Support our mission
 
A fishing village is shown from above Jolo Island, Philippines. U.S. and Philippine officials say fighting an insurgency in the island's heavy jungles - and in other areas in the southern Philippines - is a long, tough task. Many insurgents have friends and family -- and often support -- in villages near where they operate.
A fishing village is shown from above Jolo Island, Philippines. U.S. and Philippine officials say fighting an insurgency in the island's heavy jungles - and in other areas in the southern Philippines - is a long, tough task. Many insurgents have friends and family -- and often support -- in villages near where they operate. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

JOLO ISLAND, Philippines — There is no magic fix when fighting an insurgency, according to officials who are working that problem now in the southern Philippines.

Col. David Maxwell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, briefed Stars and Stripes about the issue during recent interviews in Manila and at his headquarters compound on Mindanao Island.

Key to countering an insurgency is understanding that it is a political problem first and foremost, with implications for the military, Maxwell said.

“An insurgency will be defeated if the underlying political and socioeconomic causes are properly addressed,” Maxwell said.

“You’ve got to be here and engaged, which we are, as a country … as a country team,” Maxwell said. “You’ve got to have patience. This takes a long time.”

Just about anywhere you find the U.S. forces on the islands, you’ll find “most wanted” posters hanging on the walls. And thanks to some recent successful Philippine military missions, the troops have been able to cross out a few more high-value targets.

“If they were all captured or killed today, would the mission be over?” Maxwell asked. “The answer to that is ‘no.’”

The reason, he said, is that it is vital to eradicate the conditions that give rise to terrorism.

During a recent ceremony on Jolo Island, Don Loong, the Sulu Province administrator, gave an impassioned speech about the importance of local people in the battle against the insurgents.

“It must be the people who are empowered to demand peace for themselves,” he said.

The bad guys are neighbors, friends, relatives — and the people must demand that they stop the insurgency, he said. The military will never be able to keep watch over everybody at all times — but the people can keep a close eye on what’s happening, he said.

“They’ll be on the front lines,” he said.

The work the United States is conducting in partnership with the Philippines is critical, he said.

The key is “giving people a better future for their kids,” one free of terror or insurgency, he said.

Day 2:Slideshow

Finding the root of home-grown terrorism

Special forces lend a hand to counterparts

Navy helps Philippines' sea defense

Making friend's in Abu Sayyaf's territory

Civil affairs team members roughing it at remote camp

Officials say Philippine fight much different than Iraq, Afghanistan

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up