Islamists Weakened; with Our Aid, Armed Forces Gain Upper Hand
Byline: Richard Halloran, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The armed forces of the Philippines, assisted by U.S. Special Operations Forces and law enforcement officers, have begun to overcome Islamic insurgents in the terrorist transit triangle, a tri-border area along the southern Philippines. At the same time, however, the government in Manila has evidently failed to address the 450-year-old issue of making peace with Muslim Filipinos known as Moros.
A senior American officer, after discussing the efforts of about 500 American troops backing Filipino forces in building schools, medical clinics, and other civic projects, was asked what the central government in Manila had done to bring the Moros into the mainstream of Philippine life. His reply was succinct: Nothing.
A Filipino business executive who is a Muslim from Mindanao, the main island in the Philippine south, was asked the same question and was equally succinct: Nothing.
Both the American and the Filipino asked not to be named because they want to avoid provoking the regime in Manila, a regime with which each must work.
The terrorist triangle runs along the island chains through the Sulu and Celebes seas, permitting terrorists to move among the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. In the Philippines, the terrorists of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemaah Islamiya and the Rajah Solaiman Movement, plus the communist New People's Army, continue operating.
A State Department report four years ago asserted: The major, and disturbing, trend in the Philippines has been the growing cooperation among the Islamist terrorist organizations operating in the country: Jemaah Islamiya, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Rajah Sulaiman Movement. The latter comprises Christian converts to Islam, which allows them to pass undetected in other parts of the Philippines.
In a similar report last month, the department said Philippine troops, with intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance help from U.S. forces, continued to marginalize the remaining numbers of Islamic terrorists. But the report said the 5,000-strong New People's Army continued to disrupt public security and business operations with intermittent attacks on communications and transportation everywhere. …