Note: The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent the views of INS News
The next stage of the war on terrorism is in the Southern Philippines could cause more United States casualties than the intensive bombing of the Taliban regime which lacked air defence. Fighting the Muslims and Communist rebels who have been harassing government troops for years promises to be a long drenched out war for American troops much like it was a hundred years ago. The fighting this time will be more intense and similar to the Vietnam War era. The United States doesn’t have the luxury of calling in the daisy duke bombs like our air force tactically dropped in Afghanistan.
Philippine president Gloria Arroyo has hitched her administration’s standing and the Philippines’ economic prospects to the success of United States – Philippines military operations against a Muslim gang linked to the al-Qa’ida terror network. While this gang claims to be freedom fighters for the southern island of Mindano, though are thought to be a terroist organisation.
The Abu Sayyaf kidnap gang that has terrorised the southern Philippines for years. When you throw in local Communists who have hated and fought American presence in the Philippines for decades, you have the making of a bigger mess than what happened in Somalia a few years back. As I have said before, there is nothing more dangerous to democratic principles, freedom and world security than Communism and Islamism. About 600 US troops are in the Philippines for a six-month long joint exercise in the south. The Abu Sayyaf has links to the al-Qa’ida network of Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks in the US. This has put the Philippines in the list of possible havens of the terror group, further scaring off foreign investment and help cause president Arroyo’s decision to allow the Americans here.
There are numerous corners of Southeast Asia where government control is either weak or virtually non-existent. These might provide terrorists with the kind of sanctuary they once enjoyed in Afghanistan. The American presence in this region will have to get larger than it currently stands in the Philippines.
As in Vietnam our military presence is starting off small. The current government has much more support though from the average Filipino than the former government of South Vietnam. The dense jungles and terrain will make the Moro Muslim rebel group as elusive as the viet-cong .Without a strong backing and military presence from the Philippines, this latest war on terrorism may be much longer and bloodier than the last.
Political scientist Felipe Miranda said “she might make collaboration with the United States the acid test of her (performance) as a leader”.
While the Opposition and leftist protesters have tried to raise the US presence as a political issue against Mrs Arroyo, she has been bolstered by surveys showing most Filipinos back the American presence.
Details of the survey are yet to be released but Mr Miranda said the public was generally unmoved by Opposition charges that Mrs Arroyo was selling out the country to the Americans. While the depredations of the Abu Sayyaf have only affected a small part of the Philippines, their abduction of foreigners, including nuns, priests and tourists has given the country an image of lawlessness and chaos.
The Abu Sayyaf has links to the al-Qa’ida network of Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks in the US. This has put the Philippines in the list of possible havens of the terror group, further scaring off foreign investors and tourists.
“It really is more of a perception problem that the Philippines unfortunately has right now,” social researcher Leo Venezuela said .
“You say ‘Abu Sayyaf, Philippines,’ — they think it’s the wild, wild west,” he said.
But the al-Qa’ida link, as well as Mrs Arroyo’s firm support for US President George W. Bush’s campaign against terror, led to the decision to deploy some 600 US troops in the Philippines starting January for a six-month long joint exercise in the south.
Mr Venezuela says the sluggish Philippine stock market began rallying after the first US troops began arriving.
Anticipation is strong that the Philippines troops, with American help, will finally be able to rescue the remaining hostages and capture the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf hiding in the jungles of Basilan.
On the other hand, Mr Miranda warns that Mrs Arroyo might be hurt by “the possible arrogance or tactlessness of the Americans,” particularly if there are incidents of US troops brawling in bars or falling foul.