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Counter-Insurgency in the Philippines and the Global War on Terror: Examing the Dynamics of the 21st Century Long Wars

Counter-Insurgency in the Philippines and the Global War on Terror: Examing the Dynamics of the 21st Century Long Wars
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  © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden,  DOI: 2010037. EJEAS 9.1. 07_Cruz. 1st proofs. 20-5-2010:16.56, page 135. EJEAS   .  (    )  –   European Journalof East Asian Studies  Abstract of Counter-Insurgency in thePhilippines and the Global War on Terror.Examining the Dynamics of the Twenty-firstCentury Long Wars 1 Renato Cruz De Castro Senior professor, De la Salle University, Manila, Philippines  Abstract  is article examines how the global war on terror a ff  ects the Armed Forces of the Philip-pines (AFP), particularly its long and continuous involvement in many wars of the thirdkind. It discusses the history and essence of counter-insurgency warfare or low-intensity conflict (LICs) in the Philippine setting. It then explores the impact of the global war onterror on the Philippine military’s counter-insurgency campaigns and the current reformsin the Philippine defence establishment to end the insurgency problems. In conclusion, thearticle argues these reforms and the post-  /  US security assistance will not significantly transform the AFP’s structure and functions as it will be preoccupied with its anti-terroristand counter-insurgency e ff  orts indefinitely into the future. Keywords  Armed Forces of the Philippines; war on terror; long war; counter-insurgency. On themorning of   July   , a unit of thePhilippineMarineand elementsof the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) engaged each other in a pitchedbattle in the village of Guinanta, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, o ff  the southern islandof Mindanao.  e clash resulted in the death of   marines and  insurgents.It was then considered as the heaviest fighting between government troops 1) Paper read at the Asian Political Science and International Studies Association (APISA)  rd Congress,  –  November  , Mandarin Hotel, Makati City, Philippines.  is isa revised, updated and a more comprehensive version of a paper that was presented in theconference on ‘  e armed forces of Southeast Asia’, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Instituteof Defence and Strategic Studies, Brunei Darussalam,  January   .   Renato Cruz De Castro / EJEAS   .  (    )  –   2010037. EJEAS 9.1. 07_Cruz. 1st proofs. 20-5-2010:16.56, page 136. and the secessionist MILF since the two sides forged a cease-fire agreementin  .  e skirmish happened amidst growing scepticism about forging apeaceagreementwiththeMILFstalledforthreeyearsbytheissueofexpandingthe Muslim autonomous area in Mindanao. Consequently, analysts assumedthat the heavy casualties on both sides portended increased clashes betweenthe Philippine military and the insurgents. In addition, the encounter putthe three-year-old cease-fire agreement at risk and could eventually derail theongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF. 2  A month later, again in Basilan, government troops attacked an Abu Sayyaf base fortified with underground bunkers, tunnels and trenches.  e raidclaimed the lives of   marines and  insurgents. Earlier, in Sulu, the Philip-pine Army (PA) lost  soldiers during separate battles with another group of insurgents linked with the Abu Sayyaf. In these armed encounters, the Philip-pine military su ff  ered its highest casualties in recent years. Consequently, the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) decided to send  ,  marines andsoldiers to the islands of Basilan and Sulu, its largest deployment in Min-danao since  .  e vigorous military responses to these clashes with Mus-lim insurgents reflect the aim of the Philippine government and its military to end the various ‘low-intensity conflicts’ (LIC) or ‘wars of the third kind’in the country in light of the current global war on terrorism. In contrast toconventional wars, LICs involve adversaries or belligerents that are more orless asymmetric in equipment, training and doctrine. 3  ese adversaries areunequalincapabilities,andtheweakerside,usuallyasub-stateentity,attemptsto bring about political change by organising and fighting more e ff  ectively and ruthlessly than its stronger adversary—usually a state actor. In the lastfive decades, the AFP has fought this type of conflict against various insurgentgroups.  