Friday, August 17, 2007

Pinoys For Super Champ and Total War

I don't mean to make light of what may result if the gloves finally come off between the Philippines and the troublesome Restive types in their south but... Giving peace a chance hasn't exactly worked out so well. Perhaps another strategy should be employed. Like winning.

Philippines teeters on brink of total war

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have launched a new military campaign against radical Muslim insurgents in its southern regions, an offensive nominally aimed at finishing off the hobbled 300-member Abu Sayyaf terror group, but one that also threatens to widen the conflict with two ceasefire groups, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Manila recently ramped up its military deployment to the restive region, where estimates of soldiers on the ground ranging widely

from 5,000-12,000. Army chief General Romeo Tolentino recently announced that he had temporary moved army headquarters from Manila to Zamboanga City on the southern island of Mindanao while the campaign is conducted. Fighting on the southern island of Jolo this month saw 50 people - including 25 army soldiers - killed in armed exchanges, and thousands of civilians have since evacuated the area.

Significantly, the MNLF has claimed responsibility for certain recent attacks. The Philippine military first launched Operation Endgame against the radical group back in 2002, but failed to live up to its billing without foreign assistance. Since the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Washington has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of military assistance to the Philippine Army specifically to combat the Abu Sayyaf, which Manila claims is responsible for more than 400 civilian deaths since 2000, including the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that killed 116 people. The US has accused Abu Sayyaf of having links to global terror group al-Qaeda and Indonesia-based radical group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) - but until now has remained mum on the MNLF while negotiations with Manila were ongoing.

Nonetheless, the new assault on the MNLF, which stands accused of harboring Abu Sayyaf and JI operatives, would appear to jibe with broad US counter-terrorism objectives in the region. In an effort to win Filipino hearts and minds, the US Agency for International Development has pumped more than US$230 million in development and humanitarian assistance into Mindanao since 2002.

While American soldiers are prohibited from engaging in military operations, an unknown number of American military advisers provide tactical and operational advice. With that support, the Philippine Army has scored some important military successes against the rebel group over the past 18 months, including the apparent killing last September of the group's leader Khadafy Janjalani and, in January, of his apparent successor Abu Sulaiman (Jainal Antel Sali Jr).

I hate this sort of "reporting". Clearly who ever wrote this has never had to listen to a shoot out between the Abu Sayyaf and the Army down the street from his apartment.

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