Enter Our Aussie Military Mates
With its trade, mining, and economic interests in the Philippines, it is
no wonder that Australia is pushing for the signing of military treaties
with the Philippine government. There were reports that even without a
treaty, 20 soldiers from the elite Australian Special Air Service (SAS)
were involved in combat operations with AFP and U.S. Special Forces troops
BY CAESAR BEN BASAN BAROÑA
Navy HMA Ships Darwin and Newcastle dock at Manila's south harbor Oct.
6 for a port visit and to participate in a joint maritime training
Photo courtesy of
report in an Australian national newspaper alleged that 20 soldiers from
the elite Australian Special Air Service (SAS) unit were involved in a
joint military operation hunting alleged terrorists, including two
suspects in the 2002 Bali bombing, who are believed to be hiding in
The report said that the joint operations, involving the use of high-speed
inflatable boats, were also being conducted to prevent the infiltration
and exfiltration of alleged terrorists in the waters of southern
The campaign, which is in its second month, was directed against the Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Jolo Island. The ASG is allegedly giving refuge to
Indonesians Dulmatin and Umar Patek, suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah
Believed involved in the operations were about 100 U.S. Special Forces,
including Green Berets, Navy SEALs, CIA counter-terrorism specialists, and
the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Those involved in the military
operations were operating in groups led by highly-mobile intelligence
teams, the report said.
The Australian government through Defense Minister Brendan Nelson denied
the report but admitted that Australian SAS troops were providing
“training and logistics” support to counterterrorism operations of the AFP.
AFP officials have also strongly denied the report.
The Philippine Constitution specifically bars foreign troops from engaging
in combat operations in Philippine soil. But human rights groups and
people’s organizations suspect that Philippine authorities have been
allowing American and Australian forces to be involved in combat
operations. There were reported sightings of U.S. troops in areas where
AFP soldiers were conducting patrols and combat operations especially in
Mindanao. U.S. officials denied this saying that their troops were
involved only in training and providing intelligence support to the AFP.
After the September 11 attacks, the Philippines was declared as the
“second front in the war against terror” by U.S. President George W.
Bush. U.S. officials also said that Mindanao replaced Afghanistan as a
terrorist training base and a “sanctuary of terror.” Every JI-linked
bombing since 2000 allegedly involved graduates of “terrorist training
camps” in Mindanao.
The main targets of the U.S. “global war on terror” in Mindanao are JI and
ASG members, along with Islamic converts like the Rajah Solaiman Movement
(RSM). Both the U.S. and Philippine governments said that these groups
have followers in Metro Manila and Northern Luzon. The declared aim of the
“war on terror” in Mindanao is to close down “terrorist sanctuaries.”
But the “war on terror” and the presence of U.S. troops in Mindanao are
being viewed with resentment and cynicism by the Bangsa Moro people. U.S.
troops were involved in a bloody war of pacification directed against
local Muslims during the American colonial period at the turn of the 20th
century. The “war on terror” has also resulted in massive displacements
of Moro communities in Sulu.
Australia has been pushing for a NATO-type treaty with the Philippines.
Like the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, agreements like
the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the Caracha program aim to
increase Australian participation in counterterrorism operations.
Australia's Defense Ministry has been working to develop a 30-boat army
watercraft capability for riverine and marshland operations, along with
training support. Australian-made Rigid-Hulled Inflatable boats with
Kevlar armour are already being supplied to the Philippine Navy for border
Canberra is proposing to further boost Australian involvement in
Philippine counter-terrorism operations, a move that is welcomed by the
Philippine government. It is no small coincidence that the newly-appointed
Philippine ambassador to Canberra was formerly a vice-admiral who helped
craft the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement with U.S. forces in 2002.
What is seen as a painful thorn on the side of the proposed agreement is
the Philippine Constitution with its prohibitions on the stationing and
operations of foreign troops in the country. The Australian government
also notes that nationalist sentiments recently stirred by the Subic rape
case, involving four U.S. soldiers, could complicate the approval of the
On the other hand, it has also been observed by political focus groups
that the Philippine Senate approved the Visiting Forces Agreement
following Chinese incursions in the disputed Mischief Reef. There are
speculations that renewed “terrorist bombings” would push the Philippine
government to approve another military treaty, this time with Australia.
Australia is a close ally of the United States, deploying a military
contingent in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This was despite a recent poll
which revealed that 84 percent of Australians opine that the war in Iraq
has not diminished the threat of terrorism. The same poll also showed that
91 percent of Australians believe that the reputation of the United States
has been damaged in the Muslim world.
Australia has moved from a layered continental-wide defense strategy to a
more “forward-looking” one, in consonance with its investments abroad. To
project its regional-power status the Australian government has been
deploying troops in several Pacific islands but is being accused of
arrogance and neocolonialism. Australia has trade, mining, and other
economic interests in the Philippines, making it a favourable site for
deployment and operations of Australian troops. Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
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