From the Malaya Business Insight (Jul 10): Operations vs Maute fine-tuned, says AFP
THE military is fine-tuning operations against members of the Maute Group still holed up in parts of Marawi City, a military official said yesterday.
The adjustments were crafted during a visit of top security officials in Marawi City last Friday, who checked on efforts to end the conflict which is on its 49th day today.
The conflict has so far resulted in the death of 367 Maute members, 85 soldiers and policemen, and 39 civilians.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office, declined to give details on the adjustments being made on the ground, saying these are operational details that may compromise the efforts to rid the city of Maute remnants.
The visiting officials were led Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año, National Secretary Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and the major service commanders.
Arevalo said the top officials were given a 25-minute briefing by Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commander of the 1st Infantry Division commander and concurrent head of the Joint Task Force Ranao.
“A thorough deliberation and assessment followed unhampered” after the briefing, he said.
Arevalo said Lorenzana, Año and Esperon gave inputs but this does not mean the officials were “imposing” their thoughts on the ground commanders.
Arevalo said the current approach to defeat the Maute may be “perfect” for ground commanders but inputs from “experienced” and “knowledgeable” persons like Lorenzana, Esperon, and Año should be welcomed.
Lorenzana is a former Army major general who commanded the elite Special Operations Command of the Army. Esperon was Armed Forces chief, Army chief, and Army Special Operations Command chief.
“They are merely airing their (views) how it (operations) will be improved,” said Arevalo. He said these inputs were “married” to the concepts of the ground commanders, thus the adjustments.
“It’s going to be implemented because that is what was discussed,” said Arevalo of the adjustments, which he said will hasten the accomplishment of their mission to neutralize the Maute Group, rescue civilian hostages, and pave the way for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city.
“The overall objective is towards the attainment of the mission. The objective is for us to accomplish our mission better,” said Arevalo.
Arevalo reiterated that the military is not setting a timeline as to when to end the conflict. “It might be detrimental to our interest if we are going to set a deadline.”
Asked if they can finish the job before President Duterte’s state of the nation address on July 24, Arevalo said: “We can’t say that, it’s difficult. It’s like setting a deadline already because SONA is on the 24.”
“We are going to finish it the soonest time possible without sacrificing the safety of our civilians and course our personnel... Our objective is to finish this the soonest time possible given the observations and adjustments. We are hopeful that we are going to accomplish it the soonest time possible but we cannot set a deadline,” said Arevalo.
Arevalo said Lorenzana and Año were satisfied at how the operations are being conducted.
Año reiterated that the fighting will be soon over.
“We draw closer to the conclusion of this crisis each day. We are constantly and daily gaining battle space while the terrorists’ grounds recede by the day as our troops press on relentlessly with their advance,” said Año.
“We have the momentum; we dictate the operational tempo; we have the support of the people at large. Thus we are confident that the triumph of the forces of good against that of evil is irreversible. It is just a matter of time,” said Año.
President Duterte attempted to visit Marawi last Friday but the trip did not push through because of bad weather, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a radio interview yesterday.
Malacañang released photos of Duterte in Iligan City, wearing the Army’s camouflage uniform and with a rifle slung on his shoulder.
Andanar said Duterte was in soldier’s uniform to show solidarity with the forces.
Duterte first planned to visit Marawi on June 30, coinciding with his first year anniversary as president, but had to scrap the plan.