By Genalyn Kabiling
The United States has deployed only small number of armed troops to help Filipino soldiers in battling extremists in Marawi City, according to an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman.
Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla insisted that the US soldiers provide “technical assistance” on the “situation awareness” to the troops on the ground.
The visiting US forces are allowed to carry weapons for their protection but are not permitted to join combat operations, according to Padilla.
“I don’t know the exact number but it is small. They are operating and maintaining some equipment,” Padilla said in Filipino during a Palace press briefing when asked about the number of American troops in Marawi.
“They are not part of the combat operations. They just provide assistance and information to our troops,” he said.
Padilla explained that the US assistance on counterterrorism efforts is already part of the existing U.S.-Philippines defense pact.
He noted that the US troops were temporarily stationed in Zamboanga to provide technical assistance to the military in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf group. The US military aid was merely redirected to help in the anti-terror operations in Marawi City for now.
“We asked for assistance. We requested them to stay there because we don’t have that kind of expertise yet,” he said.
Padilla said the military welcomes other assistance from other nations “but it will take time” to transfer their equipment to the country.
The United States earlier confirmed offering military assistance at the request of the AFP to help in the battle against terrorists in Marawi. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, claimed he never asked for US aid but was thankful for its military assistance anyway.
The US military aid came despite the strained relations between the two allies. President Duterte previously unleashed a profanity-laced tirade against the Obama administration for criticizing his war on drugs.
Ties between the Philippines and the US somehow improved when Duterte welcomed the election of US President Donald Trump who has supported his anti-drug efforts.
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