Australian-Philippine Military Cooperation Mooted
Australia wants to send military observers to Central Mindanao under an agreement pending before the Philippine Senate. (Australian )
Australia has already promised 30 river boats to aid local forces in their search for armed rebel groups linked to JI and the allied local kidnap-for-ransom group, Abu Sayyaf. While The Philippines and Australian military would like to conduct large-scale military exercises, the number of troops allowed will depend on the political support in the Senate. Up to five JI members are believed to be operating terrorist cells in the area, in league with dozens of renegade MILF commanders, who are violating the group's 2005 disavowal of links with terrorists. Cotabato City and the surrounding areas in Mindanao are seen as a "doormat for terrorism", in the words of the former US ambassador to the Philippines Richard Done, or the "next Afghanistan".
The situations vis a vis the Islamic insurgency in the Philippines remains serious. And the article above indicates that the battle is far from over. Don't let the victory lap by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Davos fool you. Her achievements have largely consisted of taking credit for the hard work Filipino, American and Australian personnel have been embarked upon while Manila engages in its carnival politics. The Philippine government still refuses to crack down on the corruption and inefficiency which saps its military; the local Left continues to obstruct any efforts by allies to help the soldiers in the field; terror cells from abroad are still infiltrating in, sometimes using the overseas worker flow as a cover; the Communist guerillas have embarked on a de facto alliance with the Islamists. And many of the rebel supporters and their leftist allies are politically untouchable.
The Philippines is one the fringes of the War on Terror. Yet it should be recalled that the September 11 tactics were developed there. The good news in that archipelago is that there are a lot of good guys willing to take on the enemy. The bad news is that there are a substantial number of corrupt officials who are willing to do anything for convenience and greed and who will stint at nothing -- including selling their country down the river -- to line their pockets.