Number of US counter-terrorist troops in PHL lessen, assuming smaller role

Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines was officially deactivated February 25. “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 counter-terrorism progress, humanitarian assistance and civil military cooperation.” U.S. Special Operations Command, Pacific spokesperson Army Maj. Kari McEwen told US Naval Institute News.

This is after thirteen years of counter-terrorism mission of joint US Navy SEALs, Marine and Army special operators in the Philippines. JSOTF-P was replaced by Western Mindanao Command-Forward Liaison Elements.

WMC-FLE’s primary function focuses on the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. “The activation [of WMC-FLE] was made purposely to draw down forces as part of the realignment made by the Pacific Assessment Team,” JSOTFP liaison officer US Army Captain Noni Balboa said.

“The mission will continue and the partnership will continue in a different role,” JSOTFP commander Col. Erick Brown said. “This is the right time for us to transition to a smaller role.”