Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Martial Law: Total Victory

What a week! With the deaths of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute on Monday October 16th, 2017 the war in Marawi is officially over and the city is officially liberated from terrorists!

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared Marawi “liberated from terrorist influence,” but the military said the five-month battle against gunmen loyal to the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group was not yet over. 
Hours before Mr. Duterte arrived in Barangay Bangolo here after 1 p.m., gunfire rang out sporadically and explosions thudded as government troops fought the leaderless terrorists still holed up in the city.
Wait a minute what is this fake news with the military contradicting Duterte? If Duterte says it's over then it's over. Don't forget what happened to Dangerous Drug Board Chairman Benjamin Reyes when he contradicted Duterte.  He was fired!
Despite President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of the liberation of Marawi City from terrorists, fighting will continue against remaining militants, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, military spokesman, said. 
“In the small pockets where battle is ongoing, it will continue until the last element is dealt with. But the terrorists no longer have the complete control that they used to have in this particular area,” Padilla said in an interview on ANC’s “News Now.” 
“The declaration of the president hopefully gives way to the entry and the start of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi from the ashes,” Padilla noted. 
The AFP spokesperson said that there are still a few terrorists and hostages left in the battle area. 
Padilla added that there are still six to eight foreign fighters in the area “whose spirits are very much down and whose willingness to fight is not as high as it was previously.”
Only six to eight fighters left? Well then yeah it's basically over. Still not fully over 100% but basically over just like being on the last mile of a marathon.  It cannot take much time to kill six to eight fighters.
“I would like to say it’s already done. It’s a complete and total victory for the troops.” 
This was the declaration of Brig. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, commander of the Task Force Marawi, in a send-off ceremony on Saturday of the 10th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT10) out here for Luzon to secure the incoming 31st Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit. 
But Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, told the Inquirer that troops continued to flush out 20 more fighters who were holed up in the main table area. 
“Firing of guns can still be heard right now,” he said. “There are still resistance from our enemies so or troops are very careful.” 
At the same time, Brawner said 11 of 21 hostages rescued on Friday were still being verified if they were really hostages or dependents of Maute and Abu Sayyaf. 
“We are trying to find out how many hostages are still inside the war zone. But we are confident fighting will be over,” Brawner said. 
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said they might be able to proclaim the end of the war on Sunday with only about five structures remaining to be tackled inside the main battle zone.
Looks like those six to eight fighters have high spirits and a strong will to fight. Also they have mysteriously increased to 20 and possibly more if the freed hostages turn out to be terrorists trying to escape. Still it cannot be much longer. Perhaps Sunday?

How did the number of fighters increase by ten to 30? It's just one more building.  How long can it take?

Yay!  Finally. Now let's celeb....
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the senior military commander overseeing the offensive in Marawi, said the troops were poised to finish off the remaining militants confined on one floor of a building in the war-torn city. 
“Yes, tapos na ito (this is finished). We are clearing the last floors,” Galvez said in a brief text message to reporters. 
Army Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Force Ranao, said troops were clearing the building where some 30 Maute fighters were still holed up.
Isn't this thing ever going to end???

“After 154 days of siege in Marawi with Daesh-inspired Maute-ISIS group, after a week the commander-in-chief declared the liberation of Marawi City, we now announce the termination of combat operations in Marawi City,” Lorenzana told reporters on Monday.
After all the premature announcements and the waffling back and forth it is only natural to ask, "Are you sure this time it's for real?"

No doubt the deaths of Hapilon and Maute are victories not only for the AFP but for the entire nation. These men have long terrorised the Philippines and with their demise hopefully the demise of their organisations will follow. Hopefully because, although it's not impossible, such a scenario is not realistic. 
The deaths of top Marawi siege leaders do not signal the end of violent extremism in Mindanao as the threat of extremist group Islamic State still looms in Southeast Asia, the head of the Jakarta-based think tank Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said. 
Jones warned that President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of the liberation of Marawi does not put an end to the crisis in the Southern Philippines as militants could recruit and radicalize those who were displaced by the fighting. 
"But ISIS has not been wiped out in Southeast Asia and Marawi won't be truly liberated until it is safe enough for some 200,000 displaced residents to return. Yet the contours of ISIS activity will shift as fighting winds down," Jones said. 
With Hapilon and Maute dead, there might be retaliatory bombings in cities such as Manila, Davao, Cotabato and Zamboanga, as well as the Philippine embassies abroad, Jones said. 
Lorenzana said the military was expecting retaliatory attacks from local terror groups following the death of the two, but he gave assurance that local government officials and the Armed Forces are working to prevent these from happening. 
"All cities in Mindanao are vulnerable. Everybody here is vulnerable. Every place is vulnerable. What we need to do is be vigilant," he said. 
The head of the Jakarta think-tank also warned that the pro-ISIS fighters in Basilan—the main ISIS base in Mindanao—might return to kidnappings after the death of their leader Hapilon.
This expert on terrorism warns that it is not over.  Of all the scenarios she lists, retaliation, more recruitment from displaced angry Marawi residents, and a return to kidnapping not once does she say that these ISLAMIC terrorists will thrown down their weapons in awe of the might of the AFP who so bravely liberated Marawi from their clutches. Even Duterte is cognisant enough to know retaliation will likely follow.


