US ADVISERS JOINING PHIL TROOPS ON BASILAN
Manila, Jan. 7, 2002 - American military advisers plan to enter jungles in the southern Philippines where Abu Sayyaf guerrillas are operating to gauge the logistical and training needs of Filipino soldiers, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said today.
He said the Philippine and US governments were discussing whether Americans could fire back if attacked, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's.
Up to 25 American advisers are due in the Philippines next week to train Filipino troops to be fielded against the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim guerrilla group with links to terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden, officials said last week.
Golez said the advisers would "observe" the actual Philippine military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, which holds two American hostages in the remote island of Basilan.
"We are negotiating the rules of engagement, just in case they themselves become targets," Golez told dzRH radio here.
The Philippine government earlier said the US advisers would not be joining the combat. But Golez said Monday: "It is difficult to give advice and assess the equipment required" by the Filipino troops "unless they personally see the situation on the ground".
He likened the situation to Filipino sports officials hiring foreign trainers and coaches for the national basketball team.
"They can't just watch videotapes," Golez said. "They have to be courtside, watching." Golez said Manila has asked the Pentagon to train "two light reaction companies" in addition to one such unit already in operation in Basilan.
Filipino military spokesman Brigadier General Edilberto Adan said last week that the US advisers will "work and cooperate under a Filipino commander".
Several US army communications experts have already arrived to set up a communications center for the advisers in the southern command in Zamboanga.
The Abu Sayyaf is a self-styled group of Islamic independence fighters linked by both Washington and Manila to the al-Qaeda terrorist network of bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks in the US.
President Macapagal is a staunch ally of President George W. Bush in his global war against terrorism and has secured pledges of millions of dollars worth of military aid from Washington to help the Philippine military.
She has pledged the "complete and total annihilation" of the Abu Sayyaf group within three months, her spokesman said last week.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2001 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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