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US: No official request for Mindanao troops withdrawal

President Rodrigo Duterte shows images of the Bud Dajo massacre during his speech at the 2016 Metrobank Foundation's Outstanding Filipinos awarding ceremony in Malacañan's Rizal Hall on September 12. PPD/Rey Baniquet

MANILA, Philippines — The United States maintained its commitment to the Philippines despite the recent statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he wants American troops out of Mindanao.

The president warned US troops in Mindanao that they are in danger of being kidnapped by terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

READ: Rody wants US troops out of Mindanao

US Department of State spokesperson John Kirby said that the US will not respond to the president's comments unless an official request is made.

"I’ve seen the comments. I’ve seen them in press reporting, and what I can tell you is that we’re not aware of any official communication by the Philippine Government to that effect and to seek that result. So we’re going to stay in touch with our counterparts in the Philippine Government," Kirby said in a press briefing on Monday.

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Citing the history between the two countries, Kirby stressed that the US is committed to its alliance with the Philippines.

Kirby added that the US shares the concern of Duterte about the safety of American troops in the Philippines.

"We maintain concerns about the safety of our troops all around the world. It’s one of the prime considerations of American military leadership," Kirby said.

A handful of American soldiers stayed behind after Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines contingent to assist the Philippine military against terrorism was discontinued last year.

Less than 200 US soldiers have been deployed in Zamboanga City to assist Philippine security forces in their campaign against terrorists.

The role of American soldiers is limited to assisting the local military through training and information sharing as they are prohibited from engaging in direct combat operations, as mandated by the Constitution.

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