Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines

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Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines
Part of Insurgency in the Philippines, the War on Terrorism
PMC BAlikatan Exercise.jpg
Filipino soldiers training with U.S. Marines
Date 15 January 2002 – present
Location Mindanao, Philippines
Status Ongoing

Government of the Philippines

 United States (advisors)

Moro/Islamic insurgents:
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (until 6 Oct 2012)
Abu Sayyaf
Jemaah Islamiyah
Other Islamist groups
Communist insurgents:
New People's Army
Communist Party of the Philippines
NDF Flag.svg National Democratic Front
Commanders and leaders

Philippines Benigno Aquino III

United States Donald C. Wurster
Abu Sabaya 
Khadaffy Janjalani 
Abu Bakar Bashir (POW)[1]
Albader Parad 
Umbra Jumdail 

Jose Maria Sison[2]

Benito Tiamzon (POW)[3]
United States US Forces: 250[4]–6,000 (Advisors/Trainers)[5] Jemaah Islamiyah: 5,000[6]
Abu Sayyaf: 300[7]
New People's Army: 4,000 (2014)[8]
Casualties and losses
17 US troops killed
315+ killed[11]
Communist insurgency in the Philippines
Islamic insurgency in the Philippines,
11 September 2001 attacks

Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P) or Operation Freedom Eagle was part of Operation Enduring Freedom and the U.S. Global War on Terrorism.[12] The Operation targeted at the Communist insurgency in the Philippines and various Islamic terrorist groups. By 2009, about 600 U.S. military personnel were advising and assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the Southern Philippines.[13] In addition, by 2014, the CIA had sent its elite paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division to hunt down and kill or capture key terrorist leaders.[14] This group had the most success in combating and capturing Al-Qaeda leaders and the leaders of associated groups like Abu Sayyaf.[14]


Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) troops were the core of Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P), an operation which supports the Government of the Republic of the Philippines counterterrorism efforts. The AFP and civilian authorities had improved their ability to coordinate and sustain counterterrorism operations. U.S. and Philippine forces had also worked together under the new Security Engagement Board framework – the primary mechanism for consultation and planning regarding non-traditional security threats – to complete humanitarian and civil assistance projects and improve living conditions in the southern Philippines. As a result of their combined efforts, support for terrorists had waned markedly.

Deployment first began January 2002 and involved more than 1,200 members of SOCPAC, headed by Brig. General Donald C. Wurster. SOCPAC's deployable joint task force HQ, Joint Task Force 510 (JTF 510), directed and carried out the operation.[15]

The mission was to advise the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating terrorism in the Philippines.[16] Much of the mission (Exercise Balikatan 02-1) took place on the island of Basilan, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf.


The mission of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines (JSOTF-P) was

[T]o support the comprehensive approach of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in their fight against terrorism in the southern Philippines. At the request of the Government of the Philippines, JSOTF-P works alongside the AFP to defeat terrorists and create the conditions necessary for peace, stability and prosperity.[17]


Armed Forces of the Philippines[edit]

United States Armed Forces[edit]

The United States had provided the Philippine government with advisors, equipment and financial support to counter Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.[18] In order to provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces despite provisions in the 1987 Philippine constitution specifically banning the presence of foreign troops, Philippine president Gloria Arroyo invoked the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines.[19] In 2013, operations began to wind down,[9] assisting Philippine forces against Muslim rebels in September 2013.[20] Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines disbanded in June 2014,[21] ending a successful 14-year mission.[22][23]

After JSOTF-P disbanded, as late as November 2014, American forces continued to operate in the Philippines under the name "PACOM Augmentation Team".[4][22] In January 2015, it was reported by The Philippine Star that U.S. forces were involved in the Philippines Operation Exodus.[24] In late February 2015, Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines deactivated; other U.S. forces will replace the task force to fight terrorism.[25] The new force will be called Forward Liaison Element.[26]

Timeline of American Casualties[edit]

On 21 February 2002, the largest loss of life for U.S. forces occurred when 10 soldiers were killed after their MH-47 crashed at sea in the southern Philippines.[27]

On 2 October 2002, a bombing at an open-air market outside the gate of Camp Enrile Malagutay in Zamboanga killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier.[28] One Filipino soldier and one civilian were also killed, and 21 people were wounded including one U.S. and two Filipino soldiers.[29][30]

On 30 June 2004, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed in a non-hostile incident in Manila.[31]

On 14 October 2005, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed in a non-hostile incident in Makati City.[32]

On 15 February 2007, a U.S. Marine was killed in a non-hostile incident in Jolo.[33]

On 27 October 2007, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed in an accidental drowning incident at Lake Seit in the southern Philippines.[34][35]

On 29 September 2009, a roadside bomb killed two U.S. Special Forces soldiers from the 1st SFG[36] and a Philippine Marine on Jolo island.[37] Three other Philippine service members where injured in the blast. It was initially reported that the two U.S. casualties were Seabees.[13]

Abu Sayyaf[edit]

Main article: Abu Sayyaf

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is deemed a "foreign terrorist organization" by the United States government. Specifically, it is an Islamist separatist group based in and around the southern islands of the Republic of the Philippines, primarily Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao.

