NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 4 Sep) – The Marawi crisis is probably the longest non-stop firefight in a single battlefield the armed forces of the Republic have ever encountered in recent history. The struggle has raged for over three months now and it is not clear when the bloodshed and devastation will finally end.
Recently it was reported that the enemy is simply maneuvering within a 500-meter-square space. Considering this enemy’s constricted elbow room, one is tempted to say that it’s no longer a long wait for them either to surrender or die. Yet we still continue to wait. The military holds the announcement of expected day of victory, so much so that just recently the militants reportedly managed to spirit into their stronghold fresh reinforcement in warriors, arms and munitions.
On Thursday, the government troops suffered a setback in trying to flush out the terrorists from their shrinking ground: 3 dead and some 50 troopers wounded.
Thus the aerial bombardments continue and will go on until the terrorists are pulverized and respond no more; it is the safest approach to exterminate the target without incurring additional casualty. The AFP spokesperson finally predicted, quite boldly last Friday, 01 September, that the Marawi siege will be over in three weeks’ time or before October. It is hoped this is for good and will not be another disappointment like the past.
What is really behind this war that it was allowed to happen and to last this long? As early as December last year the President, the commander-in-chief of AFP, announced that terrorists will attack Marawi, and days before his official visit to Russia, he had reportedly at hand military intelligence on the motion of the terrorists to attack the city. Given the early information he knew, why did he not order the military to carry out a preemptive strike against the enemy in their very lair? The killing of innocent civilians, the displacement of the people and the destruction of the city should have been avoided.
It seems, on the other hand, that the full force of the government security forces has already been thrown into the war. Yet, why can’t they finish off in a zip a remaining handful of militants that are holed up in a very small area? Why this apparent calculated delay?
The image of the military has been seriously damaged by this war. The military, needless to say, appears inefficient and incompetent. Why the apparent sacrifice. Are we into something sinister more than the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao?
Whatever it may be, the Marawi war to stop terrorism has already incurred unthinkable collateral damage in the devastation and irreparable ruin of the city, the death of many, and the tragic displacement and dislocation of hundreds of thousands of disgruntled and now raging residents.
Beyond the observable collateral damage is the impact of the government response to extremists’ threat on the psyche of the young survivors of war who witnessed the destruction of their homes, family separation and death of loved ones. The bitter experience of the young may yet drive them into the hands of the extremists, without the need for recruitment or conversion effort.
Suddenly and sadly the fight to suppress terror may have already spawned more terrorists.
Whatever the present dispensation is up to has now begun to boomerang.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)