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DON’T MINIMIZE ISIS TERRORISM THREATS (First of Two Parts)


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“Palace Shrugs Off Reports Pinoys Recruited By ISIS….” – The Manila Times,26 August 2014

 

Malacañang said four days ago that the Government has yet to receive “confirmed intelligence reports” that Filipinos are training with militants in Iraq.  According to Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, the AFP has not validated any information to this effect. 

If this Malacañang explanation is true (which manifests its “laid-back” position and unfazed attitude on just about every issue), then our Intelligence Services must be failing our people – because their job is to track down every bit of information that comes their way about possible terroristic threats to Philippine national security and/or to our people’s safety and welfare. 

The follow-ups by Government of this kind of report about possible threats must be done ASAP and quietly without any fanfare.  However, any such efforts must be coordinated as comprehensively as possible due to the sensitive nature of the risks and collateral damage.  Because the Philippines has suffered so much and so long from militant jihadism, Muslim separatism and Abu Sayyaf terrorism, we need not elaborate on what the possible dangers are emanating from the violent conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa today – since these events are too well-known, being on worldwide media almost daily.

We can only say that our elected officials sitting in high places or who are down there in our barangays may have forgotten that – insofar as information of a security nature (local or national) is concerned – every official elected to public office such as Provincial Governors/Board Members, City/Municipal Mayors/Councilors and lawmakers are obligated to provide to or share information with adjacent levels of government agencies in order that any report (even if still raw, unevaluated or unverified) can be acted upon for the purpose of coordination, assessment, early warning and/or counter-action.

Since the onset of the Cory Administration, this important responsibility has been one of the important factors in our system of Peace and Order Councils throughout the whole Philippines, because all elected officials are considered to be intelligence assets working on the job.

International View Of Terrorism

In his “Inside Al Qaeda:  Global Network of Terror” (2003), Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, Asia’s foremost expert on terrorism, reveals:  “To intervene successfully in conflicts where Muslims were affected, Al Qaeda established ideological, political, financial and military control over several Islamist terrorist groups.

“Although Afghanistan was Al Qaeda’s principal military training base, it also trained recruits in Sudan, Yemen, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Somalia, and the Philippines.  For instance, when Al Qaeda trainees had difficulty entering landlocked Afghanistan through Pakistan in mid-February 1999, Osama bin Laden phoned Hashim Salamat, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), asking him to set up new training camps in the Philippines….

“Al Qaeda’s top operative, Abu Zubyadah, regularly phoned Al Qaeda-supported groups such as the MILF and Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC)….”

Earlier, Gunaratna was Senior Fellow at the United States Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.  He holds a Masters in International Peace Studies from Notre Dame, U.S.A. and a Doctorate in International Relations from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

He has served as trainer for law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the military; and counter-terrorism instructor for U.S. Navy SEALS, Swiss Federal Police, N.Y. Police Department, and the Australian Federal Police.  He has conducted field research in conflict zones including in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Colombia.

Dr. Gunaratna is at present the Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, which by its size, is one of the largest counterterrorism research and training centers in the world.

Militant Jihadist Movements Today

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a Sunni jihadist group in the Middle East.  In its self-proclaimed status as a “Caliphate State,” it claims religious authority over all Muslims across the world, and aspires to bring much of the Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its direct political control, beginning with Iraq and Syria. 

The “Caliphate” also aspires to control what used to be the ancient region called the Levant, which includes Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, and southern Turkey. 

According to Wikipedia, ISIS has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, and has been labeled by the United Nations and Western and Middle Eastern media as a terrorist organization.  The U.N. has accused the ISIS of committing "mass atrocities" and war crimes in recent months.

ISIS is the successor to Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn– more commonly known as “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” (AQI) – formed by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in 2004, which took part in the Iraqi insurgency against American-led forces and their Iraqi allies following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  It has enjoyed a significant presence in the Iraqi governorates of Al Anbar, Nineveh, Kirkuk, most of Salah ad Din, parts of Babil, Diyala and Baghdad, and several cities. 

Under its current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS has grown significantly, gaining support in Iraq due to alleged economic and political discrimination against Iraqi Sunnis, and establishing a large presence in the Syrian governorates of Ar-Raqqah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo.

The Al Qaeda, MNLF, MILF And Abu Sayyaf Group

In “Inside Al Qaeda,” Gunaratna further recounts:  “It was also Al Qaeda’s policy to maintain links with many organizations because it did not wish to be tied down to one particular group. 

