Philippines: January 5, 2003


The army developed a plan in 2001 to create a U.S.-backed strike force, which could used against either local terrorists and insurgents or for operations outside of the Philippines. Despite backpedaling by the Defense Secretary and Presidential Palace, the Associated Press claimed to have seen a copy of the plan provided by an unnamed Filipino general in early December 2002. 

While still "in a conceptualization stage," the United States would probably play a key role in organizing, training and arming the Armed Forces of the Philippines Rapid Deployment Force (AFP-RDF). The AFP-RDF would respond quickly to "small-scale crisis" within the Philippines, act as Manila's designated force for UN operations, and contribute "to any regional and international military response to crisis." This unit could also be used for relief work during natural disasters, noncombatant evacuations, or search and rescue missions.

This new force would be separate from four U.S.-trained and -equipped Light Reaction Companies used to battle Abu Sayyaf rebels on Basilan island. The US is already committed to training sixteen Light Infantry companies and two Light Reaction companies, starting in February 2003 and lasting up to November at least. Each 90-man company would take three weeks to train and was part of a $25 million aid package. 

The US would also run five counter-terrorism-oriented "Security Assistance Training Modules" would also train Filipinos in night flying, intelligence fusion, light reaction, command and control and light infantry tactics. There was also the "Balance Piston" program, which would start on 27 January 2003 and last until 21 February. About 310 US trainers would participate in "Balance Piston." 

Left-wing politicians quickly called for the military to disclose details of the proposed strike force, since the US could then use Filipino soldiers in its "wars of aggression." A healthy minority of the Filipino population still resent the United States for it's support of Marcos dynasty, so extreme diplomacy is necessary for any joint operations. The Filipinos have legitimate questions on the mechanics of standing up such a unit - if US personnel were part of the unit, who would be in charge? The simplest solution was that the US government should only provide funds and train the Filipinos. The Philippine military's preoccupation with major offensives against both the Communist rebels and the Muslim "Abu Sayyaf" rebels have also slowed the creation of the AFP-RDF. - Adam Geibel


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