm than benefit. The equation is reversed at the local level, where feudal bosses routinely connive with local military and police (or simply use their own assets) to remove people they find inconvenient, embarrassing, or simply offensive. The central government lacks the power to crack the whip over its own people, so they do whatever they want, even when that involves killing people they don't like. The areas in which the NPA is strongest are generally those dominated by self-serving political dynasties that are effectively immune to interference from Manila, and the hostility of the populace is generally directed at the local authority. Manila can certainly be faulted for lacking the will (and often the capacity) to rein in its people, but talk of reform needs to be built around the realization that Manila is less abusive than ineffectual, and what needs to be reformed are the local governments.

Looking specifically at the ethnic/sectarian/separatist insurgency in the south, it's important to avoid the trap of seeing the fight as between "the government" and "the populace". It's actually a fight between two populaces (even that is a simplification, but I'm not writing a book here), with the government vacillating between supporting one side and ineffective attempts at mediation. Neither of the populaces involved trusts the government or has much respect for it. The populaces involved have incompatible demands, and efforts to placate one generally enrage the other. This plays into the hands of local warlords, who control their own people with the old "I may be a bastard, but you need me to protect you from the other" routine, and manipulate the central government with their ability to keep a provisional lid on their area and and to deliver the votes - often over 100% of the votes - to their patrons.

What can be done about this? I wrote about that at some length (dated, but main points remain) here:

http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journ...5.4rogers.html

and can provide a .pdf with anyone who has the interest or needs a substitute for valium.

If anyone wonders what the US, or any other outside party, can do about this, I'd say very close to nothing. On the historical side we had some role in the way the problems developed (not the cause, but one among many), but I don't see us having much place in the search for a solution. Like everybody else, the Filipinos are carrying some historical baggage. Like everyone else, the job of setting that baggage aside, deciding where they want to be, and going there is ultimately theirs.

Last edited by Dayuhan; 01-26-2011 at 08:15 AM.
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Old 10-21-2011   #7
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Default Small War on Basilan (catch all)

Reports are not entirely consistent. but it seems that a group of 41 Philippine Army soldiers, identified in most reports as special forces, ran into trouble in southern Basilan and took 19 dead and 12 wounded in a 6 hour fight. Apparently 6 were killed after being captured. The incident occurred not far from the site of a 2007 battle in which 23 Philippine Marines were killed, 14 of whom were beheaded. Reports say the army group was responding to the reported presence of an armed group including one of those responsible for the 2007 incident.

The opposing force was reportedly largely MILF, despite an ongoing cease fire and peace talks. The MILF central committee, which is far from Basilan and has limited control over its forces there, claims that their camp was attacked and they responded. The Army says their force was ambushed.

Reports from the field suggest that the Army group encountered a small armed group near an MILF camp, shooting started, and the MILF force and armed locals piled on. That's not at all unlikely. Several armed groups operate there, memberships overlap and blood ties abound, villagers are armed, and the Army is not popular. If something starts and there's a point of advantage (and an opportunity to possibly recover weapons) it's very likely that all kinds would respond.

Manila politicians are already claiming that the MILF leaders ordered the attack (unlikely) and demanding an end to the cease-fire and an aggressive military response. That plays well to the populace: the Christian majority largely sees Muslims as inherently treacherous and violent, and it's widely believed that they can only be controlled by stomping them into submission. The government says the peace process will continue.

I'm no expert on the military side, but there seems to be a repeating pattern of Philippine forces walking into these situations and taking heavy casualties, and a continuing inability to rapidly reinforce or support forces that run into trouble in the field. I have to wonder if US training and material support, which has been in place for quite a while now, is doing anything to address that.

Some links:

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx...bCategoryId=63

http://www.malaya.com.ph/oct20/news1.html

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/10...-forces-troops

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/79953/a...fire-with-milf

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/79823/a...-basilan-clash
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Old 10-21-2011   #8
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Default Philippine Rangers

I just have this feeling that having seen the Philippine Rangers gearing up to deploy in 1999, that this all too common. Macho bravado is no substitute for good tactics and civil affairs. A sorrier bunch had not seen for a long time.
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Old 10-21-2011   #9
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I'm no expert on the military side, but there seems to be a repeating pattern of Philippine forces walking into these situations and taking heavy casualties, and a continuing inability to rapidly reinforce or support forces that run into trouble in the field. I have to wonder if US training and material support, which has been in place for quite a while now, is doing anything to address that.
Dayuhan, I think you know the JSOTF mission is an advise and assist mission, not a train and equip mission, so the short answer to your wondering is no.

http://jsotf-p.blogspot.com/

The fact of the matter is the Gov of the Philippines has for years under invested in its military and its law enforcement, which I suspect is one reason corruption is rampant and obviously a key reason they're combat ineffective outside of a few narrow parameters.

