U.S. may take combat role in Philippines

1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
February 19, 2003

WASHINGTON--The United States is negotiating details of a major new counterterror operation against Muslim rebels in the Philippines that could involve U.S. Special Forces in combat, officials said Tuesday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they think they have new information showing a stronger link than previously thought between the Philippine rebels and other international terrorist groups.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo's government said Monday that she had approved joint training on the island of Jolo, where some Abu Sayyaf rebels fled after the last U.S.-Filipino effort.

But the Pentagon distanced itself Tuesday from the announcement, saying no decision had been made and that the new effort under discussion would go much further than just training.

A month of talks between the governments has centered on sending U.S. Special Forces to Jolo as advisers and for possible joint operations--including combat--against the rebels, two officials said on condition of anonymity. 


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