Southeast Asia After Sept. 11: Containing Terror, Hindering Democratization

Southeast Asia After Sept. 11: Containing Terror, Hindering Democratization

In February 2002, U.S. Special Forces arrived in southern Philippines, hot on the trail of various Islamic organizations that had taken sanctuary in Mindanao -- including some that had allegedly relocated there from Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S. invasion. The 2002 deployment marked the opening of the so-called Second Front in the Global War on Terror, which would go on to include Indonesia. A decade later, assessing the results of America's post-Sept. 11 involvement in the region depends on which perspective one examines it through.

The U.S. response, though multifaceted, has been largely characterized by its support for the Philippine and Indonesian security apparatuses. And through a military prism, Washington can claim moderate success in having helped contain the terrorist threat.

In the Philippines, besides the semi-permanent stationing in Mindanao of some 400 members of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, which advises Filipinos on how to best fight terrorism, Washington has poured millions of dollars into upgrading the capacity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Between 2001 and 2008, for example, a total of $1.34 billion in foreign military sales were awarded to the AFP to procure defense equipment, training and services, according to a report by the Heritage Foundation (.pdf).

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