Mindanao: “Next Afghanistan”?

Joseph Mussomeli, charge d’affairs at the U.S. embassy in Manila, was quoted April 11 as saying that the southern island of Mindanao, where U.S. and Philippine forces are battling Muslim rebels, could be the next Afghanistan. According to a report from the Pakistan Tribune:

“The threat is more long-term; that Mindanao is such a lawless certain portions of Mindanao are so lawless, so porous the borders that you run the risk of it becoming like an Afghanistan situation,” Mussomeli said…

“Since 2001 September 11th, we’ve been focused more on what’s happening in Mindanao, but the threat remains and frankly, in some ways, it is growing. The number of JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) factions and the ASG (Abu Sayyaf group) may even be increasing,” he said.

Mussomeli, who had also called Mindanao the “new Mecca for terrorism,” later backpedalled slightly, saying his remarks were taken out of context, after the Philippine government objected.(Manila Bulletin, April 11)

The comments came two weeks after a jailhouse massacre in which a rebellion by imprisoned Islamic militants was put down with much bloodshed.