Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

Patek arrested in Pakistan

March 31, 2011
Wanted -- Umar Patek (aka) Umar Kecil -- Up to...

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The last of the “big two” Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leaders formerly in the Southern Philippines has reportedly been nabbed a bit outside of Southeast Asia:

The officials did not say where or when Umar Patek, a deputy commander of al-Qaida’s Southeast Asian affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, was detained. But the Philippine army, which has also been hunting him, said he was picked up in Pakistan Jan. 25 alongside a Pakistani associate assumed to have been harboring him.

The arrest of Patek, who has a $1 million American price tag on his head, ends a 10-year international manhunt and is a major achievement in the global fight against al-Qaida and its offshoots. If he cooperates, the 40-year-old militant could give valuable intelligence on the current state of the extremist organization and its hardy affiliates in Southeast Asia.

As I wrote some time ago, Umar Patek and Dulmatin were the main guys we were looking for during my time with the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P). Looks like this is further confirmation of the marginalization of JI and their Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) allies in the Southern Philippines.

On Patek, see also:

H/T: cmjack3

For more on JSOTF-P, USA Today recently ran a nice piece on the mission there. I recommend watching the approximately 5-minute video you can find with the story for a good overview of what JSOTF-P is all about.

And finally, Small Wars Journal with a bunch of good linkage on JSOTF-P. (You can also find the video I mentioned above there.)

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Links of Interest 02/13/2011

February 13, 2011
Rumsfeld

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

OEF-P Case Study

December 27, 2010

I just read through the “Operation Enduring Freedom Philippines Case Study” (PDF) posted at Small Wars Journal a few days ago.  It’s been many a moon since I’ve touched on OEF-P-related business here, but this new case study (dated October 2010) is worth a read if you are at all interested in the topic.  It’s got a lot of good background information on how the mission in the Southern Philippines was conceived and why it operates the way it does, based on the specific operating environment unique to the Philippines.  I wish I had a reference like that one before I deployed there. (If you are headed that way – MUST READ!) It’s also chock-full of references for additional readings if you want to dig deeper on a subject.  Check it out:

CASE STUDY: Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines By Richard Swain, Ph.D, Booz Allen Hamilton, under contract to U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Center

Halfway through “The Pacific”

May 1, 2010
Guadalcanal map

Guadalcanal campaign map

Episode 5 of HBO’s The Pacific aired here in Taiwan last Saturday night.  I’ve seen all five episodes thus far and want to offer my impressions of the series halfway through.  I think it is useful to tie in some related reading I have been doing.

In a previous post I talked about reading E.B. Sledge’s account of the fantastically terrible fighting on Peleliu and Okinawa as preparation for the series.  Selection of Sledge’s book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa was in fact a matter of convenience; it had been setting on my shelf, begging to be read for nearly a year since I found a very affordable paperback copy used at a bookstore in Monterey, California.  My latest tie-in selection, William Manchester’s Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War was also one of convenience – during a “fire sale” on Audible.com in September 2009, I picked up the unabridged audiobook for cheap.  It had been waiting in my audiobook queue, also beckoning – “Listen to me!”  The time had come.

First of all, my full review of the book, which I finished yesterday, is here at Goodreads.  However, there are a few things I would like to mention about it here in contrast with what I read in Sledge’s book.  Not that  really creates any disputes in the descriptions of the fighting – far from it.  Rather, it is a matter of scope.  Sledge’s book takes an almost “soda straw” view of the fighting he personally engaged in on two islands in the Pacific during World War II.  Much has been written about how successful he was in describing the undeniably brutal combat in both places.  Manchester’s book contains some of the same intense accounts of personal battle, but to it he adds a great deal of context, both from at the time the Pacific campaign was taking place, but also, and very uniquely, from the future – looking back at the battles and their aftermath from the vantage point provided by over three decades of hindsight and perspective.  Writing in the late 1970s, Manchester was critical of the return of the Japanese in commercial and consumer roles to many of the same places that so many U.S. servicemen died in securing during the war, for instance Guam.  I have spent some time on Guam, first in late 1996 and most recently in early 2008.  If he though the place was overcommercialized and had too many Japanese tourists in the late 1970s, I shudder to think what he would make of it today.  The main drag along Tumon Bay compares not unfavorably in terms of commercial development with Waikiki and is now studded with high-rise hotels and fancy boutiques.  Yet only a few miles away in little villages life is completely different, lacking in basic needs like fresh water.  As a legacy of the war, the island is already has a large U.S. military presence, but that will increase by a large margin when in the coming decade nearly 10,000 Marines and their families will most likely move from Okinawa to a new installation on Guam.  Guam’s sons and daughters serve and give their lives in a disproportionately high percentage in today’s U.S. military forces, yet the people there cannot vote in the American presidential elections.  Conditions in Guam today, faced with the impending U.S. military buildup, have many residents feeling like they are colonial subjects of the U.S.  This situation bodes not well for the stability of the island in the future and is even more important as Guam takes a more central role in American strategy in the Pacific as traditional basing locations like Okinawa become less palatable, as the recent protests about the relocation of the Futenma Marine air base in Ginowan, Okinawa and the ongoing friction between the government of Japan and the Americans about what the plan is for the relocation of U.S. forces.

