Nov. 8, 2018
Sending in the Cavalry: The Growing Militarization of Counterterrorism in Southeast Asia
Philippines, which lasted from May to October 2017, constitutes a watershed moment in the evolution of the terrorist threat in Southeast Asia. Pro–Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants threatened to turn Marawi into “the Mosul of Southeast Asia,” with their astounding ability to operate large groups capable of controlling territory and exposing the inadequacy of the region’s security services. Although member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had pondered the question of possible participation by their armed forces in counterterrorism well before the Battle, it is undeniable that Marawi has become the catalyst behind the regional drive to militarize counterterrorism efforts in Southeast Asia.
Cooperative frameworks furnished by ASEAN have since taken on added significance, especially the defense-oriented arrangements that bring together the defense establishments and armed forces of the ASEAN countries as well as those of external powers including China, India, Japan, and the United States. The growing militarization of counterterrorism efforts will neither be easy nor straightforward, given longstanding regional sensitivities and the potentially diversive ramifications that excessive securitization could have for democratic life within ASEAN countries.