TSDM Research Proposal

Research Question: How does Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) contribute to INDOPACOM’s strategy with the global war on terror?

Research Thesis: Abu Sayyaf is currently motivated to conduct terrorism on the large Muslim footprint within the Philippines but their justifications for committing terrorist acts could change into other political objectives and criminal activity. As China is expanding its footprint internationally and Abu Sayyaf is growing rapidly it could cause a conflict among the US military battling two separate entities within the same AOR. This thesis is supported by 3 primary arguments.

  1. Financing Terrorism comes from countries with money: Money drives thriving terrorism organizations to carry out their plans. Financing terrorist organizations is easier when countries are in close proximity of one another. China may not directly support terrorism but they could leverage the use of Abu Sayyaf as a form of protection or free passage if they were to ever use or need parts of the Sulu island where Abu Sayyaf is headquartered. If China is not a financier then North Korea could be one as well because of their stance on terrorism according to the Secretary of State. Abu Sayyaf could potentially turn against China or North Korea as well.
  2. Strategically leveraging a small cell for a larger goal on the SULU island: Abu Sayyaf is a small ISIS cell but not every cell keeps the same agenda going for decades. The South China sea has been a case of disputed waters for decades. The more China has the ability to embed themselves on islands in other countries in close proximity to the South China Sea then the more they can place their military communications, aircrafts and build ports. Being able to have accessibility is one of the main reasons China is expanding their footprint in different countries.
  3. US military assistance: The United States has been in the CENTCOM AOR for 20 years fighting the war on terror. Now that the focus is on the GPC the knowledge gained from the ISIS cells in the CENTCOM AOR should be transitioned to the INDOPACOM AOR and assist the Philippine government in this small matter before it gets any bigger.

Research Importance and conclusion: Now that the American military has almost completely transitioned from the global war on terror in the CENTCOM AOR, and is now focusing on the Great Power Competition, there is still terrorism within the INDOPACOM region that threatens the Philippine government and could have adverse effects with the United States government. The Philippine government is reactive rather than proactive and will need US interference to combat terrorism as it grows and spreads throughout the Philippines. More influence from the middle east could permeate through Abu Sayyaf and make getting rid of the organization more difficult.

Research Approach: The research approach will follow inductive research because this is a qualitative study. Developing a hypothesis that follows a theory from observable patterns within the research. Reviewing scholarly literature from secondary sources.

Key References:

Daljit Singh, “Trends in Terrorism in Southeast Asia,” in Terrorism in South and Southeast Asia in the Coming Decade, ed. Daljit Singh (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in association with Macmillan, 2009), 102–103.

Aurel Croissant and Daniel Barlow, “Following the Money Trail: Terrorist Financing and Government Responses in Southeast Asia,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 30, no. 2 (February 24, 2007): 135, DOI: 10.1080/10576100600959721.

Dan Byman, “Fighting the War on Terrorism: A Better Approach,” in How to Make America Safe: New Policies for National Security, ed. Stephen Van Evera (Cambridge, MA: The Tobin Project, 2006), 69

David Hastings Dunn and Oz Hassan, “Strategic Confusion: America’s Conflicting Strategies and the War on Terrorism,” in International Terrorism Post 9/11: Comparative Dynamics and Responses, ed. Asaf Siniver (NY: Routledge, 2012), 62.

Daniel Byman, The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2008), 3.

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