e post-  /  war on terror has reinvigorated Philippine–US security relations. Consequently, this enabled the AFP to acquire American security assistance and to strengthen its counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency capabil-ities.  us, since the start of the twenty-first century, the Philippines’ mainpolitical and military goal is to end the long war against the local insurgentgroups. 2) Roel Landingin, ‘Philippine marines killed in clash with insurgents’, Financial Times  (  July   ). p.  .  &did=  &SrchMode=  &sid=  &Fm. 3)  James D. Kiras, ‘Terrorism and irregular warfare’, in John Baylis, James Wirtz, EliotCohen and Colin S. Gray (eds) Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction toStrategic Studies  (Oxford: Oxford University Press,  ), p.  .  Renato Cruz De Castro / EJEAS   .  (    )  –    2010037. EJEAS 9.1. 07_Cruz. 1st proofs. 20-5-2010:16.56, page 137.  is article examines the impact of the global war on the AFP’s currentengagement and conduct of LICs or wars of the third kind. 4 It poses this spe-cific problem: how has the global war on terror a ff  ected the AFP’s attitude andcapability in waging this kind of war? It also raises as well these corollary ques-tions: (  ) How has the AFP’s involvement in the wars of the third kind a ff  ectedits overall military capabilities? (  ) How has the AFP fared in its continuinginvolvement in LICs? (  ) Taking into account the post  /  US security assis-tance and the reforms in the Philippine defence establishment, what are the AFP’s prospects in terminating its engagement in LICs and developing into anormal conventional military force geared for external defence?  Waging the Long Wars of the Twenty-first Century   e  /  terrorist attacks in the US mainland and the subsequent war havegiven rise to the term ‘long war’ of the twenty-first century, which refers to American e ff  orts directed at terrorist groups and their state sponsors.  islong war has triggered or escalated several low-intensity conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Philippines,  ailand and in other parts of the world. Accordingly, this war will be unlimited in time and in space, and willcause the shift from large-scale conventional military warfare to small-scalecounter-insurgency campaigns. It may last for decades, as it will be protracted,or perennial, a war to defeat or contain a global movement animated by Takfir ideologues with a transnational following. 5  e possibility of this typeof strife becoming the defining form of war in the twenty-first century raisesthe question on how the current US global war on terror has ushered in new conflicts or has a ff  ected ongoing strifes throughout the world. 4)  A substantial portion of the data and a number of insights used in this paper wereculled from a key-person interview conducted by the author with  mid-level AFP o ffi cersduring a professional course he conducted in the Foreign Service Institute.  e three-hourinterview generated about  pages of transcript.  e interview questions revolved aroundthree general themes: the status of the AFP’s internal security operations (ISO); the currentdevelopments regarding the Philippine Defence Reform (PDR); and the progress of the AFP’s Capability Upgrade Programme (CUP).  e  o ffi cers interviewed requested theauthor to keep their names and ranks anonymous.  e interview was held on  November  attheForeignServiceInstitute,DepartmentofForeignA  ff  airs,RoxasBoulevard,Pasay City, Philippines. 5) See Robert M. Cassidy, Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terror: Military Culture and Irregular Warfare  (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International,  ), p.  .   Renato Cruz De Castro / EJEAS   .  (    )  –   2010037. EJEAS 9.1. 07_Cruz. 1st proofs. 20-5-2010:16.56, page 138. Consequently, the need to confront the long wars of the twenty-first cen-tury generated new studies on low-intensity conflicts and counter-insurgency.  is new literature on LICs ranges from general theories and practical advice,based on hard-won experience, to complicated empirical models purportingto predict outcomes or test practical advice on the appropriate approach onaddressing insurgency/terrorism.  