Saturday, June 15, 2019

US, PH to launch program to stop IS recruitment

From the Manila Timesn (Jun 16, 2019): US, PH to launch program to stop IS recruitment

A Joint Filipino-American program aimed at stifling recruitment efforts by Islamic State (IS)-linked militants in southern Philippines would be launched within weeks, a senior US State Department official said.

Filipino and American officials were finalizing the program, while also preparing to release results of a study showing that poverty was not a major driver of radicalization in four southern Philippine provinces, where extremist groups operate, US Assistant State Secretary Denise Natali said in an interview on Thursday with BenarNews, an international news online agency.

“The program is being finalized and should be launched in the next couple of weeks,” said Natali, chief of the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.

The study, conducted by Washington from December 2017 to May 2018, involved 1,213 Muslim respondents in the four southern Philippine provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Lanao del Sur, Natali said.

In a bid to carve out their own wilayah, or province, local militants led the 2017 siege in Marawi, capital of Lanao del Sur and former Muslim trading hub.

Fighter jets pounded the militants with near-daily bombing runs to end a five-month battle that killed more than 1,200 people, most of them local extremists backed by an undetermined number of foreign fighters, and left the city center devastated.

Contrary to common belief, sympathy for Filipino militant groups in those provinces might be related to local grievances rather than to IS or al-Qaida, Natali said. “If there is a key finding, it was that this is very local,” she said.

The survey also found that respondents who had expressed sympathy for violent extremism tended to be better off economically than their resilient peers, Natali said.

“There is no statistical difference between wealth and poverty,” she said. “There is no direct causal relationship between poverty and violent extremism in this case.”

Despite the findings, according to Natali, there was not a one-size-fits-all program for dealing with extremist groups.

“So, what we do in one country has to be then tailored to another,” she said. “What we find in one province can differ in another province, and even within different localities in a province.”

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