Posted by: JWP | 01/29/2010

Jihadists are the real foe, not NPA

American forces in the Philippines

Front-line vets

Drawing lessons from a rare success

Jan 28th 2010 | JOLO | From The Economist via @JSOTFP

RUMBLING over unfriendly terrain the world over, Humvees form the backbone of America’s military transport. Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Goldsmith has found they also make a good cattle corral. Park two Humvees at an angle, lead a cow into the gap and lash it to a bumper by its nose. Then climb on either bonnet and administer the necessary jabs. “I got tired of getting kicked all the time,” he says.

Lieut-Colonel Goldsmith, a veterinarian in the American army, has already worked with Afghan livestock. Now he tends to scrawny, tick-ridden cattle in Muslim-majority parts of Mindanao. Since March 2008, he has treated some 7,000 animals in villages where qualified vets are as rare as pukka roads. Proper care of livestock means fatter animals for market and more income for their owners.

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.

read full report…

3 explosions hit Zamboanga City 12/29/10

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