Military officials mum on pullout out of U.S. troops in Zamboanga
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Philippine military officials were silent over reports that a small group of U.S. troops deployed in Zamboanga City have started packing up after President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled a joint patrol in the South China Sea and scrapped future war games between the two countries.
American soldiers are still maintaining a camp inside the Western Mindanao Command which was previously used as headquarters of the defunct Joint Special Operations Task Force-philippines, and at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City. And also in Basilan and Sulu, both provinces are part of the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.
The U.S. military previously maintained a fleet of P3 Orion surveillance aircrafts in Mactan Air Base in Cebu province in central Philippines and smaller unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in Zamboanga used in operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu, and probably Indonesia and Malaysia to monitor activities of jihadists groups there allied with the local terrorist groups.
Security has always been tight in U.S. military camps in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu and even Filipino generals cannot go inside these installations without prior clearance with the American embassy.
Even local journalists were not spared by some arrogant U.S. troops who harassed news photographers and television crew and had threatened to smash their equipment if they take pictures of American soldiers deployed in public places in Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu.
A U.S. C-17 Globemaster cargo plane was reported to have landed at the local airport where American troops loaded their equipment. Pentagon deployed hundreds of U.S. troops in southern Philippines beginning 2001 and had joined Filipino soldiers in rescuing kidnapped American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham from the Abu Sayyaf. Martin was killed during the rescue operation in Zamboanga del Norte province while his wife had been shot and wounded in the leg.
U.S. troops pass a dirt road in Jolo town on their way to a remote village in the town of Panamao in this picture taken in September 2006 in Sulu province in the southern Philippines. The U.S. forces are assisting and advising the Philippine military on the war against terrorism.
American soldiers in Sulu and Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Library Photos)