In a distinct reversal of policy, the United States released information today that Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, JSOTF-P will be no more.
Fighting terrorism groups and uprisings in the Philippines has been a major focus of the U.S. for the last ten years. U.S. Navy SEALS partnered with Army Special Forces and local authorities to keep Abu Sayyaf, a militant group in the south from kidnapping, bombing, and recruiting for its terrorist network closely affiliated with al Qaeda. The operation at large was part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
United States Embassy Press Attaché, Kurt Hoyer pointed out that most of the region’s militant groups have disbanded or “devolved into disorganized groups.” He went on to state:
"Our partnership with the Philippine security forces has been successful in drastically reducing the capabilities of domestic and transnational terrorist groups in the Philippines.”
The dichotomous statement came just days after Abu Sayyaf militants killed seven Filipino troops and injured 13 others. Two more were arrested recently for the 2011 kidnappings of an Australian man and an American teenager.
Two months ago, the U.S. signed a ten-year agreement with leaders of the Philippines that allows American troops access to designated Filipino military bases and to fly fighter jets and reconnaissance planes and out of the country.
U.S. forces will not be allowed to engage in direct combat on Philippine soil. Also, banned in the agreement was the use of American military drones over the island country. The United States remains concerned about the growing presence and assertiveness of China in the region.
The partnership has not always found favor with the Navy’s highly-trained SEALS who were sent to train local authorities. As reported to this Examiner, the elite commandos, most based in Coronado, Calif., felt their skills as supreme warfighters were not utilized while training local military and regional authorities.
The United States and the Philippine Islands have had military connections for many years. The huge Naval Station Subic Bay in Manila was used by the U.S. from 1898 until the Philippine government requested U.S. vacate the premises by 1992. The massive, 60,000 acre base was the U.S. Navy’s largest resupply, repair, and recreational base in the Pacific.