Progress in Asia in WOT

Rick Moran
The most dangerous terrorist networks in Southeast Asia are on the run thanks to multinational cooperation, good police work, good intelligence, and well executed military operations:

Three years after the region's last major strike - the attacks on three restaurants in Bali that killed three suicide bombers and 19 other people - American and Asian intelligence analysts say financial and logistical support from Al Qaeda to other groups in the region has long dried up, and the most lethal are scrambling for survival.

In Indonesia, since 2005 authorities have arrested more than 200 members of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic group with ties to Al Qaeda. In the Philippines, an American-backed military campaign has the Abu Sayyaf Group, an Islamic extremist organization with links to Jemaah Islamiyah, clinging to footholds in the jungles of a handful of southern islands, officials said.

Indonesia and the Philippines, which have faced the most serious terrorist threat in the region, have taken sharply different approaches to combat it. Each has achieved some success, offering lessons to American and allied counterterrorism efforts worldwide. But there are worrisome signs that the threat could rebound quickly.

A bombing at a Philippine air base in the southern island of Mindanao late last month killed two people and wounded 22 others. Peace talks between the Philippine government and the country's main Muslim separatist group are threatening to fall apart, which could ignite wider violence, building on deep anger about the country's military-first approach against Muslims. In February, the head of Jemaah Islamiyah in Singapore slipped out a prison bathroom window, hopped a fence and disappeared.

It isn't necessarily a question of "military first" or last or when military action is appropriate. It is the willingness to use it against well armed networks that makes the difference. The school of thought that eschews the military as an anti-terrorist organization generally doesn't advocate attacking terrorists in their camps.

But any way you look at this, it is good news. Indonesia especially has made great progress in the last few years with the help of other countries in the region. That bodes well for places like Thailand whose government has yet to embrace the anti-terror coalition. Seeing results is the best recruiting method you can use.

There's a long way to go yet. There have been Muslim guerillas in the Phillipines for a hundred years so they are not going away anytime soon. And Indonesia still must deal with a revolt that threatens its stability.

But progress is progress. And considering where we were just a few short years ago, what progress has been made has been remarkable.


The most dangerous terrorist networks in Southeast Asia are on the run thanks to multinational cooperation, good police work, good intelligence, and well executed military operations:

Three years after the region's last major strike - the attacks on three restaurants in Bali that killed three suicide bombers and 19 other people - American and Asian intelligence analysts say financial and logistical support from Al Qaeda to other groups in the region has long dried up, and the most lethal are scrambling for survival.

In Indonesia, since 2005 authorities have arrested more than 200 members of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic group with ties to Al Qaeda. In the Philippines, an American-backed military campaign has the Abu Sayyaf Group, an Islamic extremist organization with links to Jemaah Islamiyah, clinging to footholds in the jungles of a handful of southern islands, officials said.

Indonesia and the Philippines, which have faced the most serious terrorist threat in the region, have taken sharply different approaches to combat it. Each has achieved some success, offering lessons to American and allied counterterrorism efforts worldwide. But there are worrisome signs that the threat could rebound quickly.

A bombing at a Philippine air base in the southern island of Mindanao late last month killed two people and wounded 22 others. Peace talks between the Philippine government and the country's main Muslim separatist group are threatening to fall apart, which could ignite wider violence, building on deep anger about the country's military-first approach against Muslims. In February, the head of Jemaah Islamiyah in Singapore slipped out a prison bathroom window, hopped a fence and disappeared.

It isn't necessarily a question of "military first" or last or when military action is appropriate. It is the willingness to use it against well armed networks that makes the difference. The school of thought that eschews the military as an anti-terrorist organization generally doesn't advocate attacking terrorists in their camps.

But any way you look at this, it is good news. Indonesia especially has made great progress in the last few years with the help of other countries in the region. That bodes well for places like Thailand whose government has yet to embrace the anti-terror coalition. Seeing results is the best recruiting method you can use.

There's a long way to go yet. There have been Muslim guerillas in the Phillipines for a hundred years so they are not going away anytime soon. And Indonesia still must deal with a revolt that threatens its stability.

But progress is progress. And considering where we were just a few short years ago, what progress has been made has been remarkable.