World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. special operations troops pulled out of their southern Philippine base Wednesday in a redeployment portrayed as a scaling-down of the American military presence, local military sources said.
The anti-terrorism unit - Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) - had been based in country's restive south since 2002, a period that saw Philippine troops fighting rebels such as the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Over the years, the unit's strength fell from 600 to 300 troops engaged in intelligence sharing, mission support for Philippines forces, casualty evacuation and logistics.
The unit will be replaced by a smaller, command-level unit at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Zamboanga City.
In a flag-lowering ceremony at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City on Wednesday, U.S. Army Col. Erik Brown said: “For almost 13 years, JSOTF-P is proud to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Through many successes and some occasional setbacks, our partnership has grown stronger and deeper over the years.”
The U.S. has a strong military presence in the Philippines but its soldiers are barred from taking part in operations. Despite this ban, Brown said 17 U.S. servicemen lost their lives over 13 years.
Last month, when 44 police commandos were killed in a battle with militants in Maguindanao province, it was alleged that U.S. troops played a role in the combat mission. This was denied by the U.S. although a photograph did emerge of a Caucasian man helping evacuate casualties.
Last Mod: 25 Şubat 2015, 15:27