Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/09/07MANILA3266.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA3266
2007-09-28 04:59
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #3266/01 2710459
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 280459Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8417
INFO 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 MANILA 003266

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2017
TAGS: MARR MASS MCAP PREL RP
SUBJECT: POSITIVE CHANGE IN ARMED FORCES LEADERSHIP, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN

REF: A. MANILA 2474 (JULY BASILAN ATTACK)

¶B. MANILA 2714 (MILITARY SHOWING RESTRAINT)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney for Reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: A wide-ranging overhaul of armed forces
commands in recent weeks has shifted some of the most capable
and seasoned veterans in the Philippine military into key
leadership positions. The command changes, along with a
distinct tactical shift toward more carefully targeted
military actions and an increased emphasis on improving civil
and social infrastructure in Mindanao, signal that the
government’s commitment to military reform is real and
concrete. Despite a structural shift in doctrine that has
improved its image and brought battlefield successes, the
Philippine military still faces challenges both from Muslim
terrorist groups and from pockets of internal dissent
resistant to the changes being pushed by President Arroyo and
Defense Secretary Teodoro. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) In late August, the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) carried out sweeping leadership changes in both
headquarters and regional commands that reflect a
strengthened emphasis on reform and its desire to implement
policies that bolster long-term stability. New leaders for
the Army, Marines and six other commands were brought in at
headquarters, while the heads of five regional commands and
the Special Operations Command also were changed. Embassy
military experts as well as Philippine military officials
widely view the new commanders as some of the most qualified
individuals in the armed services. In addition to combat
experience, they bring a potent mix of leadership, vision,
management, and loyalty to the top echelons of the armed
forces.

————————————
Seeing Success From Better Training,
Focus on Civil-Military Operations
————————————

¶3. (C) The command changes are indicative of the momentum
behind Philippine Defense Reform, both in the government and
military, and the armed forces’ increased emphasis on
improving military capabilities while building civilian
infrastructure and social goodwill to mitigate support for
terrorist and insurgent elements. The new commanders have
shown a willingness to adapt their tactics to include
significant civil-military operations, and with U.S. help,
the training and civil-military operations are beginning to
pay dividends.

¶4. (C) Following brutal attacks against government forces
on Basilan and Jolo in July and August by Abu Sayyaf and Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces that resulted in the
deaths of 56 AFP troops (including 10 marines who were
beheaded), the military exercised restraint and discipline
(REFTELS A and B). Commanders did not order their troops
blindly into battle, instead choosing to conduct targeted
operations that quickly brought down the temperature of an
overheated situation — and resulted in the death or capture
of key Abu Sayyaf and insurgent leaders. Although the
terrorist groups may have been trying to bait the AFP into
reprisal attacks to gain support among the local population,
AFP units continued to conduct civil affairs projects in
concert with their military actions. Many believe new Army
chief LtGen Alexander Yano will continue this measured
approach. “Jess” Dureza, adviser to President Arroyo on the
peace process, described Yano as “a tiger,” but also a
“charismatic diplomat” who is determined to win the hearts
and minds of his enemy. “While he’s a good combat soldier,
he has a peace paradigm,” Dureza said.

¶5. (C) U.S. forces operating in support of Philippine
operations in Mindanao have similarly noted more rapid
adaptation and operational improvement on the part of
Philippine units in the last year. From enhanced
effectiveness of air support for ground forces, to improved
intelligence sharing, to a greater ability to conduct
integrated operations in difficult terrain, Philippine forces
have shown that in a short time, they have taken training
from the classroom into the field, taking steps to eliminate
the terrorist threat while engaging the civilian population
to change the conditions that foster terrorism. Medical
civil action programs conducted by AFP and U.S. forces in the
first two weeks of Ramadan in September were a recent example
of this strategy. Respecting religious sensitivities, the

events were conducted in the evenings to ensure that they
were consistent with the restrictions placed on practicing
Muslims during Ramadan.

—————————–
TOP OFFICERS, DEMANDING ROLES
—————————–

¶6. (C) New Army chief LtGen Yano perhaps best characterizes
the leadership and judgment skills common to many of the new
commanders. As tactical leader during a 2001 hostage crisis
in Mindanao, he successfully directed the release of over a
hundred hostages and liberated the Cabatanga complex in
Zamboanga City from more than 300 armed members of a
breakaway Muslim insurgent group. Yano’s extensive contact
with the U.S. military over his career, including visits to
Parris Island and Ft. Bragg in 2004, appear to have shaped
his ideas on training. He is focused on building a
disciplined army, saying that “military adventurism will not
be tolerated,” and is seen as a potential successor to the
current armed forces chief of staff, General “Jun” Esperon.
Yano, who hails from Mindanao, is admired for leading by
example. “I believe our commanders must be with the men in
the field, sharing difficulties and closely supervising their
actions,” Yano said in his change of command address.

¶7. (C) Other notable assignments include the new commander
for Western Mindanao, Marine Major General Nelson Allaga, who
will now be at the forefront of fighting Abu Sayyaf elements
and Moro Islamic Liberation Front insurgents on Sulu and
Basilan; Major General “Ben” Mohammed Dolorfino, new
commander of the Philippine Marine Corps; and Major General
Jaime Buenaflor, commander of the newly formed National
Development Command, a civil-military operations group which
will focus the efforts of its three engineering battalions on
infrastructure and health improvements on Basilan.
Dolorfino, the highest-ranking Muslim in the Philippine armed
forces, is described as a “level-headed fighter,” similar to
his predecessor Allaga, and is popular among the Marines.
Buenaflor, former deputy for civil-military efforts, is
well-suited to leading the National Development Command
inaugurated in September, whose purpose is to enhance
prospects for peace in Mindanao by bringing village-level
road, water, sewer, school and health improvements to
communities most badly affected by the long-running conflict
in the South.

——————————————
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL THREATS STILL EXTANT
——————————————

¶8. (C) Despite these successes, very real external and
internal threats remain. A total of 19 officers accused of
plotting failed 2003 and 2006 coup attempts are still in
custody, and how the military courts handle the judicial
process will be scrutinized by opposition groups and the
public. During a September 18 press event, Secretary of
National Defense Gilberto Teodoro was asked about the threats
from inside the military. While some in the audience
initially dismissed the question as spurious, Teodoro
answered that there was “a small but persistent threat,” and
that the challenge was to identify and engage those
individuals who were dissatisfied. The next day, General
Esperon announced that six junior officers had been sacked on
coup rumors.

¶9. (C) In the fight against terrorists, the AFP continues to
apply steady pressure, especially on the islands of Jolo and
Basilan. On September 23, a day-long firefight on Basilan
between Philippine military forces and Abu Sayyaf units left
two soldiers dead and ten wounded. The engagement was a
stark reminder that while the AFP is making great strides in
reducing the effectiveness of the terrorist groups, the fight
for security is ongoing.

¶10. (C) The September 23 engagement with the Abu Sayyaf,
while tragic, profiled a tangible example of how the AFP is
improving its operational capability. On the day before the
attack, U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force personnel
had conducted a training seminar at the Western Mindanao
Command Headquarters on casualty evacuation techniques. Of
the 30 Filipino civilian and military personnel who
participated in the seminar, many were involved in the
evacuation operation following the firefight the next day.
U.S. personnel cite the reduction in response time (from an
average of three hours to one hour)in evacuating the injured
soldiers as the key reason that the death toll was not higher.

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/

KENNEY

   

 

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