“The military has been mouthing it and the police, several times, that we prepare for retaliation,” Duterte said in a speech in Manila. 
“We know and I know that it is coming. When? We really do not know.”
Like a bolt of lighting, which you never know when or where it's gonna strikeretaliation will come.  What's the best way to prepare for the unknowable and inevitable?  Start sending people home!
Amid sporadic gunfire, the military began withdrawing forces from Marawi City yesterday, giving a battalion of troops a joyful sendoff following the successful mission to defeat Islamic State-linked Maute extremists. 
The Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB) was the first to pull out from war-torn Marawi after nearly five months of urban warfare that often involved close quarters combat, vastly different from the jungle warfare for which they were trained. 
They were among the first batch of government troops that fought the Maute terrorists in the early stage of the siege in late May. 
Sporadic fighting continued in the city even as the 1IB troops looked forward to a respite from the desolate war scene of smoldering buildings and houses. 
President Duterte visited the Islamic city on Tuesday and announced its liberation, sparking hopes that hundreds of thousands of residents could begin returning home. 
The speed of their return, however, will depend on how quickly the city is declared safe and free of militants.
Did you catch all the contradictions? The mission to defeat extremists is successful but there is still fighting. Duterte declares the city liberated but residents cannot return until the city is declared safe and free of militants. They are being sent home as if the battle is over when it is not.  Of course now it is but then it was not. But even with the cessation of combat there is still clearing of IEDs and unexploded ordnance and recovery of bodies and that unknown and inevitable attack which could come at any moment and will require as many troops as possible.
The beginning of military pullout in the battle-scarred Marawi City does not signal the end of fighting between state forces and remaining ISIS-linked terrorists, MalacaƱang said on Saturday. 
"While enemy force has greatly diminished, we will continue to be alert and assure the residents of the city that we will not compromise its security with the presence of some units of the Armed Forces," presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement. 
"We cannot afford to drop our guard for possible threats coming from the remaining network of Daesh-inspired terrorist group still operating as we begin the challenging task of rebuilding, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Marawi," Abella added.
If Duterte declaring the war over and the city liberated while there is still fighting and the AFP pulling out the troops in the face of retaliatory threats does not indicate they are dropping their guard then just what does it mean? Giving up is bad enough but to declare victory while the battle is still raging is madness. Words have power but not creative power. This is war, not magic! 

If the troops start pulling out who is going to oversee martial law in Mindanao?

Despite the liberation of Marawi City, Mindanao would remain under martial law until the last terrorist is killed, President Duterte said on Thursday. 
“I declared martial law. Everybody is asking when it will stop. It will not stop until the last terrorist is taken out,” the President said during the 43rd Philippine Business Conference in Manila. 
Every last terrorist?  Is this more hyperbole?  Does he really intend to have an all out war with MILF, MNLF, BIFF, NPA, and Abu Sayyaf? I don't believe it and even if he did the AFP is not prepared for such a war which would destroy Mindanao and cause chaos throughout the country. The Battle of Marawi has exposed every flaw in the AFP's fighting capability.  Simply put the AFP is not capable of fighting an urban war and if the cites went up in the flames of war it would be an unimaginable hell in the Philippines. There were only 1,000 Maute in Marawi which is nothing compared to the numbers of the other Islamic terrorist groups. If Abu Sayyaf, MILF, MNLF, BIFF, and the NPA started a war the AFP would be overwhelmed.

After five months of fighting perhaps the best way to ready the troops for more action is a little R&R.
After months enduring intense battle in Marawi, some Philippine soldiers are looking forward to rest and relaxation, and possibly a trip to Hong Kong care of President Rodrigo Duterte. 
The trip was promised two months ago when Duterte visited Marawi on August 4.  
"That's why soldiers are excited for the war to end because they will continue on to Hong Kong," said Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla on Friday, October 20, in a press briefing.
These troops had better not get their hopes up.  Duterte has a way of shirking off his promises.  Like his promise to stop crime and drugs in six months.

Now that the battle is over it's time to begin the long process of rebuilding the city.  How long will it take?
The rehabilitation of war-torn city Marawi may take three years or longer, according to the city’s mayor Majul Usman Gandamra. 
“Sa ating timeline (In our timeline), the minimum is three years onward,” Gandamra said in an interview on CNN Philippines' "The Source."
Three years is not so long a time.  Really it will go by fast.  New buildings will rise from the rubble. More importantly so many funds will be allocated to this project of rebuilding Marawi that it will be impossible to stop the inevitable corruption, fraud, and plunder.  Oh look it's already started!

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