Philippines Announces Joint Australian Counterterrorism Training
On the southern Filipino island of Mindanao, the city of Marawi was once the largest Muslim majority city in the Philippines. However, after 154 days of conflict with a declared ISIS cell in the city, it is unclear if that title can remain.
While the Filipino army announced a conclusion to the battle for Marawi, it has not come without cost. Around 920 militants, 45 civilians, and 165 troops are reported to have died.
Meanwhile, much of the city is left in ruins, leaving 300,000 people displaced from the conflict without any clear home to return to.
The battle against these militants has shone light on the ill-preparedness of the Filipino Army in urban combat situations. This has heightened fears for Australia that ISIS intends to use Mindanao and other Filipino islands to stage actions in Southeast Asia.
When the conflict began, the Australian government suggested training Filipino security forces in counterterrorism tactics. Now that the battle is over, the Filipino government has officially accepted this offer.
Australian Defense Minister, Marise Payne, has stated it would provide, “practical training… which will support the Philippines defense force to be able to counter what are very brutal tactics by terrorists.”
The Australian Defense Forces (ADF’s) will have about 80 members in the Philippines military bases, training security forces. Having years of urban combat experience in the Middle East, ADF’s are confident in their ability to ready Filipino combat personnel.
There will also be additional support from the Australian Navy, which intends to conduct visits and training activities to increase the readiness and capacity of the Philippine’s navy.
As for the Air Force, Australia has already been conducting surveillance flights over Marawi in support of the Filipino Army. It is expected to continue gathering intelligence operations to root out terror cells.
Outlooks are hopeful that this cooperation will strengthen the Philippines ability to counter terrorism within its own borders. While countries like the United States continue to supply much logistical support, Australia’s first step towards a regional security bloc may perhaps yield better results than those initiatives based further abroad.