Joseph Mussomeli, the second in charge at the U.S. embassy in the Philippines, made comments Monday that the southern island of Mindanao is a haven for terrorist training and could become "the next Afghanistan" in terms of sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The Philippines is beginning negotiations
this Saturday with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a 26-year-old terrorist organization based in Mindanao. The MILF has ties to both foreign and domestic terrorist organizations. Filipino terrorists have even been discovered among the dead in Iraq
In addition to now negotiating with terrorist groups that want a separate state of their own in the Philippines, and won't give up until they have one no matter what "peace treaty" they sign, the Philippines also believes that paying ransom for hostages works. The Filipino people aren't stupid though and this is reflected in Philippine President Gloria Arroyo's poll numbers which are now sitting at a low of 38%.
"Personally, I'm worried that we're not worried enough. I think the real danger here, and the danger that has been here since the mid-90s, is that we're not focused enough on the threat here," Charge d'affaires Mussomeli said in an interview with Australia's SBS television.
"Its not the sort of threat that should be worried about coming here on a day-to-day basis. The threat is more long-term: that Mindanao is such a lawless -- certain portions of Mindanao -- are so lawless, so porous the borders that you run the risk of it becoming like an Afghanistan situation."
Mussomeli said both governments are aware that certain individuals or factions within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is set to begin peace talks with Manila on Saturday toward a political settlement to the 26 year-old separatist rebellion, have links with both local and foreign militant groups.
Manila officials concede militant factions within the 12,000-member MILF are giving sanctuary and even training facilities to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the alleged Southeast Asian proxy of the Al-Qaeda militant Islamic network, as well as the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf group (ASG).
But Mussomeli said Washington has "firm" information that these camps were still up and running on Mindanao. He refused to elaborate.
"The threat remains and, frankly, in some ways, it is growing. The number of JI that are there, the links between JI and MILF factions and ASG may even be increasing."
They're going to negotiate to halt attacks against a terrorist group that is housing an increasing population of al-Qaeda and Islamic radical groups. Do they think because they stop attacks that the group is actually going to be thankful and disband, stop the fight and stop allowing further terrorists into the country? This is such an asinine thought that I can't believe a government would contemplate it. Such is the corrupt government of the Philippines though.
So what should those of us in the United States be doing? Michelle Malkin says we should start profiling young Filipino males coming into our country.
The Philippine government has "rejected" the warning by Mussomeli. Some lawmakers are even calling for his ouster from the U.S. embassy and the diplomatic service.
Australian Broadcasting Corp.
However, a presidential spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, says Mindanao is being transformed from an area of conflict into an area of peace.
The military's deputy chief of staff, Edilberto Adan, says security forces have gained the upper hand against extremists in the region.
If you have the upper hand why would you negotiate for peace? That's ridiculous. The only negotiating you do when you have the upper hand is to demand an unconditional surrender and put away the enemy forever or destroy them outright.
These groups are like a rogue government on the island. They oppress the people there and force their wills on them. They won't go away until they have their own Muslim state or are destroyed totally.
In response Mussomeli backed down and said he was taken out of context.
Mussomeli said that he was quoted "a bit out of context" of his assessment of the perceived problem of terrorism in Mindanao.
"The United States does not believe that Mindanao is like Afghanistan or that it will be the next Afghanistan. Certain factors are there that need to be addressed, though. We cannot deny that there are members of the Jemaah Islamiyah there, being trained to make bombs and launch attacks," he said.
Mussomeli reiterated the US government’s support for the coming peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and its commitment to the rehabilitation of war-affected areas in the region once a peace agreement is signed.
"Our unequivocal position is to support the talks and any effort aimed at making Mindanao more peaceful. If the MILF and the Philippine government resolve the peace problem, a lot will benefit from it," Mussomeli said.
He said that the US government may still provide a $30-million grant for development projects in Mindanao once a peace agreement has been signed, though he urged the government and the MILF to sign a peace agreement soonest to convince the US Congress to come up with the grant program.
"The money is not there forever. We will certainly push for that (new funding) and hope that it will be something that the MILF can look forward to," Mussomeli said.
Why the hell are we hopeful they reach an agreement with terrorists? Why do we want the MILF to look forward to $30 million in grant money to rebuild their infrastructure so they can work more efficiently? Stupidity all around.
The outcome will be a peace deal for a limited time until the MILF can rebuild, with support from other terrorist groups, and then resume their activity. The fact that the United States is saying it supports peace talks with terrorists is totally against what Bush has said about the war on terror.
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