Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines: Civilian Harm and the Indirect Approach

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines: Civilian Harm and the Indirect Approach

Article excerpt

This study examines the military support provided by U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force- Philippines (JSOTF-P) to Philippine military operations. Building upon the 2010 Joint Civilian Casualty Study - the first comprehensive examination of U.S. prevention and mitigation of civilian casualties based on U.S. operations in Afghanistan - this current effort aimed to assess civilian casualties in the different context of indirect U.S. operations. We found that the evolution of Philippine civilian and military strategy since the mid 2000s has reduced the occurrence and salience of civilian casualty issues during combat operations. Additionally, the study revealed many related best practices in JSOTF-P and Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P) more broadly, and provided insights into the possible future evolution of the mission and wider implications for foreign internal defense (FID) in the 21st century.

This article provides a historical background of the insurgency and the evolution of the JSOTF-P mission and its impact. The next section describes a change in the nature of Philippine operations, followed by best practices, limitations, and a discussion of the issue of civilian casualties and broader violence against civilians in the Philippines. Finally, the article looks at overall implications for the U.S. Government in the future.

Given its narrow mission, JSOTF-P has been highly successful - particularly considering its relatively small size and low cost. This success has been driven both by effective U.S. military support at the tactical and operational levels and by decisions and events outside of U.S. control. Key questions are whether the partnership has been able to achieve maximum strategic impact and what it teaches about the need to expand the flexibility and integration of U.S. responses to buttress weak states and combat regional instability.

A History of Insurgency in the Philippines

The history of the Philippines is marked with active resistance to standing governments. These resistance movements can be roughly divided into two camps: insurgencies rooted in religion (specifically, Islam) and those stemming from political ideology (communism). At the same time, the persistence of these insurgencies spans ideology, stemming from underlying factors that fuel discontent within insurgents and much of the population alike: widespread poverty, systemic corruption, ties to criminal interests, and weak governance over the roughly 7,000 islands that comprise the Philippine archipelago.

Islamic Insurgencies. Religious insurgency groups in the Philippines are rooted in external influences that arose five centuries ago. Over time, Islamic beliefs had been largely embraced by many of the islands. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan claimed the Philippine islands for Spain (hence the name of the islands, after King Philip II of Spain), bringing both a Western and Catholic influence to much of the Philippines. However, the people of the southern islands resisted this influence (including the Dagohoy Rebellion, which lasted 85 years, making it the longest lasting such movement in the history of the country) and were never completely subjugated to Spanish rule. After the Spanish-American War, these same southern islanders resisted the U.S. claim to the Philippines, leading to the Moro Rebellion, which constituted a southern front of the Philippine-American War.1

After the establishment of the Philippine government in 1946, Moro elements in the southern islands complained about neglect and discrimination on the part of the Philippine government. General resentment crystallized into armed opposition when dozens of Moro Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recruits were killed by other soldiers during their training in early 1968, followed by a government coverup. This event was the impetus for the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which took up arms against the government in 1970. …

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