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Military

16 January 2002

U.S.-Philippine Armed Forces To Begin Training, Exercises

(Special Forces will assist with anti-terrorist training) (450)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- U.S. Army Special Forces will be arriving in the
Philippines within the next month to begin military training and
exercises with the Philippine armed forces, and to support efforts
against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, according to Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld said January 15 the number of U.S. special operations and
support personnel is "several hundred plus." A Pentagon official, in
news reports, said approximately 650 U.S. military personnel,
including about 160 Army Special Forces troops, will be deployed.
"The Philippine government and the United States have had discussions
about the terrorist problem that exists there, and as we have done
with dozens of countries around the world we're providing the kinds of
assistance that we can," Rumsfeld said.
The Special Forces troops will be sent to help train Philippine forces
in their struggle with the 2,000-strong Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, he
said. The terrorist group reportedly is holding missionaries Martin
and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kansas, and Filipino nurse Deborah Yap
in the jungle on Basilan Island, about 550 miles south of Manila.
"United States military trainers will be helping the Philippine
government and Philippine armed forces to deal with the terrorist
threat they have that affects their interests, as well as ours,"
Secretary of State Colin Powell said January 15.
Major Sean Gibson of the U.S. Pacific Command said a Special
Operations Command team of several dozen personnel is already in the
Philippines "doing site survey work to determine the logistical
support needed for the U.S. forces coming on for the exercise."
The U.S. commander for training and the exercises will be Air Force
Brigadier General Donald Wurster, commander of Special Operations in
the Pacific, the Pentagon said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin Democrat,
Michigan), said U.S. support to the Philippines is "limited assistance
and it's appropriate."
The Abu Sayyaf Group is the smallest and most radical of the Islamic
separatist groups operating in the southern Philippines, according to
the U.S. State Department's Office of the Coordinator for
Counterterrorism. Some of its members have studied or worked in the
Middle East and developed ties to al-Qaida while fighting and training
in Afghanistan. The group originally split from the Moro National
Liberation Front in 1991 under the leadership of Abdurajik Abubakar
Janjalani, who was killed in 1998, according to the Counterterrorism
office.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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