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Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines

Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines

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Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P) or Operation Freedom Eagle is part of Operation Enduring Freedom and the U.S. Global War on Terrorism
War on Terrorism
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

. About 600 U.S. military personnel are advising and assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the Southern Philippines. In addition, the CIA has sent its elite paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 to hunt down and kill or capture key terrorist leaders. This group has had the most success in combating and capturing Al-Qaeda leaders and the leaders of associated groups like Abu Sayyaf
Abu Sayyaf
Abu Sayyaf also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya is one of several military Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern Philippines, in Bangsamoro where for almost 30 years various Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country...

.

Forces


Special Operations Command, Pacific
Special Operations Command, Pacific
The Special Operations Command, Pacific, known as SOCPAC, is a command center of the military of the United States for special forces in the Pacific area.-History:...

 (SOCPAC) troops are the core of Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P), an operation which supports the Government of the Republic of the Philippines counterterrorism efforts. With U.S. advice and training, the AFP and civilian authorities have improved their ability to coordinate and sustain counterterrorism operations. U.S. and Philippine forces have 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 living conditions in the southern Philippines. As a result of their combined efforts, support for terrorists has waned markedly.

Deployment first began January 2002 and involved more than 1,200 members of SOCPAC, headed by Brig. General Donald C. Wurster
Donald C. Wurster
Lieutenant General Donald C. Wurster is a retired Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, FL. The command is a major command of the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force component of U.S. Special Operations Command. AFSOC provides Air Force Special Operations Forces for...

. SOCPAC's deployable joint task force HQ, Joint Task Force 510 (JTF 510), directed and carried out the operation.

The mission was to advise the Armed Forces of the Philippines
Armed Forces of the Philippines
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is composed of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force...

 in combating terrorism in the Philippines.
Much of the mission (Exercise Balikatan 02-1) took place on the island of Basilan
Basilan
The Province of Basilan is an island province of the Philippines within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao . Basilan is the largest and northernmost of the major islands of the Sulu Archipelago and is located just off the southern coast of Zamboanga Peninsula...

, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf
Abu Sayyaf
Abu Sayyaf also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya is one of several military Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern Philippines, in Bangsamoro where for almost 30 years various Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country...

.

Mission


The mission of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines (JSOTF-P) is

United States Armed Forces



The United States has provided the Philippine government with advisors, equipment and financial support to counter Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. In order to provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces despite provisions in the 1987 Philippine constitution specifically banning the presence of foreign troops, Philippine president Gloria Arroyo
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a Filipino politician who served as the 14th President of the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, as the 12th Vice President of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001, and is currently a member of the House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of Pampanga...

 invoked the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty
Mutual Defense Treaty (US-Philippines)
The Mutual Defense Treaty Between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America was signed on August 30, 1951 in Washington, D.C. between representatives of the Philippines and the United States...

 between the U.S. and the Philippines.

Timeline of American Casualties


On 21 February 2002, the largest loss of life for U.S. forces occurred when 10 soldiers were killed after their MH-47
CH-47 Chinook
The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is an American twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter. Its top speed of 170 knots is faster than contemporary utility and attack helicopters of the 1960s...

 crashed at sea in the southern Philippines.

On 2 October 2002, a bombing at an open-air market outside the gate of Camp Enrile Malagutay in Zamboanga
Zamboanga City
The City of Zamboanga : is a highly urbanized, independent and a chartered city located in Mindanao, Philippines....

 killed a U.S. special forces soldier. One Filipino soldier and one civilian were also killed, and 21 people were wounded including one U.S. and two Filipino soldiers.

On 30 June 2004, a U.S. special forces soldier was killed in a non-hostile incident in Manila.

On 14 October 2005, a U.S. special operation forces soldier was killed in a non-hostile incident in Makati City.

On 15 February 2007, a U.S. Marine was killed in a non-hostile incident in Jolo.

On 27 October 2007, a U.S. special forces soldier was killed in an accidental drowning incident at Lake Seit in the southern Philippines.

On 29 September 2009, a roadside bomb killed two Special Forces Operators
1st Special Forces Group (United States)
The 1st Special Forces Group is a U.S. Army Special Forces unit that was activated on 24 June 1957 at Camp Drake, Japan.-Unit history:It was among the first groups of the Special Forces to be officially formed. The group is responsible for operations in the Pacific...

 and a Philippine Marine
Philippine Marine Corps
The Philippine Marine Corps is the marine corps of the Philippines, and is part of the Philippine Navy.- History :...

 on Jolo island
Jolo
Jolo may refer to:* Jolo Island* Jolo, Sulu* Jolo, West Virginia* Jolo is also the nickname of Swedish author Jan Olof Olsson....

. Three other Philippine service members where injured in the blast. It was initially reported that the two U.S. casualties were Seabee
Seabee
Seabees are members of the United States Navy construction battalions. The word Seabee is a proper noun that comes from the initials of Construction Battalion, of the United States Navy...

s. and
and

Abu Sayyaf



The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is deemed a "foreign terrorist organization" by the United States government. Specifically, it is an Islamist separatist group based in and around the southern islands of the Republic of the Philippines, primarily Jolo
Jolo
Jolo may refer to:* Jolo Island* Jolo, Sulu* Jolo, West Virginia* Jolo is also the nickname of Swedish author Jan Olof Olsson....

, Basilan
Basilan
The Province of Basilan is an island province of the Philippines within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao . Basilan is the largest and northernmost of the major islands of the Sulu Archipelago and is located just off the southern coast of Zamboanga Peninsula...

, and Mindanao
Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. The other two are Luzon and the Visayas. The island of Mindanao is called The...

