Battles of Marawi, Mosul and Raqqa fall into the same pattern

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YEN MAKABENTA

First word
THIS is why we must fear the worst scenario in Mindanao.

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This tells us how grave was (is) the threat posed to the Philippine state by the siege of Marawi by the Islamic State-affiliated Maute group.

In the Islamic State’s avowed goal of establishing a wilayat (province) in Southeast Asia, in the strategy and tactics in the ensuing battle, in the abuse and displacement of the civilian population, in the destruction of the city center and city installations, in the use of sniper fighters to fight off government forces, and in the grueling endgame, the IS-inspired assault on Marawi, Mosul and Raqqa has followed remarkably the same pattern. You cannot set apart the local struggles from the overarching Islamic State.

I hope this point has been fully considered by the Supreme Court in its ruling today on the petitions against the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao. The international character of the conflict is material in every way.

Wishful thinking
Significantly, even the wishful thinking of the forces fighting the Islamic State has followed a similar pattern.

Consider:
1.On Thursday, June 29, 2017, while addressing policemen at Camp Quintin Mercado in Buhangin, Davao City, President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he could see the end of the ongoing clash of state forces against the Maute group. He said: “The way the battle is evolving now, I think it will be a matter of days…Before the end of the month, matatapos na eh. We are winning the war, do not worry.”.

Fighting has been going on in Marawi since May 23, when members of the Maute group seized several key installations in the city.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been more elastic in his timeline. He expects clashes to end before Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

But the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the AFP is not setting any deadlines for the end of hostilities.

2. On the same date, Thursday, June 29, in Mosul, Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider a-Abadi declared an end to the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in the region, as anti-Islamic State coalition forces were on the offensive in both the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa. He said: “We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state. The liberation of Mosul proves that.”

On Friday, June 30, a senior commander of the Iraqi armed forces seconded the prime minister with his own statement. He declared that Iraq will declare victory over the Islamic State group in Mosul during the “next few days.”

What emboldened these statements was the successful penetration by Iraqi forces of Mosul’s Old City, where IS fighters were making their last stand. The Iraqi troops reached the al-Nuri Mosque, a hugely symbolic win. The site is where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance in July 2014, where he declared the self-styled Islamic “caliphate” encompassing territories then held by the extremists in Syria and Iraq.

Fall of the caliphate
3. The cross-border “caliphate” encompassing swathes of Iraq and Syria is now facing twin offensives in Mosul and Raqqa, the two most emblematic strongholds of IS. This has led many analysts to predict the imminent fall of the caliphate.

“In the next few days, we will announce the final victory over Daesh,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, told the media in Mosul.

Across the border in Raqqa, coalition officials predicted a long, bloody battle ahead for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, even as it succeeded in completely encircling the militants’ de-facto capital on June 29. US-led coalition officials estimated that as many as 2,500 IS fighters still remained in Raqqa.

While the loss of the two cities would be a major blow to IS, it would not mark the end of the threat posed by the group, which could return to the insurgent-style attacks that were its hallmark in years past.

To these defeats in Mosul and Raqqa, the failure in Marawi will be added

Aquino ignored IS threat
In all these cities, the Islamic State are now merely fighting for survival. Defeat is inevitable.

This perspective must not be missed in looking at the endgame in Marawi. It is key to a full assessment of the threat to the nation and the final resolution of the conflict.

How did IS grow to such a point that it could lay siege to an entire Philippine city without being challenged.

Disturbing information is now emerging that the threat from Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants in the Philippines was made known to the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, but he merely shrugged it off.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a briefing last June 6, said confiscated funds allegedly owned by the Maute group began to pile up from as early as 2014. Aquino was still the President at that time.

“Apparently the money had been compiled from 2014 to 2016, based on records. It had been slowly accumulated over a period of two years,” Abella said.

President Aquino suffered a major blow from the IS during his term. On April 9, 2016, Abu Sayyaf rebels killed 18 soldiers in an encounter in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

In July 2014, Abu Sayyaf’s leader Isnilon Hapilon gave a bayah (pledge of allegiance) to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Hapilon has been declared the IS emir in Marawi City, which IS leaders in the Middle East claimed as their wilayat.

No security strategy
Duterte, in recent speeches, has indicated that Maute rebels received financial support both from the international terror network based in the Middle East and from local drug syndicates. As one proof of this, he claimed that P10 million worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) packs were found in the possession of former Marawi City Mayor Omar Solitario Ali.

Ali, who was included in the Duterte’s infamous list of alleged narco-politicians, is suspected to be a financier of the Maute group. (Ali denied this in an article he contributed to the Manila Times, “We can defeat the IS and the Mautes,” June 30 and July 1, 2017. —Ed.)

These facts in the record underscore both the lack of a coherent strategy and plan for the defense of Philippine territory, and the appalling lack of intelligence to support national security forces.

Loud debates about the Constitution and martial law are emptied of meaning when the vigil over national security is lax. Do we even have a national security adviser who knows his job and can talk sense to our people?

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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3 Comments

  1. Did this Maute and Isnilon thought they could win. What were they they thinking? really?

  2. The IS is no doubt a bane to our society. The fact that its leader, Abubakr al-Baghdadi is not a Muslim but a Jew whose real name is Simon Elliot has become public knowledge. And this is evident in their operational template which destroyed only Muslim places. Even in their terroristic activities perpetrated in non-Muslim countries, it is very clear that Muslims living in those countries are the ones who suffer for any repercussions arising therefrom. But if your basis for the suspicion that the Mautes indeed receive financial support is the P10M worth of shabu allegedly found on a house abandoned by Solitario Ali seven years ago owing to the death of his wife and donated it to a Madrasah operated by aTurkish, then you are prejudging a case far from the realm of “beyond reasonable doubt”. God knows, I have not come to the defense of the Mautes/Ali. In the first place, they don’t know me. The only thing I could remember was sometime in the early part of 2000, I shook hands with Ali when I happened to bump into him inside Dunkin Donuts restaurant in Iligan City. I admired him then because of his considerable accomplishments being Mayor of Marawi. My reaction for your article springs from my sense of fairness to put things in right perspective. On the issue of ML, my take is that any adverse turn of event bears down on the civilians who might be radicalized by the abuses and excesses of some unruly soldiers thinking that the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus entails the suspension of Bill of Rights. From my source, there have been five cases of rape reported that occurred near the military camp, Campo Ranao, since the war erupted. Peering at the social media, you will find pictures of soldiers forcibly barging into houses without the presence of owners resulting to rampant looting. This turn of events is a sweet fodder for radicalism that we ought to fight against if we are to nip the bud of extremism.

    • Perhaps folks like you need to enlighten Sam Elliot’s rabid adherents that they are being duped.On second thought, their minds must probably be too addled by crack that they are no longer capable of reasoning clearly. In their disordered thinking – kidnapping, beheading innocents, desecrating churches, using non-Muslims as human shields, extortion, or planting IEDs justify the end goals of Islamic extremism. Well, you see these are also fodder for people’s wrath. If law enforcement and troops are rendered inutile by the constant objections of sjw-bleeding-hearts, the situation will eventually force citizens to take matters into their hands and fight fire with fire.