USAID in Mindanao: The Other Side of the US COIN: Page 3 of 10

Posted on 22 June 2017

into…a state of conflict…and contributing to conditions that will advance sustainable development” (USAID 2011, 8). Other factors that the agency considers include country ownership and ensuring programs are “tailor[ed]…to the local environment” (USAID, 2011: 12).

It is also highlighted that USAID’s development response is ideally in combination with Department of Defense and Department of State efforts, since USAID’s development response is only “one component of broader USG efforts to counter violent extremism and insurgency” (USAID, 2011: 7). In a planning guide to coordinate US foreign policy objectives (called the “3D Planning Guide”), the same connection is made, where development is described as one of the three “pillars” in “promoting and protecting US national security interests” especially in developing countries (DoS, USAID, and DoD, 2012).

In the same Guide, aid is described as “always ha[ving] the twofold purpose of furthering America’s foreign policy interests” and at the same time helping developing countries (DoS, USAID, and DoD 2012, 19). This is also in line with USAID’s description of how “successful development is essential to advancing our [US] national security objectives” (USAID, 2011: ii).

The scope of USAID work can also be gleaned from the Counterinsurgency Guide by the US Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative (2009). USAID is part of this interagency initiative, and has been given a role in conflict-affected areas when it comes to ”enhanc[ing] institutional capacity and ameliorat[ing] the root causes of conflict” with “community-level programs…hav[ing] a good track record in addressing the grievances that fuel insurgency” (Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative, 2009: 52).

USAID in the Philippines: a development response to internal security?

Since 1996, USAID has been conducting “intensified assistance efforts in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao” (USAID 2014). 1996 marked the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and a Moro separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and this triggered the increased USAID activity “both [in] the areas affected by the Muslim separatist conflict, and the areas affected by the New People’s Army (NPA) insurgency” (USAID, 2014). During this time, USAID efforts ranged from infrastructure projects, to governance improvement, and to “reintegration of former combatants” (USAID, 2014).

Philippine government efforts against insurgency: development-security nexus

The Mindanao conflict has been viewed as a “war on terror,” although local understandings of the conflict have also traced it to a history of land dispossession in the process of US colonization, state-building, introduction of Western private land ownership, and entry of American and Philippine corporations (Vellema, Borras and Lara 2011).

Against current insurgent groups, which include the communist New People’s Army (NPA), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and terror groups such as the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) and Jemaah Islamiyah ( JI), the last two counterinsurgency campaigns of the Philippine government both included development activities by the military (as “civil-military operations”) (Armed Forces of the Philippines 2011, 4). Aside from these, however, ODA-funded development programs were also implemented to support military civil-military operations (Padilla 2006).

The Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan (also known as Oplan Bayanihan) of Benigno Aquino III is aimed at “win[ning] the sentiment

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