Posted by: JWP | 10/23/2009

Low-Profile Measures Are Put to the Test

By JAMES HOOKWAY @WSJ

In the jungles of the southern Philippines, U.S. forces have discovered that low-profile counterterrorism measures can yield striking results — so long as the conditions are right.

Since arriving in 2005, U.S. troops have made significant progress in containing a violent al Qaeda-linked group known as Abu Sayyaf, thinning its ranks from around 2,000 guerrillas to a few hundred operating deep in the interior of remote Jolo Island, 600 miles south of Manila.

Small businesses have boomed in the area as confidence has returned and, in mid-September, Philippine forces overran an Abu Sayyaf bunker complex big enough to accommodate as many as 500 people.

The U.S. troops achieved gains without employing heavy firepower. The Philippines prohibits foreign troops from engaging in armed combat on its soil. So the U.S. mission is limited to training its Philippine allies, providing sophisticated surveillance and helping with community-building exercises.

U.S. forces have helped to build local infrastructure and operate medical clinics with the goal of winning over the local Muslim population, which had long been suspicious of Philippine soldiers. more

I know some of the people in the Philippines are not in favor having US troops around. But I think majority of the people in Zamboanga where they have their forward operating base are comfortable having them around. For one thing I don’t think AFP can keep the peace in Zamboanga City when all hell brakes lose. Another thing is there is the territorial dispute with China and Malaysia. I am not sure if the AFP can handle those problems when they can’t even handle their own dirty laundry with 10 people kidnapped in Mindanao so far.

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