e popular approach in the study of thistype of conflict is to consider low-intensity conflicts as simply another formof warfare di ff  ering slightly from conventional or high/medium-intensity con-flicts but they are essentially of the same type.  us, LICs can be addressede ff  ectively if the right strategic and tactical doctrines are applied. Paul Stani-land’s ‘Defeating transnational insurgencies: the best o ff  ense is a good fence’, 6 David W. Barno’s ‘Challenges in fighting a global insurgency’ 7 and MichaelR. Melilla’s ‘Outfitting a big-war military with the small-war capabilities’ 8 regard low-intensity conflicts as an essentially strategic riddle that can besolved if the military adopts the ‘appropriate counter-insurgency formula’.Robert M. Cassidy’s Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terror: Mili-tary Culture and Irregular Warfare  argues that addressing contemporary LICsrequires the US military to rediscover its long-forgotten experience in wars of the third kind. Interestingly, Cassidy asserts that in waging the global war onterror, the US military should not only learn and adapt to current counter-insurgencies but also rediscover its institutional memory, instead of erasingthese experiences (counter-insurgency campaigns) because of a perception thatcounter-insurgency is merely a ‘fleeting aberration’. 9  As categories of warfare, guerrilla and conventional warfare sounds neatand exclusive, while counter-insurgency is simply a matter of military formulaand tactics that anyone can learn and put into practice in the battlefield.  isprevailing view towards low-intensity conflicts can be traced to the Kennedy administration Cold War’s military doctrine (the Flexible Response) regardingcounter-insurgencywherebytheUSmilitaryandalliedarmiesaimedtoachievemilitary superiority at all levels of conflict spectrum from guerrilla to limitedtoconventionaltonuclearwarfareagainsttheSovietUnionanditscommunistallies. 10 Intheearlytwenty-firstcentury,thecategorisationofconflictsfromlow  6)  e Washington Quarterly  , Vol.  , No.  (Winter  –  ), pp.  –  . 7) Parameters  (Summer  ), pp.  –  . 8) Parameters  (Autumn  ), pp.  –  . 9) Cassidy, Counterinsurgency  , pp.  –  . 10) Robert E. Harkavy and Stephanie F. Neuman, Warfare in the   ird World  (New York:Palgrave,  ), p.  .  Renato Cruz De Castro / EJEAS   .  (    )  –    2010037. EJEAS 9.1. 07_Cruz. 1st proofs. 20-5-2010:16.56, page 139. to high intensity is primarily intended to ensure that the US military will becapableacrossthebroadspectrumofconflictsinthenewcentury.However,theso-called categorisation of conflicts serves merely policy posture but actually provides little relevance to the actual conflicts themselves. 11  is is because waging this type of conflict, however, actually necessitatesthe revision of the standard doctrinal manuals, force structure and weaponsystem of armed forces if states are to fight LICs competently.  e demandsof LICs or wars of the third kind are the total opposite of sound practice inconventional warfare. A regular conventional force engaged in an LIC or a war of the third kind will find that the enemy has no centre of gravity, nocapital city and probably no fixed lines of communication. It will confrontan opponent that blends with the population and refuses to fight, exceptat times and places of its own choosing, or when it is trapped and has nochoice but to fight. Furthermore, unlike conventional wars that were usually driven by political and state-driven motives, LICs are usually motivated by certain primeval human traits such as vengeance, e ff  orts to redeem nationalor sub-national humiliation, human propensity for territoriality, and ethnicdomination. 12 Since these conflicts are animated by these primeval motives,massacres, ethnic cleansing and even genocides are likely to occur during theconduct of the war. 13 Furthermore, since they are not driven by rational stateinterests/political calculation but by primeval human motives, LICs tend tolast longer than most conventional wars.Time is the most important element required for waging this type of con-flict. Su ffi cient time is crucial for insurgents to organise, sap the resolve of their adversary, and develop the necessary conventional force capable of seiz-ingcontrolofthestate’sterritory.Forthestateanditsarmedforces,timeisalsoof the essence since to be e ff  ective counter-insurgency is a gradual process of attrition that requires significant and consistent investment in resources andpolitical capital from the population. James D. Kiras emphasises the impor-tance of time in this type of conflict as he argues: ‘In almost all cases, thelength of successful and unsuccessful terrorist or irregular warfare is mea-sured in decades not years.  ey achieve success by gaining an advantage overtheir adversaries in terms of time, space, legitimacy, and /or support.’ 14 For 11) See Sam S. Sarkesian, John Allen Williams and Stephen J. Cimbala, US National Security: Policymakers, Processes, and Politics  (Boulder: Lynne Rienner,  ), pp.  –  . 12) Harkavy and Neuman, Warfare  , p.  . 13) Harkavy and Neuman, Warfare  , p.  . 14) Kiras, Terrorism and irregular warfare  , p.  .
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