Is Southeast Asia the Second Front?

Courtesy Reuters


In late January 2002, the Bush administration sent 660 U.S. troops to the Philippines, deploying them in the south of the archipelago to assist in hostage rescue and counterinsurgency operations. The move was widely heralded as the opening of a second front in Washington's war on terrorism. And that perception was understandable: after all, the deployment followed hard on the heels of the arrests of dozens of alleged al Qaeda operatives in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. With the Taliban in Afghanistan having been routed, Southeast Asia -- home to radical Islamist groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), Abu Sayyaf, and the Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia (KMM) -- was starting to seem like the new home base for the terrorist movement that had brought down the World Trade Center.

Whether or not this is actually the case, September 11 and its aftermath have already transformed U.S. relations with many Southeast

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