.

Since inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnapping
Kidnapping
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...

s, and extortion
Extortion
Extortion is a criminal offence which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime...

 in their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao
Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. The other two are Luzon and the Visayas. The island of Mindanao is called The...

 and the Sulu Archipelago
Sulu Archipelago
The Sulu Archipelago is a chain of islands in the southwestern Philippines. This archipelago is considered to be part of the Moroland by the local rebel independence movement. This island group forms the northern limit of the Celebes Sea....

, with a claimed overarching goal of creating a Pan-Islamic superstate across the Malay portions of Southeast Asia, spanning, from east to west, the large island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago (Basilan and Jolo islands), the large island of Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 (Malaysia and Indonesia), the South China Sea
South China Sea
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around...

, and the Malay Peninsula
Malay Peninsula
The Malay Peninsula or Thai-Malay Peninsula is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southern-most point of the Asian mainland...

 (Peninsular Malaysia
Peninsular Malaysia
Peninsular Malaysia , also known as West Malaysia , is the part of Malaysia which lies on the Malay Peninsula. Its area is . It shares a land border with Thailand in the north. To the south is the island of Singapore. Across the Strait of Malacca to the west lies the island of Sumatra...

, Thailand and Burma).

The name of the group is Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 for Father (Abu) of the Sword (Sayyaf).

Jemaah Islamiyah



Jemaah Islamiyah is a militant Islamic terrorist organization dedicated to the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy
Theocracy
Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

 in Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the south of Thailand and the Philippines.

Jemaah Islamiyah is thought to have killed hundreds of civilians and is suspected of having executed the Bali car bombing on 12 October 2002 in which suicide bombers killed 202 people, mostly Australian tourists, and wounded many in a nightclub
Nightclub
A nightclub is an entertainment venue which usually operates late into the night...

. After this attack, the U.S. State Department
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 designated Jemaah Islamiyah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization
U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations
"Foreign Terrorist Organization" is a designation of non-United States-based organizations declared terrorist by the United States Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act...

. Jemaah Islamiyah is also suspected of carrying out the Zamboanga bombings, the Rizal Day Bombings
Rizal Day bombings
The Rizal Day bombings, also referred to as the December 30 bombings, were a series of bombings that occurred around Metro Manila in the Philippines on December 30, 2000. The explosions occurred in close succession within a span of a few hours...

, the 2004 Jakarta embassy bombing
2004 Jakarta embassy bombing
The 2004 Australian embassy bombing took place on 9 September 2004 in Jakarta, Indonesia.A one-tonne car bomb, which was packed into a small Daihatsu delivery van, exploded outside the Australian embassy at Kuningan District, South Jakarta, at about 10:30 local time , killing 9 people including...

 and the 2005 Bali terrorist bombing
2005 Bali bombings
The 2005 Bali bombings were a series of terrorist suicide bomb and a series of car bombs and attacks that occurred on October 1, 2005, in Bali, Indonesia. Bombs exploded at two sites in Jimbaran Beach Resort and in Kuta away, both in south Bali. The terrorist attack claimed the lives of 20 people...

.

Financial links between Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf
Abu Sayyaf
Abu Sayyaf also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya is one of several military Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern Philippines, in Bangsamoro where for almost 30 years various Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the country...

 and al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

, have been found to exist. Jemaah Islamiyah means "Islamic Group" and is often abbreviated JI.

African Lion training exercises



The African Lion training exercises are a part of OEF – Philippines which is mainly a series of joint training exercises between the Philippines and the United States. These training exercises are mainly taking place in Mindanao, the Spratly Islands
Spratly Islands
The Spratly Islands are a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea. The archipelago lies off the coasts of the Philippines and Malaysia , about one third of the way from there to southern Vietnam. They comprise less than four square kilometers of land...

, Tarlac
Tarlac
Tarlac is a landlocked province of the Philippines located in the Luzon Island. Its capital is Tarlac City. Tarlac borders Pampanga to the south, Nueva Ecija to the east, Pangasinan to the north, and Zambales to the west...

, and other parts in the Philippines. The African Lion training exercises are focused on joint training and counter-terrorist training aimed on strengthening relations between the Philippines, Morocco and the United States. The African Lion training exercises are also aimed on training Philippine and Moroccan forces to fight the Abu Sayyaf, Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Moro Islamic Liberation Front
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is an Islamist group located in the southern Philippines. It is one of two Islamic militant groups, the other being the Abu Sayyaf, that are fighting against Government of the Philippines...

 and the Moro National Liberation Front.

There have been allegations in the Philippine press and elsewhere that visiting forces from the United States appear to have become a permanent fixture in the landscape of Zamboanga City and other crisis-torn parts of Mindanao. Former presidential executive secretary of the Philippines Eduardo Ermita
Eduardo Ermita
Eduardo R. Ermita, was the Executive Secretary of the Philippines, and spokesperson for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was born on July 13, 1935 in Balayan, Batangas. Ermita took his Defense Resource Management Course at Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, California, U.S.A...

has responded to these allegations by saying, that the U.S. soldiers "... all look alike so it’s as if they never leave," going on to say that they "... are replaced every now and then. They leave, contrary to the critics’ impression that they have not left". These remarks were made in response to statements made by Edgar Araojo, a political science professor at Western Mindanao State University, that the country had surrendered its sovereignty. In specific response, Ermita said, "Our national sovereignty and territorial integrity are intact", going on to point out that the African Lion exercises had bolstered national and regional security, and to say that terrorists and communist rebels were "common enemies of democracy, therefore there is nothing wrong with cooperation" between the armed forces of the US and the Philippines.

External links