Wednesday, September 14, 2016

US forces can still help AFP in counter-terror ops should pullout in Mindanao proceed

AMERICAN TROOPS, should the call for withdrawal in Mindanao pushes through, can still help their Filipino counterparts in counter-terrorism operations even if they are re-located in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“They are able help even if they are Zamboanga City, they can help even if they are in Metro Manila (and other provinces) for example where they are least or less in peril from reprisals from the Abu Sayyaf Group and other terrorist group so we say (that) the assistance that they can provide us are, still exist and will continue to exist, its just a matter of switching the location,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo in a briefing Tuesday said.

Currently, US military personnel in Mindanao only amounts to 107, with all of them concentrated in the Western Mindanao Command headquarters at Camp Don Basilio Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said US troops in Mindanao should leave as they could be kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists.

These American personnel are providing intelligence, technical and training to Filipino counter-terrorist forces.

American presence in the area started in 2003, with the creation of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines which was tasked to provide anti-terror training to the AFP.

Arevalo also clarified that these US service personnel are not participating in the ongoing military offensive against the ASG terrorists in Sulu and Basilan.

He added that the military take due notice of the pronouncement as Duterte’s expressed concern for the safety of US servicemen in Mindanao.

“Pursuant to the same statement, he desires that our American counterparts should be eased from harms way. This refers to Western Mindanao (in particular areas like Zamboanga, Basilan & Sulu) where intense focused military operations combating terrorism are ongoing,” Arevalo said.

The AFP public affairs office chief also added that they have yet to receive any specific directive as to how this pronouncement will be effected.

“We understand that the implementation of the said pronouncement is the subject of deliberations by concerned departments like DND (Department of National Defense) and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to mention some,” he pointed out.

“We assure our people and allies that PHL-US defense relations remains rock solid. Activities line up for the year continue without interruption. Consultative planning activities for 2017 & beyond likewise remain on track,” Arevalo concluded. PNA
Source: The Manila Bulletin

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