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Pentagon Releases More Details of Philippine Deployment - 2003-02-21


U-S defense officials have released more details of a planned US combat troop deployment in the southern Philippines, saying 350 U-S Special Forces will join Philippine troops in joint operations against Abu Sayyaf militants.

The officials say the Special Forces will operate on Jolo Island and will be backed by an additional 400 troops stationed in nearby Zamboanga. The U-S plan is also said to include a backup force of one thousand U-S Marines and several U-S Naval ships in Philippine coastal waters.

News of the deployment prompted quick denials Friday from Philippine officials, who say the role of US forces will be limited to training and humanitarian operations.

The Philippine constitution bars foreign troops from combat operations in the country. But US officials say they understand the ban is limited to unilateral operations by foreign troops, and does not exclude joint maneuvers.

The Pentagon deployment disclosure marks the first time US defense officials have publicly acknowledged plans for a direct US combat role in the Philippines.

Last year, about 13-hundred US troops participated in what U-S officials called a six month,training mission aimed at improving Philippine military readiness to combat terrorism on Basilan Island. That US mission officially ended July 31st.

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