US in Mini-Quagmire in Philippines War on Terror

Military aid and training are leading to government abuses, as Defense Department intends Philippine occupation 'indefinite'

United States Special Operations Forces are carrying out counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations in the Philippines against an elusive group of so-called terrorists, numbering at no more than 12 individuals. The ongoing mission mirrors the wasteful and misdirected quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Philippines is one of the biggest recipients of US aid in all of Asia, with over $163 million slated for 2012. US forces have been stationed in the Philippines for a very long time, but since September 11th, 2001, have upscaled efforts there under the rubric of the war on terrorism.

In recent years, the US-supported government of the Philippines oversaw one of the worst waves of human rights violations in its history. Numerous embassy cables released by WikiLeaks acknowledge systematic extrajudicial killings, abductions, and false arrests perpetrated by the US-trained and funded security forces. Many of the anti-terror policies implemented with help from the US have been misused by the Filipino government against its citizens.

Vast human and financial resources have gone into supporting and training local forces to fight disparate groups with alleged ties to al Qaeda, but the US is mired in the endless effort, unable to get indigenous forces to be economically and militarily independent.“We have been invited to stay here, and we will stay in support of their efforts as long as we are needed,” said Col. Fran Beaudette, commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.

A total of 17 US forces, out of about 600, have been killed in counterterrorism efforts in the Philippines. The Department of Defense has indicated it will stay in the country indefinitely and has not allowed the Philippines to escape dependency on US support. Some, like vice chair of the Philippine Senate’s National Defense and Security Committee Gregorio Honasan, are even arguing for expanding the US mini-war there, including suggestions to launch drone strikes as a new focus.

Much smaller than the violent, indefinite, military wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, efforts in the Philippines are fundamentally similar, as threats of an uptick in terrorism in the event of a US drawdown keep the war endless.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.