What’s that? The Philippines, you say? But I thought that “serious extremist movements are visible only in Saudi Arabia, Iraq (where they are imported, mainly from the south), Iran, Pakistan, regions of Nigeria and Malaysia, and a tiny number of war zones like Chechnya and southern Thailand.” Hmmm. Maybe I should get a new batch of “experts.” From AFP, with thanks to Romy:
MANILA – The United States has expressed concern about militant training activity on Mindanao in the southern Philippines, warning the rebellion-torn southern region could become the “next Afghanistan.”
Joseph Mussomeli, the number-two official of the US embassy in Manila, urged its Southeast Asian ally to do more to stem the flow of Islamic militant recruits into Mindanao, which he alleged was becoming “the new ‘Mecca’ for terrorism.”
These groups train in bomb-making in Mindanao and have actually conducted bombing campaigns in the country, he added.
“Personally, I’m worried that we’re not worried enough. I think the real danger here, and the danger that has been here since the mid-90s, is that we’re not focused enough on the threat here,” Charge d’affaires Mussomeli said in an interview with Australia’s SBS television.
The mission posted the transcript on its website in Manila.
“Its not the sort of threat that should be worried about coming here on a day-to-day basis. The threat is more long-term: that Mindanao is such a lawless — certain portions of Mindanao — are so lawless, so porous the borders that you run the risk of it becoming like an Afghanistan situation.”
Mussomeli said both governments are aware that certain individuals or factions within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is set to begin peace talks with Manila on Saturday toward a political settlement to the 26 year-old separatist rebellion, have links with both local and foreign militant groups.
Manila officials concede militant factions within the 12,000-member MILF are giving sanctuary and even training facilities to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the alleged Southeast Asian proxy of the Al-Qaeda militant Islamic network, as well as the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf group (ASG).
But Mussomeli said Washington has “firm” information that these camps were still up and running on Mindanao. He refused to elaborate.
“The threat remains and, frankly, in some ways, it is growing. The number of JI that are there, the links between JI and MILF factions and ASG may even be increasing.”
Mussomeli denied that Washington was trying to derail the peace talks, saying: “We certainly do not believe or at least we dont have clear evidence yet that the MILF as an institution, as an organization, have links with the JI or ASG.”
However, “it has to be a genuine peace process, and not a farce. There can’t be real peace unless the links with JI and ASG are severed. That’s the reality.”…
Interesting. I would say the same thing here about US ties with the Saudis, Pakistan, Egypt, etc.
“I would say that there are, within the Philippine government, those who are more reticent to take action and those who feel that action against various targets should be done in a more definitive and quick way. This is, I guess, a problem in all militaries,” he said.
Indeed it is, my good man.