U.S. laws and policy prohibit us from training and equipping them, unless it is under title 22 authorities (there are some exceptions, but the exceptions are not the norm). We are stuck with a Cold War Security Cooperation/Security Assistance process that undermines our efforts at every turn.

It is tragic so many young men are dying in a conflict that could should have been settled by now; however, there is little incentive to negotiate seriously when the State doesn't have the means to secure the area.
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Old 10-21-2011   #10
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Like most insurgencies, the conflict is waged in some remote corner among the disaffected segment of the populace; too often with the military as the agent of the government; but can only be resolved ("won" or "lost" for those who insist on applying the language of war and warfare to what is a political dynamic) in the capital

It will be decisions and paradigm shifts made, adopted and operationalized in Manila that will ultimately bring stability to places like Basilan. OEF-P is a good US operation, but it will never achieve that effect as it is designed to bring some small degree of goodness to that small (ok, not so small) corner of the Philippines where the various manifestations of Philippine insurgency among the Muslim segment of the populace manifest. As we all know, this same insurgency manifests differently in other regions of the country among other segments of the populace, and has been porpoising up and down with varying degrees of activity and violence for hundreds of years.

The root causes of how the central government governs, how the cultural system of elites vs peasants; Catholic vs. Muslim; etc, etc (so many long established roles and perceptions that serve to always allow one small segment of the populace to achieve success while the majority feel trapped or disrespected) go unaddressed.


This is largely true in Afghanistan as well. Village Stability Operations and Afghan Local Police are also great SOF programs among the people in the regions where disaffection with the government is high; yet the true root issues in Kabul and the historic inertia of that culture also prevent any true addressing of the issues that could actually resolve that conflict.

We can mitigate symptoms of such conflicts, or we can exacerbate symptoms of such conflicts, but we cannot truly resolve the actual roots of such conflicts with such engagement. US foreign and US military policies and doctrines need to evolve to grasp this reality. Our history and doctrine on COIN tout temporary suppressions as "wins," or overly focus on military actions that occurred over major political changes that were implemented where more enduring effects were achieved (most famously in Malaya, or perhaps the American Colonies), so we miss the most important lessons to be learned from such operations.

In the Philippines we primarily conduct mitigation operations. In Afghanistan we conduct a mix of mitigation and exacerbation operations (but see that latter group as also contributing to success,( i.e., Ranger raids on Afghan homes to take out low-level Taliban leaders of the resistance movement in Afghanistan proper, or haul off their friends and family to gain more info to capture or kill such leaders; or drone strikes into Pashtun homes in the FATA in efforts to kill senior leaders of the revolutionary core of the insurgency).

We must change how we think about these types of conflicts, and how we think about what our proper role (if in deed, any role is proper in most cases) to best help bring stability and enduring peace to such people should be as well.

Until then Manila will keep sending good young citizens out to do battle with other good young citizens in an effort to not have to take on the hard decisions about who they are and how they govern. Same same in Kabul. And the US will keep sending good young men out help those governments in those Sisyphian-like efforts.

We can do better, but first we must think differently. Until then, there will continue to be avoidable "bad days" like this.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

Last edited by Bob's World; 10-21-2011 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 10-21-2011   #11
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Beating the drum about good governance isn't irrelevant, but this discussion is focused on the AFP's tactical capability period. Yes, good governance could probably rapid resolve the major security challenges in the S. Philippines, but the fact of the matter is there won't be anything resembling good governance in the near term if ever for a lot of reasons.

In the meantime, Dayuhan asked if JSOTF-P's train and equip effort was addressing black and white logistical shortfalls that would enable the AFP to fight more effectively and the answer is no.

Good governance also concerns the government taking care of their security forces.
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Old 10-21-2011   #12
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Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Dayuhan, I think you know the JSOTF mission is an advise and assist mission, not a train and equip mission, so the short answer to your wondering is no.
Yes, I was imprecise with the words... I should have wondered whether US advice and assistance had done anything to address these issues. Of course I already knew the answer was no, which raises the next question: what exactly has all the advice and assistance done?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
The fact of the matter is the Gov of the Philippines has for years under invested in its military and its law enforcement, which I suspect is one reason corruption is rampant and obviously a key reason they're combat ineffective outside of a few narrow parameters.
Corruption is rampant because the people involved are corrupt, and because the organizational culture stresses loyalty to other members of the force over effectiveness of the force. Everybody in the ranks knows who's corrupt, who's selling weapons, who has what rackets. They don't tell, because that would be ratting, and not ratting is more important than winning fights. You have to wonder how the guys doing the fighting feel about that, especially knowing that most of the guns and ammunition used against them came from government stock, but that's the way it is and has been for a long time.

