US report: Threat groups ‘strain’ AFP’s resources
A report from the United States Department of Defense Lead Inspector General said threat groups “strain” the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) “limited” resources on counterterrorism.
The quarterly report of the Lead Inspector General for the US’ Operation
Pacific Eagle- Philippines was released at a time when the Philippines’ military chief insists that the Philippines can rely on its own strength after the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.
The report, which was submitted to the US Congress, identified the threat groups as the Islamic State East Asia (ISIS-EA) terrorist organizations and the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
“While there have been no reports of coordination between the NPA and ISIS-EA, the separate threats strain the AFP’s limited counterterrorism resources,” the report said.
It also cited a note from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which previously mentioned that the AFP “operates under tight budgetary, resource and capability constraints, and its leadership often faces challenges balancing the operational demands of combating the separate communist and Islamist insurgencies.”
Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., the Armed Forces chief of staff, has said in his interview at the Senate that the military “can move on” even without the VFA, noting how Manila came through when the bases agreement was scrapped in the 1990s.
But the US Department of Defense Lead Inspector General’s report cited that US forces had provided military advice and assistance in supporting the Philippine military’s fight against terrorists, mostly in Mindanao.
The assistance includes intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, targeting assistance for around 30 “high- valued” terrorists, which was reported to have led to the neutralization of two “significant targets” by the Philippine military.
Aside from limited resources in combating terrorism, the report also mentioned that the AFP had
“limited ability” in evacuating its patients by air.
It said the US Special Operations Command in the Pacific had employed contracted casualty evacuation assets in support of the Philippine military in instances that wounded Philippine soldiers must be transported to medical facilities “with higher level of care.”
“These aerial evacuations are most common for urgent and priority casualties in the remote, mountainous areas of Sulu, where the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) is most active,” the report added.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the VFA scrapped following the cancellation of the US visa of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, one of the President’s staunchest ally in the Senate.