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Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines

Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines
Part of Insurgency in the Philippines, the War on Terrorism

Philippine and US Marines
Date 15 January 2002 – ongoing
Location Mindanao, Philippines
Status Conflict ongoing
 United States (advisors)
 Australia (support)[1]
Jemaah Islamiyah
Other terrorist groups
Commanders and leaders
United States Donald C. Wurster Abu Sabaya
Khadaffy Janjalani
Abu Bakar Bashir  (POW)[2]
Albader Parad
Umbra Jumdail
Casualties and losses
17 U.S. soldiers killed
(3 killed in action)[3]
>315 killed[4]
Islamic insurgency in the Philippines,
11 September 2001 attacks

Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P) or Operation Freedom Eagle is part of Operation Enduring Freedom and the U.S. Global War on Terrorism.[5] About 600 U.S. military personnel are advising and assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the Southern Philippines.[6] In addition, the CIA has sent its elite paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division to hunt down and kill or capture key terrorist leaders.[7] This group has had the most success in combating and capturing Al-Qaeda leaders and the leaders of associated groups like Abu Sayyaf.[7]


Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) troops are the core of Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P), an operation which supports the Government of the Republic of the Philippines counterterrorism efforts. With U.S. advice and training, the AFP and civilian authorities have improved their ability to coordinate and sustain counterterrorism operations. U.S. and Philippine forces have also worked together under the new Security Engagement Board framework – the primary mechanism for consultation and planning regarding non-traditional security threats – to complete humanitarian and civil assistance projects and improve living conditions in the southern Philippines. As a result of their combined efforts, support for terrorists has waned markedly.

Deployment first began January 2002 and involved more than 1,200 members of SOCPAC, headed by Brig. General Donald C. Wurster. SOCPAC's deployable joint task force HQ, Joint Task Force 510 (JTF 510), directed and carried out the operation.[8]

The mission was to advise the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating terrorism in the Philippines.[9] Much of the mission (Exercise Balikatan 02-1) took place on the island of Basilan, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf.


The mission of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines (JSOTF-P) is

[T]o support the comprehensive approach of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in their fight against terrorism in the southern Philippines. At the request of the Government of the Philippines, JSOTF-P works alongside the AFP to defeat terrorists and create the conditions necessary for peace, stability and prosperity.[10]


Armed Forces of the Philippines

United States Armed Forces

The United States has provided the Philippine government with advisors, equipment and financial support to counter Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.[11] In order to provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces despite provisions in the 1987 Philippine constitution specifically banning the presence of foreign troops, Philippine president Gloria Arroyo invoked the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines.[12]

Timeline of American Casualties

On 21 February 2002, the largest loss of life for U.S. forces occurred when 10 soldiers were killed after their MH-47 crashed at sea in the southern Philippines.[13]

On 2 October 2002, a bombing at an open-air market outside the gate of Camp Enrile Malagutay in Zamboanga killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier.[14] One Filipino soldier and one civilian were also killed, and 21 people were wounded including one U.S. and two Filipino soldiers.[15][16]

On 30 June 2004, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed in a non-hostile incident in Manila.[17]

On 14 October 2005, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed in a non-hostile incident in Makati City.[18]

On 15 February 2007, a U.S. Marine was killed in a non-hostile incident in Jolo.[19]

On 27 October 2007, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed in an accidental drowning incident at Lake Seit in the southern Philippines.[20][21]

On 29 September 2009, a roadside bomb killed two U.S. Special Forces soldiers from the 1st SFG[22] and a Philippine Marine on Jolo island.[23] Three other Philippine service members where injured in the blast. It was initially reported that the two U.S. casualties were Seabees.[6]

Abu Sayyaf

Main article: Abu Sayyaf

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is deemed a "foreign terrorist organization" by the United States government. Specifically, it is an Islamist separatist group based in and around the southern islands of the Republic of the Philippines, primarily Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao.

Since inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and extortion in their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, with a claimed overarching goal of creating a Pan-Islamic superstate across the Malay portions of Southeast Asia, spanning, from east to west, the large island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago (Basilan and Jolo islands), the large island of Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia), the South China Sea, and the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand and Burma).

The name of the group is Arabic for Father (Abu) of the Sword (Sayyaf).

Jemaah Islamiyah

Main article: Jemaah Islamiyah

Jemaah Islamiyah is a militant Islamic terrorist organization dedicated to the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy in Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the south of Thailand and the Philippines.

Jemaah Islamiyah is thought to have killed hundreds of civilians and is suspected of having executed the Bali car bombing on 12 October 2002 in which suicide bombers killed 202 people, mostly Australian tourists, and wounded many in a nightclub. After this attack, the U.S. State Department designated Jemaah Islamiyah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Jemaah Islamiyah is also suspected of carrying out the Zamboanga bombings, the Rizal Day Bombings, the 2004 Jakarta embassy bombing and the 2005 Bali terrorist bombing.

Financial links between Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf and al-Qaeda, have been found to exist.[24] Jemaah Islamiyah means "Islamic Group" and is often abbreviated JI.

Balikatan training exercises

The Balikatan training exercises are a part of OEF – Philippines which is mainly a series of joint training exercises between the Philippines and the United States. These training exercises are mainly taking place in Mindanao, the Spratly Islands, Tarlac, and other parts in the Philippines. The Balikatan training exercises are focused on joint training and counter-terrorist training aimed on strengthening relations between the Philippines, Morocco and the United States. The Balikatan training exercises are also aimed on training Filipino forces to fight the Abu Sayyaf, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.[25]

There have been allegations in the Philippine press and elsewhere that visiting forces from the United States appear to have become a permanent fixture in the landscape of Zamboanga City and other crisis-torn parts of Mindanao. Former presidential executive secretary of the Philippines Eduardo Ermita has responded to these allegations by saying, that the U.S. soldiers "... all look alike so it’s as if they never leave," going on to say that they "... are replaced every now and then. They leave, contrary to the critics’ impression that they have not left". These remarks were made in response to statements made by Edgar Araojo, a political science professor at Western Mindanao State University, that the country had surrendered its sovereignty. In specific response, Ermita said, "Our national sovereignty and territorial integrity are intact", going on to point out that the Balikatan exercises had bolstered national and regional security, and to say that terrorists and communist rebels were "common enemies of democracy, therefore there is nothing wrong with cooperation" between the armed forces of the US and the Philippines.[25]

See also

References and notes

Further reading

External links

  • Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines History of conflict
  • Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines News articles
  • Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Official Defense Department web site
  • The Philippines' Moro Islamic Liberation Front
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