Pa­cific ter­ror­ism

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces in the Pa­cific have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in the past year bat­tling the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf ter­ror­ist group in the Philip­pines.

“Abu Sayyaf [. . .] has been mit­i­gated very suc­cess­fully by the gov­ern­ment of the Philip­pines and their se­cu­rity forces,” said a se­nior of­fi­cer of the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand-Pa­cific, known as SOC-PAC, which is sup­port­ing op­er­a­tions against the Is­lamist group.

“In the past year, sev­eral of their key lead­ers have been killed.”

The of­fi­cer said dur­ing a back­ground brief­ing in Honolulu, where the SOC-PAC has its head­quar­ters, that the re­main­ing Abu Sayyaf mem­bers are di­vided and fight­ing among them­selves over who will re­place lead­ers who have been killed.

Ad­di­tion­ally, elec­tronic “chat­ter” picked up from the group about plans for at­tacks against Filipino and U.S. tar­gets re­vealed that “it’s just that, chat­ter,” the of­fi­cer said, not­ing that in the past such chat­ter has led to ac­tual at­tacks.

“So their abil­ity to turn chat­ter into ac­tion has been sub­stan­tially mit­i­gated in the past year,” the of­fi­cer said.

The of­fi­cer would not say that the group has been de­feated, but an­other sign of its grow­ing weak­ness as an Is­lamist ter­ror­ist force is that many mem­bers of Abu Sayyaf are turn­ing them­selves in to Philip­pines au­thor­i­ties.

“This is a great suc­cess for the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment,” he said, not­ing that many were dis­armed, de­briefed and rein­te­grated back into so­ci­ety. Some re­ceived cash re­wards for giv­ing up their Abu Sayyaf mem­ber­ship.

The suc­cess against Abu Sayyaf is an in­di­rect re­sult of U.S. spe­cial forces troops — Army, Air Force and Navy com­man­dos — who helped train and as­sist Filipino se­cu­rity forces. A key el­e­ment of the as­sis­tance has been the pro­vi­sion of mil­i­tary equip­ment and intelligence.

A sec­ond ma­jor U.S. spe­cial op­er­a­tions ef­fort in the Pa­cific is sup­port to the In­done­sian gov­ern­ment in bat­tling an­other al Qaeda-linked group, Je­maah Is­lamiyah, that op­er­ates through­out South­east Asia.

Je­maah Is­lamiyah “is a lit­tle tougher tar­get be­cause In­done­sia, un­like Philip­pines, is a Mus­lim coun­try,” the of­fi­cer said.

“In In­done­sia the dif­fi­culty is that the gov­ern­ment is play­ing hard­ball against this group but at the same time is cater­ing to the ide­o­log­i­cal bent of the so­ci­ety,” the of­fi­cer said, not­ing that a lot of “em­pa­thy” for the group ex­ists in In­done­sia, mak­ing coun­ter­ing it more dif­fi­cult.

Pa­cific Com­mand-based spe­cial op­er­a­tions com­man­dos cur­rently are work­ing with lo­cal forces in Bangladesh, Cam­bo­dia, In­done­sia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philip­pines, Sri Lanka and Thai­land.

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