Feb 222013
 

US troops have set up a new kind of US base in Mindanao?

Written by MindaNews
Wednesday, 15 August 2007 23 46 07

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 August) – The Bangkok-based Focus on the
Global South which has been monitoring US military presence in the
Philippines today warned that US troops spotted in Mindanao are not
only involved in the ongoing war against terrorism but “have also
established a new kind of US base in the south.”

In a press statement, Focus on the Global South said US troops spotted
by the Agence France Press belong to the Joint Special Operations Task
Force- Philippines (JSOTF-P), a unit that has been indefinitely
stationed in southern Mindanao since 2002.

“Contrary to previous efforts by the US and Philippine governments to
portray the troops as participating only in temporary training
exercises called the Balikatan, it has since been revealed that this
unit has stayed on and maintained its presence in the country for the
last six years,” it said.

Agence France Press reported that US troops were aboard a Humvee
armored jeep as two US soldiers manned a vehicle-top mounted
machine-gun in Sulu. The US soldiers’ helmets bore miniature US flags.

The report said the US troops were part of a convoy of Philippine
Marines on the hunt for members of the Abu Sayyaf.

The same report quoted Lee McClenny, US embassy spokesperson, as
saying US troops “are not involved in any combat roles but will fire
back if fired upon.”

“Our role is to advise and assist the Philippine military. This is the
main focus of our anti-terror campaign,” McClenny said.

The sighting of US troops came just as President Arroyo ordered the
offensive in Sulu.

Focus on the Global South early this year published its research on
the JSOTF-P, titled, “Unconventional Warfare: Are US Special Forces
Engaged in an `Offensive’ War in the Philippines?”
(http://www.focusweb.org/index.php/).

It said it had “gathered pronouncements by US troops themselves who
have gone on record to say that their mission in (Mindanao) is
`unconventional warfare’ – a US military term that encompasses combat
operations.”

“With the Philippine government not giving a definite exit date, and
with US officials stating that this unit – composed of between 100 to
500 troops depending on the season – will stay on as long as they are
allowed by the government, it is presumed that it will continue to be
based in the Philippines for an indefinite period,” the statement read.

“Beyond being involved in the war, Focus draws attention to this unit
having effectively established a new kind of basing in the
Philippines,” it said.

The JSOTF-P’s stationing in Mindanao “is a prototype of the new kind
of overseas basing that the US has introduced as part of its ongoing
effort to realign its global basing structure,” it said.

Global Focus on the South reported that since 2001, the US which has
more than 700 bases and installations in over 100 countries around the
world – had embarked on the most radical realignment of its overseas
basing network since World War II. Part of the changes is the move
away from large permanent bases – such as the ones in Subic and Clark
– “in favor of smaller, more austere, more low profile bases such as
the JSOTF-P’s presence in Zamboanga and in other places in southern
Mindanao.”

In terms of profile and mission, Focus noted that JSOTF-P is “very
similar to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa which was
established in Djibouti in western Africa in 2003 and which has been
described as a sample of the US austere basing template and the “model
for future US military operations.”

Global Focus on the South said it believes that “the Philippines is
one of the `nodes for special operations forces’ that former Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself revealed the Pentagon would
establish as part of its changes in Asia.

It pointed to how US troops themselves refer to their base in Jolo as
“Advance Operating Base-920.”

Renato Reyes, Jr., BAYAN secretary-general, asked in a press statement
“why are US troops involved in actual combat missions in Sulu? The
sight of fully armed US troops traveling in the Philippine military
convoy is a clear indication that the Americans are there for actual
combat and military intervention.”

KMP chair Rafael Mariano said the participation of US troops in combat
“is a clear violation of Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and a slap on
the face of the Filipino people. If the Macapagal-Arroyo regime does
not do anything about it then its servility to the Bush administration
is further proven. At the very least a probe is in order and the
immediate pull out of US troops in the area. The junking of the
Visiting Forces Agreement is also not far off, because of this.”

Anakpawis Rep. Beltran said the participation of US troops in the war
operations were in clear violation of the VFA and more importantly,
provisions of the Philippine Constitution on internal security and
sovereignty. He said that the onset, “the AFP should issue an
official statement on the involvement of the US troops and divulge how
many US troops are actually participating and in which areas they are
being deployed.” He said it was also illegal for US troops to be
conducting covert operations on Philippine soil.

Last week in Davao City, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes
Esperon said they “keep tab” of the US troops in Mindanao but did not
answer the question on how many American soldiers are presently in
Mindanao.

Esperon told a press conference August 10 that the US soldiers in
Mindanao or in the other parts of the country are here as “mutually
agreed upon” for activities such as Balikatan and Kapit Bisig. He said
some American soldiers are also giving lectures on subjects of their
expertise.

When a reporter cited the presence of US troops in the aftermath of
bombings in Mindanao, Esperon said they’re likely providing “technical
assistance” or are giving “technical briefings about some materials.”

When American troops landed in Zamboanga City for Balikatan 02-1 in
January 2002, the first time after the US military bases in the
country were ousted in 1991, they were supposed to stay only until
July that year but some stayed behind to do civil works, to finish
construction and do some humanitarian programs in the city and in
neighboring Basilan.

Since January 2002, there had always been a batch of American soldiers
in Mindanao but how many they are, US and Philippine military
officials are not saying.

Asked about the seemingly continuous US military presence since 2002,
then US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told MindaNews in an interview
in February 2005 that “we established a semi-continuous, not
permanent, but semi-continuous (military presence), that is to say,
some number of our personnel, rotate, at the pleasure of the command,
your command…It’s a high-priced consultancy, only we’re doing it for
free. And the second your command says it’s not useful, we leave.”
(MindaNews)

The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on Sept. 11th 2007

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