It is with pleasure that we share with you our November occasional paper, written by Senior Research Associate, Mark Davis M. Pablo. Entitled, “Frontline: Marawi”, the paper explores the constellation of enabling factors, which culminated in the militant takeover of Marawi. Domestically, the politics of rido or clan feud set a chain of events which eventually dragged the Philippine state security forces and security partners on the one hand as well as local and foreign jihadists on the other hand into large-scale armed hostilities. On the regional level, the proliferation of Islamic State terror cells in Southeast Asia served as additional sources of manpower, firearms, and funding to the newly formed Daulah Islamiya Wilayatul Mashrig (DIWM) coupled with the relative decline in US provision of material, financial, technical, logistical, and intelligence support to the Philippines’ counter-terrorism efforts in recent years worsened the situation. Finally, the collapse of the Islamic State Central and the designation of the Philippines as one of the “Pillars of the Caliphate” transformed Marawi into one of the new frontlines of the international jihadist movement.
This paper also identifies some of the challenges and constraints to the effective conduct of Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) in Marawi. Towards the end, the paper proposes a set of policy recommendations for the appreciation of the Philippine defense and security establishment in general in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in particular to enhance its combat readiness against future Marawi-style, territorial occupation of urban centers by Islamic State-inspired militants.