Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines
Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines (OEF-P) serves as the vehicle for US forces to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the development of skills necessary to fight terrorists. The Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines (JSOTF-P) oversees the advising and assisting of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel and the conduct of other humanitarian missions to support the overall objections of the operation.
Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines was the follow-on mission to Operation Freedom Eagle, a counter-terrorism operation combined with Exercise Balikatan 2002-1. After the bulk of forces redeployed from those operations, a small force remained to form the cadre of JSOTF-P, which was created in July 2002 and brought up to strength in August 2002.
Between August 2002 and March 2003, JSOTF-P advised and assisted AFP fin their mission to rid the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) from Basilan Island, significantly reducing the group's precense there. Although the road that circled Basilan was repaired to support AFP/US tactical mobility during the period, it also helped the people of Basilan in their economic livelihood, as would the new water wells, repairs to school buildings, critical hospitals, and other medical treatment areas throughout the island. These humanitarian and civic assistance program successes acted as force multipliers for US and AFP operations, separating the citizens of Basilan from supporting the terrorist threat. During the operations, About 350 US special operations personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force worked with Philippine soldiers in the Sulu Archipelago. Another 750 Americans provided logistics support from the JSOTF-P headquarters in Zamboanga on Mindanao Island. In addition, elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Okinawa, Japan, and the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group were positioned to provide additional support if needed. The forces afloat could have brought quick reaction teams, command and control assets, aviation support, and medical support to the effort if required.
To ensure the AFP could successfully respond to the terrorist threat, the US also developed a security assistance program between August 2002 and March 2003, that would provide the AFP with additional counter-terrorism training and equipment. The program initially would consist of light infantry battalion, light reaction company, night-vision, intelligence fusion, non-commissioned Officer, and civil military operations training. The security assistance modules would occur at various locations in the Philippines to benefit the AFP beyond its Southern Command units.
OEF-P remained focused on training, advising, and assisting Global War on Terrorism efforts of the AFP between 2003 and 2006. As a result, both operational and organizational improvement in counterterrorism capacity of the AFP and other Philippine Security Forces was seen. For example, AFP units had been able to sustain themselves for longer periods in the field. Additionally, they had been able to better coordinate across services to pursue objectives. Other efforts, such as strategic communication, humanitarian and civil assistance, civil-military operations, intelligence fusion, and ongoing peace negotiations between the Philippine government and separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), eroded support to the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamyah.
As of 2007, US and Philippine forces also worked together under the new Security Engagement Board framework, the primary mechanism for consultation and planning regarding non-traditional security threats, to complete humanitarian and civil assistance projects and improve local living conditions in the southern Philippines as part of OEF-P. In 2007, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with US support, conducted continuous counterterrorism/civic action operations for eight months. In addition to killing or capturing several high-value individuals and their followers, the AFP rebuilt a cooperative market; constructed new schools, clinics, and community centers; and brought solar-powered electricity to multiple locations in the Sulu Province.
By 2012, JSOTF-P had operated in support of OEF-P in a strictly non-combat role in support of the AFP for the past 8 years in efforts to contain the Abu Sayyaf Grouop and Jemaah Islamiyah.
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