By Elinando B. Cinco
The siege of Marawi ended last Monday, October 23, and President Duterte declared the city of more than 300,000 “liberated.”
But the bloody armed skirmishes took five months to finish, starting with the attempted take-over by the combined Maute Group and IS terrorists last May 23.
When the smoke cleared, the toll showed an ugly count: 847 fighters of the terror group killed; 1,400 civilian and military wounded; 163 soldiers and policemen perished, 60 still missing; and 47 civilians including hostages dead.
Today reports from the locals and neutral laymen observers are being analyzed. They are centered on the strength and weakness factors of both government’s and terror group’s camps.
Foremost, the fence-sitters gave the government forces superior strength in terms of manpower and equipment, and seasoned commanders. Full logistical support, of course, is given.
Their weakness? Poor intelligence. Even retiring Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año noted this in a front-page news interview in the Manila Bulletin last October 26.
The main strength of the Maute-IS terror group was high morale of the fighters as Muslim jihadists; effective local network of informers and sympathizers in Muslim areas; they managed to occupy elevated positions of tall buildings and strategic locations; spirited agitations and encouragement from foreign mentors; sizeable foreign funding (remember the cash amounting to P39 million just laying bare on a tabletop in an abandoned house?).
Add to the above was their familiarity with the terrain and knowledge of the existence of a labyrinth of underground tunnels, especially in the city’s war zone. Their facility of the dialect spoken by residents in the war zone facilitating verbal communication and faster exchange communication.
The weakness of the terrorists: ill-trained fighters, lack of artillery support, no marine force, zero anti-aircraft fire power, inexperience in urban warfare, insufficient logistics, poorly trained commanders.
Buttressing some aspects of this layman’s analysis was the post-war observation of retiring Gen. Eduardo Año that the Army lacked “appreciation of intelligence” in the early weeks of the siege. Further loss of lives and destruction of property should have been abated, the general noted.
He said that if the intelligence efforts were put in proper study, the Marawi war should not have lasted that long. He expressed his views in a news report published October 26 in this paper.
In the aftermath of the siege, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that the Australian government has offered to train Filipino soldiers in urban warfare. Just exactly what our armed forces need.
Ostensibly, the Aussies wanted to augment the Filipinos’ capability in waging terrorism through the so-called concrete jungle.
Specifically, the training will involve airspace coordination and maritime operation. It is expected that the aforementioned areas of expertise of the Australian army will help sharpen the Filipinos’ combat ability in their continued fight against urban terrorism.
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