Tags: U.S. | Restoring | Its | Positions | Around | the | World

U.S. Restoring Its Positions Around the World

Wednesday, 27 February 2002 12:00 AM

The U.S. not only lost none of its strength in the wake of Sept. 11, it also has been able to establish its presence in regions that historically were characterized by anti-American policy and activity.

Most importantly, America is now restoring its strategic positions around the world, especially in those countries which, during the Clinton administration, shunned cooperation with America.

During the war on terrorism, which cannot be limited by national borders or even by continents, U.S. troops are returning to the Philippines – our longtime Cold War friend.

Relations between America and the Philippines had turned chilly in the early 1990s, decaying to the point that they refused to renew our leases on two strategically important bases there, the naval base at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base.

For several years different terrorist groups, including Abu Sayyef, a small group directly connected to al-Qaeda, have seriously threatened the Philippine government. Abu Sayyef's deceased founder fought with the Afghan mujahideen during the Russian war against Afghanistan in the 1980s and later planned terrorist operations in the Philippines.

According to intelligence reports, Abu Sayyef as well as other Philippines-based terrorist groups have been gathering weapons and explosives to be used to attack the Philippine government; Americans and U.S. forces in the area, including the U.S. Navy, which was using the former British base in Singapore; and other targets.

After Sept. 11, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo reopened both the Clark and Subic Bay bases to American forces, which used them as staging areas and for transshipment of supplies and ordnance to Afghanistan.

We now have about 600 Special Forces troops there (including 160 on a permanent base), conducting regular exercises with Philippine troops while training them in specific anti-terror tactics and operations.

What happened with the U.S. Army helicopter that crashed in the sea in the Philippines last week with 12 Americans aboard remains unknown. It was one of two Chinook 'copters that had delivered the last of American Special Operations Forces to the island of Basilan, where they are taking part in a joint U.S.-Philippine anti-terrorist exercise.

Yesterday, the Philippine president flew to her country's troubled south and vowed that her troops, with U.S. help, would hunt down Muslim guerrillas linked to al-Qaeda.

"The operation of the Philippines and the U.S. is a statement that we will not give sanctuary or even a small place in the world for them to hide," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The joint Philippine-U.S. exercises mark the opening of a second front in the war on terrorism after Afghanistan, along with the return of U.S. troops almost a decade after America closed its last military base in its former colony.

Mrs. Arroyo, who actually was the first Asian leader to declare full support for the U.S-led anti-terrorist coalition, also proposed a very important initiative that could result in a multinational agreement to share intelligence information on terrorism.

After the Philippines signs this document, along with Indonesia and Malaysia and, later, Thailand and Singapore, such an agreement could be a powerful tool against terrorism, and in fact, may save American lives.

According to press reports, the treaty pledges its members to coordinate and collaborate in preventing and dealing with terrorism, border security incidents and transnational crimes. The signers agree to both share and protect each other's intelligence information, and to cooperate in combating terrorism.

The present Philippine government is trying to do as much as possible to restore a close relationship with America and we heartily welcome these initiatives.

Building our future with the Philippines, however, will have to be done with great care and respect for our former colony, and its people should be assured that we want to see them remain free and succeed economically.

Their fight against Philippines-based terrorist groups is also our fight, and we need to help the Philippines win this fight.

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The U.S. not only lost none of its strength in the wake of Sept. 11, it also has been able to establish its presence in regions that historically were characterized by anti-American policy and activity. Most importantly, America is now restoring its strategic positions...
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2002-00-27
Wednesday, 27 February 2002 12:00 AM
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