View of Guam from the air, 2008

Manchester also visited Okinawa during his return to the Pacific, and was appalled by what he saw there as well.  He called the base exchange he saw at Camp Foster, the largest of the Marine bases on Okinawa, bigger than any department store he had seen in the U.S.  His return to the Philippines was a bit less shocking, if only because it seemed a bit less “Americanized.”  I’ve also been to Manila and other places in the Philippines and what shocks the most is the contrast between rich and poor.  Manila has no shortage of high-end Western hotels, shopping malls (the Mall of Asia there is the one of the largest in Asia), restaurants, and so forth, but oftentimes just a block or two away are people living in some of the most grinding conditions imaginable.  Panhandling is epidemic.  And then there is the Manila American Cemetery, where many of America’s battle dead from World War II are buried.  When I visited it in 2007, I felt almost as if I had stepped into Arlington National Cemetery, with the rolling expanses of white cross-studded greenery.  It was spacious and peaceful, a stark contrast to the teeming metropolis that surrounded it.

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Even with Manchester’s and Sledge’s lucid descriptions of the combat all across the Pacific, it’s hard for me to imagine fighting in some of these places.  Conditions on Guadalcanal sounded absolutely oppressive.  It’s no wonder the 1st Marine Division emblem still boasts of their fortitude there.

1st MarDiv insignia

1st Marine Division insignia

Finally, specifically about The Pacific, I am enjoying each week’s episode.  I prefer the installments that are more heavy on combat, less so the ones that are about “chasing tail” (i.e. episode 3 about Marines resting and refitting in Australia between the battle on Guadalcanal and the Cape Gloucester landing).  In this respect I agree with critics who say that the series tries to hard to make a “love story.”  Perhaps the second half of the series will be able to tie it all together.  All in all, I would say that halfway through the ten-part series, I prefer Band of Brothers, though it left some seriously big shoes to fill.

Episode 6 of The Pacific airs tonight in Taiwan.  Tune it to HBO to watch.

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The End of Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah in the Southern Philippines

March 11, 2010

Indonesia’s president declared yesterday that a man shot and killed by Indonesian security forces this week was Dulmatin, one of the men responsible for the Bali bombing in November 2002.

This in and of itself is noteworthy since people who do things like blow up crowded discos should be brought to justice.

I find it more interesting for another reason, though – I once spent 5 months trying to help find this man in the Southern Philippines.

From November 2006 – April 2007, I was part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P).  Dulmatin and his still-at-large compatriot, Umar Patek, were believed to be the highest-level Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists operating in the area.

JI is an Indonesian terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda that has spread to nearby countries, including the Philippines.

One mission of the JSOTF-P was to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) find JI leaders like Dulmatin and Patek.  We were also looking for terrorists from another, allied organization, called the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

The ASG is the group responsible for the high-profile kidnapping of the American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham in May 2001.  Mark Bowden tells the story of the Burnhams as a part of his April 2007 Atlantic Monthly story about the struggle against terrorism in the Southern Philippines.  Gracia Burnham also wrote a book about her experiences as a captive of the ASG, entitled In the Presence of My Enemies (2003).

Some say that the Burnham kidnapping in mid-2001 was part of the catalyst for the U.S. decision to send troops to the Southern Philippines in early 2002.  Whatever the case, it can be stated with little doubt that the Bush Administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks certainly played a role.  This organization, called Joint Task Force 510 (JTF-510), was the precursor to today’s JSOTF.

My own interest in the region started much later, in early 2006, when just back from a deployment to Iraq, I was notified that I would deploy again before the year was out to the Philippines.

Just before I arrived in the Philippines, the AFP and their American partners had initiated a major sustained campaign unlike any that had been conducted to that point in the south, dubbed “Operation Ultimatum.”

This new type of fighting on the part of the AFP aimed to give the rebels and terrorists a “full court press” – when the Filipino troops would have traditionally made an attack on enemy strongholds and then soon after returned to their bases, not capitalizing on momentum gained against the enemy, for this new operation they were turning over a new leaf: they would not return to their camps, they would conduct sustained operations over a long period of time and give the ASG and JI outlaws no place to run to.

The results were good, right from the get-go. While it was not clear that it had happened at the time, the then-emir of the ASG, Khadaffy Janjalani (“KJ”) was killed in the opening offensive on Sulu Island, the main rebel stronghold at the time.

Just a few months later, in early 2007, the new leader of the ASG, Abu Solaiman, was killed in another operation on Sulu.  The ASG leadership was being decimated and their forces were in retreat.

Not long after that my short assignment in the Southern Philippines came to an end.  But I didn’t stop watching the Filipino – American partnership that continues to this day there.  There has been a lot of good news from the area lately.

