Monday, February 26, 2007

Philippines increases security for US forces

Philippines armed forces were obliged to provide security for a joint reconstruction project with US armed forces after clashes broke out nearby. Curious that the 300k USD in projects focused on humanitarian assistance are presumably undertaken to win the hearts-and-minds of those guerrillas that they are in turn being protected from:

"The Philippines tightened security on Monday around U.S. forces building a road and a school on a southwestern island after clashes broke out with Islamic rebels nearby in which six guerrillas were killed."

A further article entitled 'Anti-U.S. sentiment dwindles in southern Philippines' attempted to portray a happier picture of increasing acceptance for US troops in Jolo. Banned by the Philippine constitution to engage in combat operations, US forces are involved in ' Filipino troops, providing intelligence on the Abu Sayyaf and conducting social projects like building roads and schools, providing Internet access (!?) and giving medical care.' Under the sub-title of 'good for business' the battle gear-clad US troops are apparently being welcome with cheers and waves wherever they go.

U.S., Philippines end hearts and minds exercise
This follow-up article describes the close of the joint US- Philippines 'hearts and minds' exercise. Against a backdrop of flag-waving, singing Filipino children, one soldier looks back the experience nostalgically, and frames the comments in light of Iraq:

'Captain Randy Hooper, a U.S. marine who has served in Iraq and was in charge of the projects in Bato-Bato, said the Philippines was a welcome change.

"The locals are so friendly and so open," he said.

"We carry weapons," he added, patting a pistol under his camouflage tunic. "But we don't have to be aggressive at all."'