The US is behind the AFP’s counterinsurgency

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The Philippine Army First Scout Ranger Regiment’s commanding officer recently went to visit Indonesia from March 29 to April 1 to plan out the scheduled military exercises between the Philippines and Indonesia in June 2022. The exercises supposedly aim to share knowledge, tactics and techniques, and methods of conducting counterinsurgency operations.

While it appears that the neighboring countries are independently planning out their actions, their counterinsurgency campaigns are being conducted within the US “global war against terrorism.” The series of training by the militaries of these nations such as “Balikatan” in the Philippines and “Gandura Shield” in Indonesia, make these armies appendages of the US military in fighting revolutionaries and rival imperialist nations.

In the Philippines, even as ruling regimes change, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ remains obeisant, following the baton of the US counterinsurgency doctrine. Even as Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends in June, the brutal counterinsurgency war designed by him and the US will continue to terrorize peasant and tribal communities. This poses a challenge to the guerrilla warfare being waged by the New People’s Army in defense of the people.

Increased forces against a “weakened enemy”

Despite repeatedly bragging that the NPA will be crushed before the end of Duterte’s term, the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) added new combat units against the people’s army in 2021. Currently, there are 166 combat battalions of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Scout Rangers, PNP Special Action Force and other police and military units deployed against the NPA.

This superfluity has enabled the AFP and PNP to deploy five to six battalions in their priority subregional areas or guerrilla fronts of the NPA. Also, two to three battalions are assigned to non-focused subregions and guerrilla fronts.

An estimated 60% of the total number of combat units against the NPA are deployed in the regions of Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, Southern Mindanao, Bicol and North Central Mindanao. There is also a marked increase in reactionary forces deployed in Far South Mindanao and Negros.

Meanwhile, the newly-created 102nd IB is currently in Cagayan, bringing the number of battalions in the province to five, aside from the PNP’s combat forces. The move aims to defeat the NPA in the area in order for the US and the AFP to focus on China, which is only around 840 kilometers from the province. It was in the shores of Claveria, Cagayan that the US 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment recently trained for the specific mission of attacking China. (Read related article: Balikatan 2022: Heightening US-China rivalry and counterinsurgency war)

Shock-and-awe forces

Since 2017, the enemy has been carrying out Joint Operations in line with the US Army’s Combined Armed Operations. This purports to overcome the lack of coordination between different military branches for a sustained attack.

The commands of combat units, artillery and tanks, attack planes and helicopters and naval forces are unified for a coordinated shock-and-awe attack against the guerrilla forces. Correspondingly, Joint Task Forces headed by the generals of the infantry divisions were organized in the regions. The US also provides support to the AFP’s cyberwarfare capability in order to enhance the latter’s internal communications system in commanding battles.

They deploy more forces to lay siege on communities by integrating the police forces in the operations.

It is also under this principle that the Brigade Combat Team was created with its own combined arms and continuous training by the US. This unit was deployed to the 11th ID which was formed in 2018 with a funding of at least ₱900 million. The 11th ID’s operations cover the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, where US military forces maintain their base.

The seemingly overwhelming military superiority, including hundreds of billions of funds poured by Duterte, is not a sign of strength but an indication of the ruling system relying on armed suppression to perpetuate themselves in power.

The US is behind the AFP's counterinsurgency