U.S. envoy: ASG, JI, RSM weaker

PNS — UNITED States Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr. yesterday said the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah and Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) have become weaker than they were three years ago.

Thomas spoke during the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) change of command ceremony about the weakening of ASG, JI and RSM.

The three were designated by Washington as foreign terrorist organizations.

Thomas said this is an accomplishment that the people can celebrate.

“Finally, let’s not forget the main focus. Abu Sayyaf, JI and RSM are weaker today than they were three years ago, without a doubt. That’s an accomplishment we can all celebrate,” Thomas said.

He said the JSOTF-P is the tip of the spear protecting Mindanao from threats that works hard, take risks and make sacrifices every day to ensure that the U.S. partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is strong as they confront terrorist threats.

“Your mission continues to have the interest and support at the highest levels of our government. Never doubt that the work you do contributes greatly to the security of our homeland and the common interests of our allies throughout the region,” he said.

The ambassador said it is an honor to recognize the JSOTF-P’s three years of leadership, courage, vision and of sheer tenacity.

He said the JSOTF-P was developed into an enabling force for peace, improvement and progress in Mindanao.

On the military side, Thomas said JSOTF-P’s record is impressive.

He noted that the JSOTF-P has not only supported the AFP in relentlessly pursuing transnational terrorists, but has saved the lives of 91 critically injured soldiers and Marines through medical evacuations and disposed of over 64,000 pounds of explosive materials.

The JSOTF-P implemented over 150 construction programs totaling P900 million and treated thousands of medical and dental patients that may have not received care. He added that the JSOTF-P worked with AFP to build partnerships in civil-military operations that can take place in isolated areas once hostile to government elements. “The partnerships make possible livelihood projects for rogue fighters willing to turn in their guns,” he said.

Thomas said partnerships make it possible for USAID to build infrastructure, train children, open businesses and create new futures.

On Thursday, Thomas said the Philippines is not seen as a breeder of terrorism but a partner against terror activities and groups.

He underscored the importance of working with countries to fight terrorism.

The ambassador said the U.S. government sees a continuing partnership with the new government of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III against terrorism.