Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Lessons learned from Marawi

From Malaya Business Insight (Oct 24): Lessons learned from Marawi

ARMED Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año said the military could have done better in the just-concluded battle against the Maute Group in Marawi City had it better appreciated intelligence information about the plan of the Islamic State-inspired group to attack and take control of the city.

He said the military had been so focused on going after the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters Maguindanao prior to the attack on May 23 that it failed to fully appreciate information that reached it.

“It’s in appreciation of intelligence information,” said Año on the area where the military could have improved. “Information reached us but we’re busy running after terrorists in Sulu, in Basilan (and) in Maguindanao,” he said.

Año had targeted to defeat the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups within the first six months of the year. That objective was not attained, partly because the military had to shift focus in containing the Marawi crisis.

“We lacked appreciation (of intelligence information) that these bunch of Maute ISIS holed somewhere in Butig and Piagapo (towns in Lanao del Sur) will do the unthinkable -- which is occupy Marawi,” said Año.

The Marawi siege was led by senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, said to have been named by the Islamic State as its leader for Southeast Asia, and brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute. The three died in the operation.

“It was there where we lacked appreciation. We could have prepared and deployed more troops and we should have assigned commanders with high-level of appreciation of intelligence,” said Año

Año said had the military appreciated the intelligence information, “we could have developed and deployed more intelligence assets in those areas (in Marawi).”

Año, who is due to retire from the service on Thursday, would not acknowledge that the feat in Marawi is the defining moment of his 37-year military career. He assumed the top military post in December last year.

“Not really, this (feat) is team effort. This is still AFP (effort), it so happened that I am the chief of staff and I’m happy that during this critical time, I’m the one at the helm of the AFP,” he said.

Año last month said the conflict would be over before he retires.

Año also said the Marawi conflict should serve as a lesson to the people.

“For so many years that the Maute Group built up in Marawi, not even one gave information to us. Who is at the losing end here? It’s the people of Marawi who did not give us information and didn’t cooperate,” he said.

Videos and documents found by the military showed the Maute had planned for the attack.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the end of the operations  in Marawi yesterday, after five months of fierce and unfamiliar urban war that has marked the country’s biggest security crisis in years.

The Maute occupation stunned a military inexperienced in urban combat and stoked wider concerns that Islamic State loyalists have gained influence among local Muslims and have ambitions to use Mindanao as a base for operations in Southeast Asia.

Those fears are compounded by the organization of the Maute and its ability to recruit young fighters, lure foreign radicals, stockpile huge amounts of arms, and endure 154 days of ground offensive and air strikes.

President Duterte declared Marawi City liberated six days ago, even though fighting was not actually over.


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