The U.S. special operations mission to help the Philippine military to fight Islamic militants is coming to a close, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) officials told USNI News on Thursday.
For 13 years — in parallel to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan — OEF Philippines had U.S. special operation forces (SOF) advise Philippine commandos in fighting Islamic separatists in the southern islands — notably militant group Abu Sayyaf.
On Tuesday, a ceremony in Zamboanga City marked the deactivation of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), according to local press reports.
U.S. Special Operations Command, Pacific told USNI News the mission would complete the transition of forces later this spring.
“The JSOTF-P is scheduled to complete the transition May 1 and while some of the personnel will return to their units, some will remain as part of foreign liaison elements, and continue to advise and assist Philippine counterterrorism efforts, consistent with the way forward that the Armed Forces of the Philippines sees it,” U.S. Special Operations Command, Pacific spokesperson Army Maj. Kari McEwen told USNI News via an emailed statement.
“This represents a shift in focus for U.S. Special Operations Forces from advising and assisting at the small unit level to providing operational advice and assistance at higher levels of command within the Philippine Security Forces for continued counterterrorism progress, humanitarian assistance and civil military cooperation.”