If you tripled the budget tomorrow, corruption would just get worse. There'd be more to steal.

It's true that the Philippine military is woefully underresourced, but in incidents like this you have to wonder if what they have is being used effectively. They have aircraft... nothing terribly modern, but an OV-10 or an MG520 can be a useful thing if it shows up. Even if the actual fighting is in dense brush and too close for effective air support, aircraft can be both a physical and psychological deterrent to other forces looking to move in and join the fight, no? The UH-1 is hardly cutting edge but they've delivered reinforcements to many battlefields in many places and I'd think they could do so again (unless generals are using them as taxis at the time). They have artillery... obsolete by modern standards but with effective communication and training I imagine it could be used to provide some support to a unit under attack in the field. If nothing else, you'd think they could have had other units ready to relieve a group that's going into an area with a long-standing reputation for resistance.

Again, I'm no expert on the military side, but over and over again they seem to be sending guys out into the hornet's nest without the capacity to back them up if the hornets get stirred up. That just seems wrong on any number of levels.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
It will be decisions and paradigm shifts made, adopted and operationalized in Manila that will ultimately bring stability to places like Basilan. OEF-P is a good US operation, but it will never achieve that effect as it is designed to bring some small degree of goodness to that small (ok, not so small) corner of the Philippines where the various manifestations of Philippine insurgency among the Muslim segment of the populace manifest. As we all know, this same insurgency manifests differently in other regions of the country among other segments of the populace, and has been porpoising up and down with varying degrees of activity and violence for hundreds of years.
It's fair to say that OEF-P covers only a small corner even of the Muslim insurgency.

To some extent yes, but it's also a bit more complicated than that. You can blame Manila for its inability to control the local elites that gain from keeping the conflict going, but you can't overlook the role that the local elites play, or the structure that makes it difficult for central government to overcome or work against local elite interests.

I wouldn't refer to the NPA and the various Muslim groups as manifestations of "this same insurgency". Different things in most ways.

One of the difficult aspects of the Muslim insurgency is that the majority populace is actually much less inclined to accommodation than the government. The government simply reflects the existing cultural bias... they try to compensate to some extent, but generally with little effect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
We can mitigate symptoms of such conflicts, or we can exacerbate symptoms of such conflicts, but we cannot truly resolve the actual roots of such conflicts with such engagement. US foreign and US military policies and doctrines need to evolve to grasp this reality. Our history and doctrine on COIN tout temporary suppressions as "wins," or overly focus on military actions that occurred over major political changes that were implemented where more enduring effects were achieved (most famously in Malaya, or perhaps the American Colonies), so we miss the most important lessons to be learned from such operations.

In the Philippines we primarily conduct mitigation operations. In Afghanistan we conduct a mix of mitigation and exacerbation operations (but see that latter group as also contributing to success,( i.e., Ranger raids on Afghan homes to take out low-level Taliban leaders of the resistance movement in Afghanistan proper, or haul off their friends and family to gain more info to capture or kill such leaders; or drone strikes into Pashtun homes in the FATA in efforts to kill senior leaders of the revolutionary core of the insurgency).

We must change how we think about these types of conflicts, and how we think about what our proper role (if in deed, any role is proper in most cases) to best help bring stability and enduring peace to such people should be as well.

Until then Manila will keep sending good young citizens out to do battle with other good young citizens in an effort to not have to take on the hard decisions about who they are and how they govern. Same same in Kabul. And the US will keep sending good young men out help those governments in those Sisyphian-like efforts.

We can do better, but first we must think differently. Until then, there will continue to be avoidable "bad days" like this.
If "we" means the US, I don't think anything "we" do is going to make any difference at all in the Philippines.
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Old 10-21-2011   #13
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Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
.I'm no expert on the military side, but there seems to be a repeating pattern of Philippine forces walking into these situations and taking heavy casualties, and a continuing inability to rapidly reinforce or support forces that run into trouble in the field. I have to wonder if US training and material support, which has been in place for quite a while now, is doing anything to address that.
I know nothing about the Philippine Army and Marines so I have some questions. Do they have a well developed NCO corps? Are the junior officers, a junior officer would I assume be leading a 41 man unit, selected for merit or something else? How experienced would he have been? Would the Marine guys who were around in 2007, not just the ones in the fight, still be around the area and if they were would they and the Army talk to each other?

These questions are prompted by Dayuhan's observation that the same thing happened in the almost the same place before.
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Last edited by carl; 10-21-2011 at 11:38 PM.
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