Since inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and extortion in their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, with a claimed overarching goal of creating a Pan-Islamic superstate across the Malay portions of Southeast Asia, spanning, from east to west, the large island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago (Basilan and Jolo islands), the large island of Borneo (Malaysia and Indonesia), the South China Sea, and the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand and Burma).

The name of the group is Arabic for Father (Abu) of the Sword (Sayyaf).

Jemaah Islamiyah[edit]

Main article: Jemaah Islamiyah

Jemaah Islamiyah is a militant Islamic terrorist organization dedicated to the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy in Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the south of Thailand and the Philippines.

Jemaah Islamiyah is thought to have killed hundreds of civilians and is suspected of having executed the Bali car bombing on 12 October 2002 in which suicide bombers killed 202 people, mostly Australian tourists, and wounded many in a nightclub. After this attack, the U.S. State Department designated Jemaah Islamiyah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Jemaah Islamiyah is also suspected of carrying out the Zamboanga bombings, the Rizal Day Bombings, the 2004 Jakarta embassy bombing and the 2005 Bali terrorist bombing.

Financial links between Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf and al-Qaeda, have been found to exist.[38] Jemaah Islamiyah means "Islamic Group" and is often abbreviated JI.

Balikatan training exercises[edit]

Philippine Marine Corps instructor teaching US Marines of Philippine martial arts which they called Pekiti-Tirsia Kali during military exercises.
Main article: Balikatan

The Balikatan training exercises are a part of OEF – Philippines which is mainly a series of joint training exercises between the Philippines and the United States. These training exercises are mainly taking place in Mindanao, the Spratly Islands, Tarlac, and other parts in the Philippines. The Balikatan training exercises are focused on joint training and counter-terrorist training aimed on strengthening relations between the Philippines, Morocco and the United States. The Balikatan training exercises are also aimed on training Filipino forces to fight the Abu Sayyaf, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.[39]

