ISIS in the Philippines (Part III – Conclusion)
By: Jeff Bates
Image of a Marine training Philippine soldiers in urban warfare. (2017. PH, US Marines hold joint urban warfare training amid Marawi offensives).
Sustainability of a Caliphate
It is debatable whether the newly created caliphate would survive economically in the long run. If a caliphate is declared, it would be quite easy for other countries to impose sanctions on the territory and block the exportation and importation of key products that would sustain the caliphate. However, if the caliphate were to maintain control of its territory, sympathizers could support the group economically through illegal money transfers. Some of the top exported goods from the Philippines include:
1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$32.9 billion (48.7% of total exports)
2. Machinery including computers: $9.6 billion (14.3%)
3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $2.2 billion (3.3%)
(Workman, Daniel. 2019)
Electrical machinery, computers, and medical apparatus could amount to a high profit if these goods were smuggled out to places that would pay for these. Thus, the caliphate has the potential of keeping itself financially stable.
Efforts to Control ISIS in the Region
As United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, Owen West, and Vice Director for Operations at the Joint Staff, Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hecker, testified to the House Armed Services Committee in February 2019,
“ISIS…has morphed from a fake caliphate to an insurgency. This form of ISIS will continue to pose a threat while being less susceptible to kinetic attack. To defeat this global network and others like it, including al Qa’ida and its affiliates, requires a coalition of allies applying pressure at the local level.”
Philippine police and military personnel are applying heavy pressure on the island nation’s terrorist organizations already, which has the potential to stop ISIS from gaining new territory. Additionally, in an effort to keep ISIS out of Indonesia and Malaysia, these two countries have offered military assistance to the Philippines. The three countries have a trilateral agreement to protect each other both at sea and on the ground. This includes joint ground patrols on the Southern islands on the Philippines (South, Todd. 2018).
US influence in Southeast Philippines
The United States is also heavily involved in defeating ISIS in the Philippines. Going forward, there are 5 US military bases planned for construction in the country, the first, a storage facility. During the battle of Malawi, 250 US troops were involved in training and assistance missions.
During the operations, a fleet of drones were used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. ISR missions by US forces continue in areas where ISIS and the other terrorist networks are thought to be hiding. It is believed that many of the ISIS fighters in Malawi were targeted by US military drones and that US Marine Special Operation Forces carried out several raids in the city. The US is spending a lot of money on military assets in the Philippines. A budget that passed both Congresses allotted $108 million dollars for the US military in the Philippines, with nearly a third of that money going towards ISR activities. Joint exercises with Philippine troops are expanding as well. In 2018, exercise “Balikatan” used 5,000 Philippine and US troops. In 2019, the same exercise enjoined 8,000 troops, 3,000 of which were US troops (South, Todd. 2018).
Conclusion of reports
In conclusion, although the potential of an Islamic State being created in the Southern Philippines is an actual threat, the US, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippine militaries are applying steady pressure against the extremists in the country. This will likely slow or stop completely the rise of a self-proclaimed Islamic state in the Philippines. Politically, the tough speaking President, Rodrigo Duterte, will be hard pressed by his own citizens, and other nations to prevent an Islamic State from developing in the Philippines. Although the country is no stranger to fighting terrorists, it will take much effort from security forces to capture and kill leaders of the terrorist organizations. With continued military and policing operations, the Islamic State will have a difficult time developing an actual Islamic territory under its control in the foreseeable future.
2017. PH, US Marines hold joint urban warfare training amid Marawi offensives. ABS-CBN News. Accessed from https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/06/30/17/ph-us-marines-holdjoint-urban-warfare-training-amid-marawi-offensives on April 22, 2019.
South, Todd. 2018. Pentagon to spend nearly $5M on Marine Corps mission in the Philippines. Marine Corps Times. Accessed from https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2018/08/09/pentagontriples-military-spending-in-philippines/ on April 20, 2019
Workman, Daniel. 2019. Philippines Top 10 Exports. World’s Top Exports. Accessed from http://www.worldstopexports.com/philippines-top-10-exports/ on April 20, 2019