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US' anti-terror unit in Phl downsizing - Gazmin

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 26, 2014 - 6:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - The United States (US) is downsizing its troops in Mindanao amid the improving security situation in the area, a senior security official said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P), a US unit that advises Philippine security forces to defeat terrorist groups, has reduced its personnel to 200 from about 400.

“They (JSOTF-P troops) are not stationed here permanently. They teach and train our personnel. They are satisfied with what we have learned so they are reducing their personnel,” Gazmin told reporters in Filipino.

The defense chief cited the successive arrests of key figures of the Abu Sayyaf, a local terror group that has links with international extremist organizations.

“The improvement (of the security situation) is significant. They also learned a lot from us in terms of jungle warfare,” Gazmin said.

Gazmin clarified that there would be no total pullout of JSOTF-P troops in Mindanao. He said the unit would be reduced to just 30 by May 2015 but the schedule could still be changed.

JSOTF-P is based in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City and was deployed to the Philippines on January 28, 2002 to support efforts to counter the threat of terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.

The command consists of members from all branches of the US military, including National Guard and Reserve forces and civilians.

Members of the command are only allowed to conduct non-combat advisory operations.

JSOTF-P was also involved in civil-military operations like veterinarian and medical civic action programs and civil engineering projects. 

ABU SAYYAF ABU SAYYAF AND JEMAAH ISLAMIYAH CAMP NAVARRO DEFENSE SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN GAZMIN JOINT SPECIAL OPERATIONS TASK FORCE PHILIPPINES JSOTF MINDANAO NATIONAL GUARD AND RESERVE UNITED STATES ZAMBOANGA CITY
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