US forces pulling out of Zamboanga City
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2014 - 5:27pm

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - A senior United States (US) military official confirmed to a local official here that American troops and their team under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) will be pulling out from the city after 12 years of assisting local counterparts in the war against terrorism in the south. 

Col. Erik Brown, who was recently installed as the US-JSOTF-P commander, said despite the pullout, they will leave a few contingents to continue assisting the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) in terms of their counter-terrorism activities.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar told newsmen during its Monday briefing about the the movement of the American forces which was revealed by Brown during their meeting last week at the city hall.

“Col. Brown reported to us that he is now here as part of the transition team because they will be pulling out from the city of Zamboanga,” Salazar said.

Since the JSOTF-P was established with its camp inside the Westmincom, the US military deployed about 600 officers and servicemen but on a six-month rotation basis. 

However, following its pullout, it was not revealed as to how many of the US personnel will be left behind and what the levels of their participation will be in the coordination of security programs with their local military counterparts.

The US embassy recently reported that the Pacific Command has deactivated the JSOTF-P, a US military unit that was established in 2002 following the success of the 2001 RP-US Balikatan-01 aimed at training and equipping the Filipino troops in the war against terrorism.

It was not, however, elaborated as to whether the training and assisting program provided by the US military to the Filipino troops have already reached the peak of sustained capabilities.

But Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero admitted that training and upgrade of capabilities remained as important for the soldiers to win the battle against terror spawned by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah in southern Philippines.

Salazar, on the other hand, believed that the impact of pull out of the bigger US military contingent would mean lesser access to anti-terror activities. 

“That is why from the very beginning they really have to strengthen our security and augment equipment for the police and military,” Salazar said.

Salazar also asked the national government to review the security gaps in Zamboanga City so that it can be addressed with the presence of Westmincom.

ABU SAYYAF AND JEMAAH ISLAMIYAH BUT WESTMINCOM ERIK BROWN ISABELLE CLIMACO-SALAZAR JOINT SPECIAL OPERATIONS TASK FORCE-PHILIPPINES MAYOR MA MILITARY PACIFIC COMMAND RUSTICO GUERRERO SALAZAR WESTMINCOM
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