There have been allegations in the Philippine press and elsewhere that visiting forces from the United States appear to have become a permanent fixture in the landscape of Zamboanga City and other crisis-torn parts of Mindanao. Former presidential executive secretary of the Philippines Eduardo Ermita has responded to these allegations by saying, that the U.S. soldiers "... all look alike so it’s as if they never leave," going on to say that they "... are replaced every now and then. They leave, contrary to the critics’ impression that they have not left". These remarks were made in response to statements made by Edgar Araojo, a political science professor at Western Mindanao State University, that the country had surrendered its sovereignty. In specific response, Ermita said, "Our national sovereignty and territorial integrity are intact", going on to point out that the Balikatan exercises had bolstered national and regional security, and to say that terrorists and communist rebels were "common enemies of democracy, therefore there is nothing wrong with cooperation" between the armed forces of the US and the Philippines.[39]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Appeal Restores Abu Bakar Bashir Sentence". The Australian. February 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)". ISN ETH. 2010. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  3. ^ {{cite web|url=http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/353721/news/nation/top-cpp-leader-benito-tiamzon-and-wife-arrested-in-cebu |title=Top CPP leader Benito Tiamzon and wife arrested in Cebu|date=22 March 2014|accessdate=23 February 2015}}
  4. ^ a b Trevithick, Joseph (5 November 2014). "Yes, American Commandos Are Still in the Philippines". War is boring (Medium.com). Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "More US troops deployed in Mindanao than Iraq, group claims". gmanetwork. November 22, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Al-Qaeda map: Isis, Boko Haram and other affiliates' strongholds across Africa and Asia". 12 June 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Shankar, Sneha (26 June 2014). "US To Dissolve Anti-Terror Group, JSOTF-P, In Philippines After 10 Years Of Fighting Abu Sayyaf". International Business Times. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  8. ^ FERNANDEZ, AMANDA (March 29, 2014). "NPA guerrillas mainly concentrated in north-eastern, southern Mindanao — AFP". GMA News. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Mcleary, Paul (10 June 2013). "Is US Winding Down Spec Ops Mission in the Philippines?". Defense News (Gannett). Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Operation Enduring Freedom casualties". iCasualties. 30 August 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.  (Note: apply filter for Country of Death = Philippines)
  11. ^ 300 killed (2002-2007)[1] 15 killed (February 2012)[2]
  12. ^ Flashpoint, No bungle in the jungle, armedforcesjournal.com, retrieved 1 November 2007 
    Tyson Rininger (15 January 2009). F-15 Eagle at War. MBI Publishing Company. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-61673-269-1. 
  13. ^ a b "2 US Navy men, 1 Marine killed in Sulu land mine blast". GMA News. 29 September 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2009. Two US Navy personnel and one Philippine Marine soldier were killed when a land mine exploded along a road in Indanan, Sulu Tuesday morning, an official said. The American fatalities were members of the US Navy construction brigade, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. told GMANews.TV in a telephone interview. He did not disclose the identities of all three casualties.  and
    Al Pessin (29 September 2009). "Pentagon Says Troops Killed in Philippines Hit by Roadside Bomb". Voice of America. Retrieved 12 January 2011.  and
    "Troops killed in Philippines blast". Al Jazeera. 29 September 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2009.  and
    Jim Gomez (29 September 2009). "2 US troops killed in Philippines blast". CBS News. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Al-Qaeda stalked by the Predator". Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  15. ^ "Lieutenant General Donald C. Wurster". Af.mil. Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
    Cole, William (7 March 2015). "Hawaii-based troops close Philippine counterterror mission". Stars and Stripes (United States). Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  16. ^ Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines, GlobalSecurity.org, retrieved 11 July 2007 
  17. ^ "JSOTF-P web site". Jsotf-p.blogspot.com. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Military Advisors in Philippines". Groups.sfahq.com. 11 January 2002. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  19. ^ Michael Yew Meng Hor; Victor Vridar Ramraj; Kent Roach (2005). Global anti-terrorism law and policy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 313–314. ISBN 978-0-521-85125-1. 
  20. ^ Alipala, Julia S. (3 June 2014). "US military assisted PH forces during Battle of Zamboanga". Inquirer MIndanao. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  21. ^ "US ends Philippines anti-terror force". The Hindu. Associated Press. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
    Gomez, Jim (26 June 2014). "US disbanding Philippines elite anti-terror force". The Philippine Star. Associated Press. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Gordon Arthur; James Hardy (6 October 2014). "US, Philippines start 'PHIBLEX' drills as special forces mission draws down". IHS Janes 360. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  23. ^ Axe, David (13 May 2014). "FYI, We Just Won a War in the Philippines". War is boring (Medium.com). Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
    Munson, Mark (5 April 2013). "Has Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines Been a Success?". Small Wars Journal. Small Wars Foundation. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  24. ^ Mendez, Christina (17 February 2015). "‘US military involved in Exodus’". Philippine Star. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
    Laude, Jaime (1 March 2015). "Downsizing of US-Phl TF to affect anti-terror drive". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 28 February 2015. he JSOTF-P reportedly played a vital role in the killing of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 by Special Action Force commandos. An aircraft, believed to be a US surveillance drone, was reportedly hovering over Mamasapano on the day SAF launched its operations targeting Marwan. The US embassy said no American took part in the operation, which could have been a huge success had the commandos managed to leave without losing 44 men. 
  25. ^ Lacastesantos, Liezel (25 February 2015). "US special forces leaving Philippines". ABS-CBN News (Philippines). Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
    Gomez, JIm (18 March 2015). "Deadly Filipino anti-terror raid bittersweet for U.S.". Military Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  26. ^ "US-led antiterror unit deactivated: American role in PH war on terrorism to continue with ‘smaller’ group". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  27. ^ "'No survivors' in U.S. chopper crash". CNN. 24 February 2002. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  28. ^ "Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wayne Jackson". Projects.washingtonpost.com. 2 October 2002. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  29. ^ "US, Filipino soldiers killed in bar bomb blast. 3/10/2002. ABC News Online". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 October 2002. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  30. ^ "Philippine blast 'suicide attack'". CNN. 2 October 2002. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  31. ^ "Defense.gov News Release: DoD Identifies Army Casualties No. 016-05 (January 06, 2005)". Defenselink.mil. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  32. ^ "Defense.gov News Release: DoD Identifies Army Casualty No. 1050-05 (October 15, 2005)". Defenselink.mil. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  33. ^ "Defense.gov News Release: DoD Identifies Marine Casualty No. 206-07 (February 22, 2007)". Defenselink.mil. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2010. 
  34. ^ [3][dead link]
  35. ^ "The Mindanao Examiner: US Army Finally Names Dead Soldier In Southern Philippines". Zamboangajournalblogspot.com. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  36. ^ "DoD Identifies Army Casualties No. 763-09 (October 01, 2009)". Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs). 1 October 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  37. ^ "2 U.S. soldiers killed in Philippines bomb blast". CNN. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  38. ^ Zachary Abuza (December 2003), Funding Terrorism in Southeast Asia: The Financial Network of Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (PDF) 1 (5), National Bureau of Asian Research, retrieved 27 January 2008 
  39. ^ a b Michael Lim Ubac (7 September 2008), Palace: GIs all look alike, Philippine Daily Inquirer, retrieved 7 September 2008 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]