Will there be other Marawis to come?
Marawi has set a dangerous trend. President Duterte should not boast this early because the “victory” against terrorists in Marawi may be an illusion. It is too early to tell. Then US President Barack Obama also boasted prematurely of “victory” in the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which was followed by the unprecedented growth of terrorism, manifested in bombs in London, Madrid, Paris, and Barcelona. For indeed, the charisma of martyr Bin Laden triggered a pulse in millions of Muslims worldwide. Would it have been better if he lived and died in old age?
Marawi gives us a lesson. The terrorists have sophisticated arms as the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We were surprised on how many soldiers were killed. They had seasoned snipers just as the AFP did. (Or was it the Americans doing the sniping?) We thought that when they were surrounded, it would be just a matter of days before they would surrender. But it took five months, and the game is not really over yet. Cleanup operation is still needed.
The key element to the persistence of the Abu Sayyaf-Maute partnership is the Islamic State connection, which provided both state-of-the-art arms and ample funds to hold out. The IS knew the idea of a Marawi-based caliphate was important for its image to show the world that they have a foothold in Asia. “Caliphate-ism” was the battle cry to rally Muslims worldwide. But alas, it was just a PR move. A Marawi caliphate is a ridiculous notion.
The IS earns millions of dollars per day from the oil wells it operates in Syria. It sells clandestinely to Iran and Turkey, which are eager buyers. Ideology is only second to economics, politics to livelihood. The funds the IS gave to Marawi are a drop in the bucket, but not for the Abu Sayyaf-Maute tandem. It was more than enough to hold out in a protracted war akin to Mosul or Aleppo.
Terrorists know Marawi is not a defeat; it is just the beginning. Terrorists are learning new tricks after being well-armed and well-funded. Will there be new Marawis to come? Even Mr. Duterte and the AFP believe so, preaching vigilance. Never mind the ridiculous caliphate concept. They will strike again, and hopefully it will not be like Marawi.
Mr. Duterte boasted at the Asean meeting of defense ministers at Clark that China and Russia provided arms, the United States and Australia the intel and expertise. He must be careful not to escalate toward a proxy war similar to Syria, where foreign powers became more powerful than the government to control the destiny of the nation itself.
BERNIE V. LOPEZ, firstname.lastname@example.org
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