Delays in Marawi rehabilitation boost IS recruitment – US report
MANILA, Philippines — The continued delay in the rehabilitation of Marawi City, the site of a five-month war in 2017, was stirring the recruitment of Islamic State in Mindanao, a US report said.
“Public anger at the Philippine government’s extended delays in providing for the reconstruction of Marawi has allowed extremist elements to regain a foothold in the city, according to a November DoS (Department of State) cable,” the quarterly report of the lead inspector general for the US Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P) said.
OPE-P is the US support to the Philippine government’s fight against insurgency and counterterrorism. The report released recently covers the period of October to December 2019.
The same November cable revealed that the reconstruction has been delayed due to multiple corruption scandals, the report said.
“The cable assessed that there is a public perception that political well-connected government contractors are enriching themselves at the expense of Marawi residents, and this has reinforced extremist anti-government narratives and contributed to terrorist recruitment,” it said.
It also stated that there were signs that violence was returning to Marawi after two years of declining levels of violence.
To address the “signs of resurgent terrorist recruitment in Marawi and elsewhere,” the US launched a $1.7 million program in Cotabato City to build local government and non-governmental organization capacity to design and implement programs to counter radicalization in November.
It was designed to complement USAID’s Marawi Response Project, aimed at helping internally displaced persons recover economically and integrate into their new communities, the report said.
“Independent analysts, government officials, researchers, and local residents told US Embassy officials that extremist recruitment has outpaced the public benefits of rehabilitation in Marawi since the ISIS insurgency was defeated there in October 2017,” the report said.
“The cable assessed that if this trend continues, Islamic extremists could eventually stage another high-profile operation like the 2017 attack on Marawi,” it added.
The OPE-P report comes at a time that the Philippines has formalized its scrapping of the Visiting Force Agreement with the United States. The Philippine government last week had sent the termination of notice to the US Embassy but it will take effect after 180 days.
Edited by KGA
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