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US Efforts To Counter Violent Extremist Groups In The Philippines Have Had Little Effect On The Presence Of ISIS

(Photo credit should read FERDINANDH CABRERA/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Islamic State (ISIS) and other violent extremist groups continue to attack in the Philippines despite American efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an inspector general report.

ISIS carried out attacks across the Philippines between April and June, despite Operation Pacific Eagle – Philippines (OPE-P), which the U.S. launched in 2017 to counter terrorism in the Southeast Asian country, according to the report, which was released to the public on Tuesday.

ISIS reportedly killed 12 and wounded 13 Philippine soldiers in April and attempted an ambush in May, followed by a rocket attack on civilians, according to the report published by the Lead Inspector General, a team comprised of the inspectors general for the departments of Defense, State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. (RELATED: First American Convicted By Jury For Joining ISIS Top Recieve New Sentence Hearing: Report)

“Social media posts by extremists included calls for attacks against individuals adhering to the Philippine government’s COVID19 restrictions and threats of violence if mosques were not allowed to reopen,” according to Defense Intelligence Agency findings in the report.

The agency noted that extremist groups may be exploiting the pandemic, as counterterrorism resources have been shifted towards COVID-19 restriction enforcement.

“In general, efforts to reduce extremism in the Philippines do not appear to have made a substantial difference since the launch of OPE-P [Opoeration Pacific Eagle – Philippines],” Acting Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense, Sean W. O’Donnell said in the report.

“ISIS-EA and the other violent extremist groups in the Philippines that either coordinate with or share members with ISIS, have remained about the same size and strength for the last few years,” O’Donnell continued.

The Philippine government previously intended to withdraw from the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998 in February, which gives U.S. military material and personnel expedited entry into the Philipinnes, according to the report. The government reconsidered that decision in June, citing concerns around economic trends, coronavirus and China.

In the last quarter, only 3% of the $22 million the United States Agency for International Development allocated to respond to the coronavirus in the Philippines was used, according to the report.

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