Small Wars Journal

American Forces in the Philippines

American Forces in the Philippines: Drawing Lessons From a Rare Success - The Economist (H/T Max).

... This is part of an American mission that started in 2002, not long after the Taliban fell in Kabul. A force of up to 600 American soldiers, many of them counter-insurgency specialists, has been training elite Filipino troops to fight militant groups ever since. American gadgets, tactics and intelligence seem to be helping. Fifteen of the 24 names on a Philippine most-wanted poster have been crossed out, either captured or killed. Foreign troops are forbidden to fight, so combat duties fall to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The Americans keep busy with aid projects designed to woo locals in areas thick with militants. These days, there are fewer of them. The AFP estimates that Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for bombings and beheadings, has fewer than 400 fighters on Jolo and Basilan islands. General Benjamin Dolorfino of the AFP boasts the group can no longer stage attacks on Mindanao itself.

American military thinkers wonder if there are lessons for other parts of the world where al-Qaeda lurks. With a modest outlay here, the Pentagon has dealt a blow to Islamist radicals and sharpened the skills of an ally. American troops are overstretched, expensive and make attractive targets for jihadists, so it makes sense to train other forces to fight where they can.

America, however, is unlikely to find other partners as perfect as the AFP, which is modelled on America's armed forces. Filipino officers speak English, know and admire America, once the colonial power, and can bond with their comrades over beer and karaoke. Try that in Yemen...

More at The Economist.


Anonymous (not verified)

Wed, 02/03/2010 - 3:52am

ASG is not restricted to Jolo and their back on Basilan, but give a TF its due, they're operating space has been restricted.

As for glaring examples of Philippine Gov corruption one need look no further than the recent murder of over a 100 Filippinos to include reporters tied to election violence. Numerous other allegations exist that are available open source, the darn politicians are using kidnap for ransom to raise money for their elections (pretty glaring in my book).

The JSOTF methodology is outstanding, but it also illustrates the limits of working through the host nation if the host nation is not willing to step up and do the right thing.

Any idea of how much money the Philippine gov invests in their defense spending? Any idea of how much local cops make? If you did you would understand one of the reasons their corrupt. Any idea of who gets most of the money for the natural resources being exploited in the S. Philippines? Think it is the Muslims?

Jamie Hayes (not verified)

Wed, 02/03/2010 - 12:09am

Anonymous---As for measures of effectiveness, I ask you to consider that prior to U.S. military's deployment in 2002, the Abu Sayaaf Group had been operating throughout the Sulu Archipelago with near impunity. The ASG's kidnapping of the Burnhams from Palawan clearly demonstrated the effectiveness and operational reach of their organization at that time. Today, the ASG is virtually defunct with its remnants confined primarily to the tiny island of Jolo.

Can you provide some recent glaring examples of Philippine government corruption? Or which specific needs of the Muslim population are not being addressed?

The current situation in the southern Philippines aside, one cannot argue that JSOTF-P's campaign plan and methodology---based on an unobtrusive US presence providing training, ops/intel fusion, and civil affairs projects---presented a novel approach to countering Islamic extremism in the early years after 9/11.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 01/31/2010 - 1:53pm

Highly effective by what measure? Is the insurgency defeated? Is the level of violence really reduced that much? Basilan still provides a safehaven for terrorists. On the other hand, terrorists in some locations have had their freedom of movement reduced. The level of violence still ebbs and flows over the months, much as it as always done. The Philippine government is still corrupt and is not adequately addressing the real needs of the Muslim populace. Things may be better, but it is premature to call it a highly successful COIN campaign. To define the mission correctly it is a FID mission focused on CT, it is not focused on the larger insurgency issue.

Jamie Hayes (not verified)

Fri, 01/29/2010 - 10:16am

It is gratifying to finally see the efforts of JSOTF-P recognized in such a forum. The 'Basilan model' may not be the panacea for Yemen and Afghanistan, but it certainly provides some lights to steer by. Regardless, it is truly remarkable that a small group of quiet professionals have executed a highly effective counterinsurgency campaign with no fanfare since 2002-----long before COIN became fashionable.

First in Asia,

De Oppresso Liber,

Jamie Hayes