US re­port: Threat groups ‘strain’ AFP’s re­sources

The Manila Times - - Front Page - DEMPSEY REYES

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.

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