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AFP falls short of counterinsurgency target

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:24:00 04/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fell short of its counterinsurgency goals, dismantling only eight of 17 communist guerrilla fronts it had targeted for the first quarter of this year, chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

Despite the shortfall, Esperon said security forces were on track to meet President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 2010 deadline of dealing the nearly 40-year old guerilla war of the New People’s Army (NPA) a “strategic defeat”

“The AFP would like to report that the [it] is heading towards the direction of achieving the target set by the President,” Esperon told a news conference, on the sidelines of the AFP’s quarterly command conference on internal security operations.

Aside from the dismantled fronts, Esperon said 10 others of the New People’s Army (NPA) have been “downgraded” while 13 are in an “advanced” state of degradation.

Esperon said the eight dismantled fronts and the 10 downgraded fronts represent a 20.69 percent reduction from the 87 guerilla fronts at the end of 2007.

He said the 10 downgraded fronts could have been considered dismantled, but he chose to be “cautious” in labeling them.

The dismantled fronts are located in the Ilocos provinces, Isabela, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Laguna, Marinduque, Samar, and Misamis Oriental, he said

A guerilla front is composed of several platoons operating in five to 10 towns. It is considered “dismantled” if 70 percent of its members and firearms have been neutralized, Esperon said.

A front is considered “downgraded,” or a notch below “dismantled,” if its political arm is no longer effective and its leadership has been neutralized, he said.

When fifty percent of a front’s members and firearms have been neutralized, Esperon said it is considered to be in an “advanced” state of degradation.”

“As a result of the collective efforts with the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies there was a notable downtrend in all insurgency parameters,” he said.

During the first quarter, Esperon said NPA numbers were reduced by 2.41 percent with the neutralization of 291 rebels, bringing their numbers down to 5,470 from 5,761 at the end of 2007.

The 291 include 14 top leaders, including an alleged member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) central committee, Randall Echaniz, the military chief said.

Troops also seized 154 firearms during encounters with the NPA, reducing their firepower by 2.7 percent to 5,540 from 5,694 in the previous quarter, he said.

The number of villages affected by the NPA was down 10.37 percent to 1,719 from 1,919 in the last quarter of 2007.

While their numbers are on the decline, Esperon warned troops against possible ambuscades, landmine attacks, and liquidation attempts by the NPA, which he called acts of “desperation.”

Arroyo extended Esperon’s term for three months to sustain the counterinsurgency campaign’s momentum.

The AFP chief will retire on May 9.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-04-23T09:40:44+00:00UTC04bUTCWed, 23 Apr 2008 09:40:44 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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