Just a few weeks ago, I saw that the latest ASG leader, a man named Albader Parad, was killed by AFP troops. And now this about Dulmatin.  I found it interesting that Dulmatin was killed in Indonesia.  News reports were conflicting about how long he had been back in Indonesia, but it sounded like it had been at least 6 months.

During my time focusing on the Southern Philippines, it was always hardest to figure out how to get at the JI operatives.  They always seemed to be a couple notches higher up the ladder than their ASG compatriots in terms of their operational savvy and skill level.  For this reason, it doesn’t surprise me that Dulmatin and possibly Patek were able to exfiltrate the area, in spite of the bounties on their heads and the fact that they were the “top dogs” the AFP and Americans were searching for in the Southern Philippines for years.

The sum total of all of this, in my opinion, is that the Southern insurgency in the Philippines is facing a crisis.  Over the past 3 1/2 years, their leadership has been decimated and they have been on the run.  True, they are still capable of small-scale banditry (like the recent revenge attack on Basilan), but in all they have lost much of their original operational capacity.

I think a key aspect of the success of the approximately 8-year old mission there is the robust partnering between the Filipinos and the Americans.  Everything that the U.S. troops do there is “through, by, and with” the Filipinos.  The JSOTF is always doing something in the various communities in the area, from engineering projects and conducting medical and dental clinics, to teaching basic land navigation, weapons handling, and marksmanship training with the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP).  It really is the “soft” side of things driving the boat there, and thankfully the security environment permits it to be that way.  I’ve heard it said more than once that the JSOTF-P model is how Iraq and Afghanistan might look at some time in the future (Iraq probably sooner than Afghanistan) – less focus on kinetic operations (killing bad guys) and more focus on partnering and building local capacity.  Over the long-term (like I said, the U.S. mission there has been going on in some shape or form since 2002), the local people buy in to what the Filipino government forces and their American partners are “selling” and turn away from any appeal that the rebels may have had.  It’s counterinsurgency done right, my friends.

Keep up the good work, JSOTF-P.

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Testing out a new way to post…via HootSuite

January 7, 2010

Testing out a new way to post…via HootSuite. Here’s a older article in the New York Times from last August about JSOTF-P staying put in the Philippines that I recently stumbled across. Re-emphasizes that in the foreseeable future there will always be a need for more special operations forces and no shortage of work for them world-wide. http://ow.ly/Twnw

Pearl Harbor Day

December 7, 2009
Pearl Harbor veterans

Pearl Harbor veterans watch during the memorial ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 7 December 2007

Pearl Harbor Day, every year on 7 December, seems to get lost in the shuffle now that we’ve got a more recent surprise attack (that would be 9/11) seared into our collective memory.  But it’s hard to overstate the significance of that day’s events and how the repercussions have shaped security in the Asia-Pacific region ever since.

John Lewis Gaddis, in his book Surprise, Security and the American Experience, compares a series of “shocks” to American security, including Pearl Harbor.  He says that Americans, contrary to what might be supposed to be the typical reaction to a surprise attack (drawing inward), tend to expand their influence or scope of activity after an attack.  It’s not hard to see that this is the case, based on Pearl Harbor – America entered World War II and fought for the next 4 years, afterwards cementing a dominant security position in the Asia-Pacific, largely to prevent another Pearl Harbor-like surprise attack from happening.

Post-9/11 America has similarly expanded her reach once again, projecting power most notably into the Middle East, but also into places here in the Asia-Pacific region (the US Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines is one example of this, advising and assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a struggle against Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines allied with the larger al-Qaeda movement via their Southeast Asian arm, Jemaah Islamiyah).

Author James Bradley, who has a new book out that explores how US president Theodore Roosevelt inadvertently set the diplomatic conditions that would lead to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, has a companion piece in the New York Times that encapsulates his argument.  In it, he says

Roosevelt had assumed that the Japanese would stop at Korea and leave the rest of North Asia to the Americans and the British. But such a wish clashed with his notion that the Japanese should base their foreign policy on the American model of expansion across North America and, with the taking of Hawaii and the Philippines, into the Pacific. It did not take long for the Japanese to tire of the territorial restrictions placed upon them by their Anglo-American partners.

Japan’s declaration of war, in December 1941, explained its position quite clearly: “It is a fact of history that the countries of East Asia for the past hundred years or more have been compelled to observe the status quo under the Anglo-American policy of imperialistic exploitation and to sacrifice themselves to the prosperity of the two nations. The Japanese government cannot tolerate the perpetuation of such a situation.”

Essentially what is shown is that Theodore Roosevelt was unable to foresee the second- and third-order effects that his leniency and favor towards Japan in the resolution of the Russo-Japanese War and advocacy for Japanese expansion into Korea would have.  I can’t help but think what similar “down the road” effects might come from America’s current diplomatic and military endeavours, not just in the Asia-Pacific, but worldwide – probably not all the wonderful things we are aiming for, that’s for sure.


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