Sep 162014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/04/08MANILA919.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA919
2008-04-17 02:32
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO0210
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0919/01 1080232
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 170232Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0397
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000919

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2018
TAGS: MARR MASS MCAP PREL RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINES SHIFT TROOP MIX IN SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES TO RAMP UP HUNT FOR TERRORISTS

Classified By: Charge Paul W. Jones, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The Philippine government has completed
reconfiguring its troop mix in the southern Philippines, with
the Philippine Marines replacing the Army as the dominant
force on Jolo island, where key Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah
Islamiyah terrorists are suspected to be hiding. The new
“Fleet Marine” concept will give the Philippine Navy and
Marines responsibility for the Sulu Archipelago of small
islands, with the Army responsible for Central Mindanao.
Marine Brigadier General Juancho Sabban, who over the last
five years has largely pacified nearby Basilan island, took
command of the Jolo forces earlier this year. The government
hopes Sabban’s leadership will increase the chances of
locating and capturing terrorists, while critics worry the
change may lead to violence based on the Philippines Marines’
history of aggressive pursuit. The repositioning of
Philippine military forces may provide greater security for
the U.S. forces participating in civil-military operations in
the southern Philippines, which is a top Philippine priority.
At the same time, the troop shifts and Esperon’s focused
efforts to implement the associated command changes before he
retires on May 9 are another indication of President Arroyo’s
seriousness about pressing the pursuit of high-value
terrorists in the southern Philippines. END SUMMARY.

———————————–
THE FLEET MARINE CONCEPT TAKES HOLD
———————————–

¶2. (C) The Armed Forces of the Philippines has completed
repositioning Philippine Marine and Army forces in Mindanao
and the Sulu Archipelago as part of a broader Fleet Marine
concept that the Philippine military is implementing in the
southern Philippines. Under this concept, the Philippine
Navy and Marine Corps will have primary responsibility for
defeating terrorists groups in the Sulu Archipelago, while
the Philippine Army now takes the lead on providing security
to Central Mindanao. With the redeployment of forces
complete, one Marine brigade remains on Basilan, supported by
companies of local militia, whereas on Jolo island,
Philippine forces now consist of five Marine battalions,
along with three Philippine Army units. Philippine Marine
Brigadier Juancho Sabban, who recently took command of the
newly designated Jolo Internal Defense Force, plans to
further integrate law enforcement and military efforts to
bring stability to Jolo. Sabban, an outspoken commander
comfortable with the media, is largely credited with
pacifying Basilan over the last five years through a
combination of disciplined, targeted military offensives
coupled with a strong emphasis on civil-military projects,
all with U.S. assistance.

——————–
COMPLICATING FACTORS
——————–

¶3. (C) One complicating factor in giving the Philippine
Marines the lead on Jolo is that the Marines have not
expressed interest in including former Moro National
Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in their units. In accord
with the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF, over 5,000
former MNLF fighters were inducted into the Philippine Army
with the proviso that they would serve in their home region.
Former MNLF fighters have integrated successfully in
Philippine Army units on Jolo, and it appears the Army will
continue to have responsibility for any integree units
operating in the Sulu Archipelago.

¶4. (C) The Marines also must counter the public’s perception
that theyare more aggressive and concerned only with
captring high-value targets, not with the welfare of te
local population. Some of this criticism stems from the
different culture between Philippine Maine and Army units.
While the Army often recruit locally and its troops spend
much time or all o their careers serving in their native
province,the Marines are deployed as a unit to combat area
and do not bring their families on changes of staton.
Consequently, Marines often are viewed by loal residents as
outsiders, unfamiliar with localcustoms. On Jolo island,
for example, the majorty of the population are Tausugs, a
tight-knit ethnic group to which many of the high-value
terrorsts on the Abu Sayyaf Group belong, and among whom
they have often found safe haven. Despite initil concerns
that local residents might react to te Marines in a way that
led to confrontation, such violence has not materialized.

MANILA 00000919 002 OF 002

Public officials on Jolo appear to be supportive of the
Marines. Expressing his confidence in Sabban, Sulu Governor
Sakur Tan said in an interview, “We are confident the Marines
will do their best to make the residents and the province
safe for our tourism and economic programs.”

——————————-
EFFECT ON U.S. TROOPS’ SECURITY
——————————-

¶5. (C) The realignment of Philippine military forces within
the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao may provide greater
security for U.S. forces participating in civil-military
operations in the southern Philippines, particularly on Jolo.
The Marines and police on Jolo are working together to
project security throughout the island, which will undermine
insurgents’ efforts to disrupt humanitarian activities. In
multiple meetings with the Philippine Armed Forces Chief of
Staff General Hermogenes Esperon, the Ambassador has
emphasized the importance of force protection for U.S. troops
providing counterterrorism assistance to the Philippine
forces. Esperon repeatedly has pledged his commitment that
security of U.S. forces was one of his top priorities.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶6. (C) The implementation of the Fleet Marine concept by the
Philippine Armed Forces was planned for some time and was not
a reaction to any recent event. While the Philippine Army’s
104th Brigade on Jolo scored significant successes over the
last eight years, most notably in the killing of SuperFerry
bomber Abu Solaiman and of Abu Sayyaf leaders involved on the
kidnapping of tourists from a Malaysian resort in 2000, the
unit suffered its share of setbacks with dozens of troops and
officers killed in battles against terrorists. Some recent
offensives against high-value targets and rogue MNLF
commanders on Jolo have failed due to intelligence leaks and
poor communications among the Philippine troops. Despite the
Philippine Marines’ reputation as “bounty hunters” because of
their past successes in counterterrorism operations, the
Mission believes that the combination of a Marine-led force
and the leadership of Brigadier General Juancho Sabban will
give the Philippine forces a leg up in their very challenging
combat operations on Jolo and in the effort to capture
remaining high-value targets. The challenge will be
convincing the media and Arroyo administration critics that
the military can maintain a balance between hard and soft
power, the approach that proved successful in bringing
greater security to Basilan over the past five years.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

JONES

   

 

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