MANILA—The most easterly outpost in the U.S. military’s global war on terrorism was close to signing off in triumph after helping to eliminate one of the last high-value terrorist targets in Southeast Asia.
Instead, after 13 years of operations, the U.S. military deployment on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao is ending on a sour note.
A Philippine-led, American-supported mission succeeded in killing Malaysian terrorism suspect Zulkifli Bin Hir on Jan. 25, but at a dreadful price: 44 Philippine police commandos died in accidental firefighting with Muslim rebels, and a delicate peace process on Mindanao that took years to foster has been left hanging in the balance.
Scrutiny of the U.S. military’s role in the Philippines has intensified as a result, with the Philippine Senate investigating the raid.
While attributing blame to a range of Philippine officials, including President Benigno Aquino himself, a report released by the Philippine Senate last week flagged the “significant participation” of six Americans who were present at the mission command center, especially in the provision of the intelligence that located Mr. Zulkifli in the rural Mamasapano district of Muslim Mindanao.