Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in August, 2009.
Monday, 31
Good Guys Winning the Philippine War on Terror
An old and very close Marine Corps buddy of mine writes from the Philippines that we're winning the war over there. Naturally, given the shaky situation in Iraq and the increasing tempo of combat engagements with the Taliban in Afghanistan, I considered retired Gunnery Sergeant Rich Groscost's missive from the PI good news. In fact, I considered his sitrep so encouraging that I sent it along to a bunch of people bitching lately about no visible light at the end of the tunnel we're traversing in the fight to eliminate militant radicals around the world. You know the ones I mean. Those zealots who believe there's never been an infidel who can't be converted by the appropriate application of high explosives?
Responses - particularly from folks who purport to be tracking the conflict with the scuzzbags who want us all living in the shadow of one huge mosque under sharia law - were disheartening. Most ran curiously to type: We've got people in the Philippines? What's all that about? For those who think our military involvement in the PI ended when we mustered the moving vans back in 1991 and hauled ass out of Subic Bay, Clark Air Force Base and a host of other strategic spots in the Philippine archipelago, here's news from the western Pacific that might make you feel a little better about whatever the new administration decides to call our global war on terrorism. And there should be no doubt that's what we're fighting no matter how much they obfuscate, weasel-word, spin and dodge in efforts to convince you otherwise.
Here's the headline: Good Guys Winning in PI War on Terror. And the sub-head: You can do more with less. Now, the rest of the story...
When we finally got our intelligence poop in a group after 9-11 and realized that the threat was a whole hell of a lot more than one whacked-out Saudi and a gaggle of his suicidal minions somewhere in Afghanistan, analysts began picking up their crayons and drawing big red circles around other places such as Iraq, Pakistan, India, The Stans in Central Asia, Somalia, Yemen and a bunch of western European countries with large and devout Moslem populations. Then one particularly perceptive wonk - I like to believe he was a former military guy who had pitched a king-hell liberty or two in Olongapo - remembered the Philippines. Wasn't there some sort of ongoing struggle with radical Moslem separatists down that way? Oh, yeah, those nasty little guys down around Mindinao, Sulu and Samar who like to lop off heads with razor-sharp machetes as evidence of their dedication to Allah and their disdain for infidels of any stripe. What did we call those guys? That's right, Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.
Out came the crayons and a big red circle appeared around the Philippines from Luzon in the north to Mindinao in the south. And shortly thereafter in early 2002, the first U.S. special operations forces arrived in the area. The military footprint in the Philippines has remained so small relative to efforts in the Middle East that it's nearly disappeared from the major media radar sweep. Various Filipino nationalists, liberals and anti-western elements whine about U.S. imperialism and demonstrate regularly but not much of that turmoil ever makes it over the South China Sea horizon. Having been to the Philippines fairly recently and observed the vast and pitiful wasteland that's encroached on what used to be one of the Pacific's most vibrant economies - especially on Luzon - I'm prone to believe much of the Filipino bitterness comes from sour grapes. They wanted us out of there back in 1991 until they got a taste of what things were like without the major military bucks that put a chicken in every pot, kept the jeepneys rolling and the souvenir shops solvent.
But I digress - as I'm wont to do when I reflect on those great liberty runs I had while stationed in the Philippines. The real news is that the Philippines may well have become a model of how to fight modern terrorism for anyone with enough perception to look at what's going on in that country. Ever since some unconventional military thinker - probably wearing a green beret or a SEAL trident - decided to form a U.S. joint special operations task force and partner up with the Philippine forces, we've had the bad guys in that area doing the rope-a-dope and bleeding from some serious body blows. In fact, if you're desperate to find a clearly successful battle in the war on terror, just look to the Philippines.
More than one hundred Abu Sayyaf terrorists were killed in 2007, including the group's leader. Dozens more have been captured. Their operation is rapidly being shattered into cells so small as to be insignificant or just locally bothersome at best. And it's not just a matter of playing whack-a-mole with operational fighters. In the Philippines we're finding ways to strengthen that weakest link in the counter-insurgency fight, that old purported oxymoron - military intelligence. We've teamed up with Filipinos who best know the area and the people to create "joint intelligence fusion centers" that keep the good guys on the offensive and the bad guys on the run. We've also established a coast watch program to monitor and disrupt terrorists in the area who reinforce and re-supply all along the archipelago's vast sea coasts. And we've done all that with a relatively tiny force of special operators advising, guiding and training local military and police forces.
This whole success thing in the Philippines might be esoteric and small potatoes to people focused on the larger fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it has not escaped the attention of observers in the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. As soon as it became abundantly clear that we could do more with less people doing the right things at the right times, DOJ and DHS piled on in a hurry. Justice sent advisors who have trained 5,000 Philippine police to deal with the law enforcement aspects of domestic terrorism. Those local officers are a very effective amalgam of beat cop with SWAT capabilities who are taking the streets and the villages of the southern Philippines back from the terrorists. And while most of us think of Homeland Security as those brain-dead druids who piss us off at airports, in the Philippines DHS experts have created a "biometric initiative" - things like retina scans, rapid fingerprint verification and computer facial modeling - to defeat disguises and give Philippine National Police a big leg up in hunting down suspected terrorists.
My buddy Rich who married and settled in the Philippines when he retired from the Marine Corps says it's all working like a charm relative to the problems we had in Iraq and are facing in Afghanistan. Having served in both the western Pacific and the Middle East, I tend to agree with him. And I don't believe we're comparing apples and oranges by speculating that a lot of what's worked in the Philippines would work in an expanded or modified form in Afghanistan. If it were up to me - and thank God it's not - I just might modify the travel itinerary for special operators heading for The Sandbox; routing them into Kabul or Baghdad via Mindinao. It couldn't hurt.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 6:34 PM / Category:General News
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