“Al Qaeda also compartmentalized its dealings, including assistance to Filipino Islamists:  one Islamic group might not know what Al Qaeda did with another group unless it was absolutely necessary.  In addition to its ties to the breakaway factions of MNLF, MILF and ASG, Al Qaeda was in contact with several other small Islamist groups in Metro Manila….

“Al Qaeda launched Oplan Bojinka in the Philippines in late 1994 under Ramzi Yousef’s direction. 

“Its principal missions were to assassinate Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton during their visits to Manila; kill President Fidel Ramos, senior government officials, several foreign ambassadors to the Philippines; bomb the U.S. Embassy, an international school, and Catholic churches; kidnap prominent personalities; and explode eleven American passenger aircraft flying over the Asia-Pacific...”

Wikipedia identifies Ramzi Yousef as “one of the main perpetrators” of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a co-conspirator in the Bojinka plot in Manila in 1994-95.  Having escaped arrest by Philippine authorities in January 1995, Yousef was eventually captured three months later in Islamabad by Pakistani Intelligence and the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, in their follow-up of the trail left by Al Qaeda’s botched Oplan Bojinka.

Ramzi Yousef was soon extradited to the U.S. and tried in the U.S. District Court in New York along with two Al Qaeda co-conspirators.  They were all convicted, and Yousef himself was sentenced to two life sentences to be served at the super-maximum prison in Colorado for his part in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Bojinka plot in Manila.

Urgency Of International Cooperation

The New York TimesEditorial clearly affirmed (24 August):  “The United States cannot go it alone in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the extremist group known as ISIS whose ruthlessness and killing has dumbfounded and horrified the civilized world….

“But defeating, or even substantially degrading, ISIS will require an organized, longer-term response involving a broad coalition of nations, including other Muslim countries, and addressing not only the military threat but political and religious issues.

“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was equally emphatic.  ISIS, he warned, is ‘beyond anything that we’ve seen’ because it is extremely well-financed and has demonstrated sophistication and tactical skill in its campaign to impose an Islamic caliphate by brute force. 

 “The recent persecution of Christians and Yazidis and the murder of James Foley, an American journalist, has brought ISIS’s savagery into full view….

 “The prospects of defeating ISIS would be greatly improved if other Muslim nations could see ISIS for the threat it is.  But, like Iraq, they are mired in petty competitions and Sunni-Shiite religious divisions and many have their own relations with extremists of one kind or another….  ALL OF THAT HAS TO STOP.”

Other analysts have described ISIS as one of the most successful extremist groups in history because of its ability to seize and hold large sections of two countries – Iraq and Syria – with what seems like blitzkrieg speed.

OUR STRATEGIC LESSON

Having perhaps the longest-running experience in countering large-scale Islamist insurgency that leads to a separate state, the Philippines cannot afford to remain just “laid back” or “unfazed” in regard to the spreading ISIS virus – which has shown savage examples of mass executions and ethnic cleansing.

AND WE MUST TREAT ANY INFORMATION RE THE ISIS, ISIL OR THE “CALIPHATE STATE” SERIOUSLY AND WITH DISPATCH.  FILIPINOS STILL HAVE THE POPE FRANCIS VISIT TO HANDLE IN JANUARY 2015 – AND ALL OF US MUST BE PREPARED TO DO A GOOD JOB.

WE CAN START WITH THE GATHERING OF ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF INFORMATION (E.E.I.), AND RELEARNING THE BASICS OF THE INTELLIGENCE EVALUATION MATRIX WHICH COMBINES THE LETTERS A, B, C, D, E, F WITH THE NUMBERS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 FOR ASSESSING RAW REPORTS SO THAT ACTIONABLE COHERENT INTELLIGENCE CAN BE PRODUCED.  DEFINITELY RODOLFO DUTERTE, AHMED BAYAM AND FVR ARE NOT F-6 ASSETS – THEY MAY EVEN BE A-1 GUYS.  ASK JOE ALMONTE OR RAFFY ALUNAN.

REMEMBER POPE JOHN PAUL II IN 1995???   BECAUSE FILIPINOS DID A THOROUGH, COMMENDABLE JOB AT THAT TIME, THE HOLY FATHER LIVED ON….  LONG ENOUGH TO BECOME A SAINT!!!

Abangan– Part II Next Week. 

Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org.  Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.

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