«Rien n'est plus facile que de dénoncer un malfaiteur; rien n'est plus difficile que de le comprendre» ---Fédor Dostoïevski

mercredi 20 août 2008

Série Spéciale (3/7): Insurrection Moro aux Philippines

La troisième partie de cette série spéciale sur l'insurrection philippine est consacrée à la stratégie et aux tactiques du Front Islamique de Libération Moro. Comme je l'explique dans ce chapitre, le MILF est une insurrection dans l'une des ses formes les plus pures.

Précédemment: 1- Background, 2- La nature de l'insurrection
Aujourd'hui: 3- La Stratégie
Demain: 4- L'environnement

The MILF inherited their strategy and most of their members from the MNLF. Members are cautiously following Mao’s warfare doctrine. Their strategy is one of protracted popular war. It is a strategy of guerrilla that evolves through three phases: strategic defensive (survival, political organization, low level of violence), strategic stalemate (guerrilla warfare), and strategic offensive (conventional attacks on a large scale). The MILF went through the two first phases and even reached an advanced level of strategic stalemate but in 2000 they eventually regressed to an inferior level of guerrilla organization.

In an interview, Salamat Hashim, leader of the MILF, explained this strategy very clearly: “The MILF led up a program to be implemented phase by phase in twenty years (from 1981-2000). This program covers all aspects of Jihad in the way of Allah and human endeavors, but it gives special attention to the following:

• Islamisation of all aspects of life of the Bangsamoro people
• Military build-up
• Self-reliance
• Strengthening and improvement of organisational, administrative and managerial capability” .

A strategy of camps

The bases of the insurgency are local. Field commanders have always had the largest share of operational power. But Salamat Hashim wanted to bring the MILF to a superior level of guerrilla warfare. He began creating a vast network of camps in 1976, which sheltered warriors, supporters, schools, and military academies. By 2000, the movement claimed to possess 46 camps – 13 majors and 33 minors . Some of those camps stretched across several municipalities.

This strategy of camps illustrate Hashim’s objectives: self-reliance (reliance on local crops); military build-up (through military academies); and improvement of organisational, administrative and managerial capability (embryonic sovereignty).

The camps offered several advantages. First, it eased the vertical communication between the central committee and the field commanders, and the horizontal communication between the camps’ leaders. Second, the establishment of such “safe havens” had a positive impact on the local population who could enjoy the peace provided by the MILF guerrillas. Third, the camps gave the MILF a form of embryonic sovereignty, with political, religious and military power that provided the insurgent group some legitimacy and could be used later as a basis for the creation of an independent state.

The strategy of camps allowed the MILF to develop considerably and form a skilled army. The camp Abu Bakar, the most important camp, had a military academy (with professors that experienced guerrilla warfare, essentially in Afghanistan) and arms factory (manufactures of RPGs).

The drawbacks of the camps’ strategy appeared when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) destroyed several camps, including Abu Bakar, in a 2000 military offensive. That major offensive had an important centrifuge effect on the structure of the group and forced the MILF to go back to a strategy of smaller units using hit-and-run tactics. The MILF retrograded from a six-division force (each division was subdivided into six brigades, themselves subdivided into six battalions) with highly skilled, armed and cohesive to a nine Base Commands system (subdivided into units and sections) . In 2002, it was estimated that the insurgency had 65 bases, but all of small size . In this new configuration, field commanders enjoy much more freedom of action.

At first glance, the pre-2000 military organization of the group could suggest that the MILF had reached the third and final phase of Mao’s strategy: the strategic offensive. Indeed, the six-division structure of the guerrillas under one unique central command, stationed in a position of static defense in the Abu Bakar camp, is a very conventional strategy. However, when the AFP attacked the camp, they encountered no resistance. The MILF followed Mao’s advice: do not cherish your base. They decided that the group survival was more important than the defense of the base. Hence, they fled and reorganized themselves in smaller hidden units.

Tactics and armament

The MILF uses essentially ambushes and hit-and-run guerrilla tactics against military targets. They sometimes resort to terrorism tactics against businesses in order to extort some money. However, those acts remain isolated. Generally, the group tries to be self-reliant. Moreover, terrorist acts are exclusively oriented against Christian businesses in order not to alienate the Muslim population.

Concerning the weapons, insurgents use .45 calibre, M-1 Garand, M-16, M-14 and 7.62mm FN FAL assault rifles, and M-60, .30 and .50 calibre machineguns . Explosives are also used. Since most of these weapons are exactly the same than the ones used by the Filipino army, it is possible that the insurgents steal or even buy them directly from the AFP .

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