MANILA, 27 June-2014, AFP: The United States is scaling down a taskforce that has been training Philippine troops to hunt down local Al-Qaeda extremists, Manila’s defense chief said Thursday.
The group of 500-600 American servicemen rotating through the strife-torn southern Philippines was cut back to 200 starting this year, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters. “They were never permanent. They just teach, they train our people and they are satisfied with what we have learned so they are reducing their numbers,” he said. Gazmin said the work of Filipino troops had improved sharply since their US counterparts, primarily special forces, started rotating through the south around 2002, adding that the Americans had also learned “jungle warfare” from the Filipinos. Gazmin also said that American training and loans of US equipment had played a crucial role in weakening the Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino Muslim extremist group linked to the worst terror attacks in the country’s history.