US special forces leaving Philippines

By Liezel Lacastesantos, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Feb 25 2015 12:07 AM | Updated as of Feb 25 2015 09:50 AM

Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines officers, in a photo released in 2012, honor 10 of their members who died when their US MH-47E Chinook helicopter went down in the Bohol Sea while returning from a mission in Basilan in 2002. US Air Force photo by Maj. Darrick B. Lee/FILE

ZAMBOANGA CITY (UPDATED) -- After 13 years, US forces troops are preparing to leave Zamboanga City after the deactivation of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) on Tuesday.

A flag-raising ceremony was held to symbolize the ending of the agreement between JSOTF-P and the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom).

However, a small number of US soldiers will replace them next month to help Filipino troops fight terrorism.

Wesmincom deputy commander Brig. Gen. Orlando De Leon, who served as the guest of honor during the ceremony, thanked the US soldiers for their help.

Before the closing program, a moment of silence was held to honor 17 US soldiers who died in the Philippines during their tour of duty.

The JSOTF-P's mission was "to advise and assist Philippine security forces at the tactical, operational and strategic levels against violent extremist organizations throughout the southern Philippines" at the request of the Philippine government, according to the US embassy.

The Philippine government bans US troops from engaging in direct combat in the Philippines.

The Associated Press reported year that the US was dissolving the anti-terrorism group established in 2001 to fight terrorist networks led by the Abu Sayyaf group.

However, a small of US soldiers might stay in the Philippines to help the Armed Forces against the Abu Sayyaf, the AP added.

"Our partnership with the Philippine security forces has been successful in drastically reducing the capabilities of domestic and transnational terrorist groups in the Philippines," Kurt Hoyer, the U.S. Embassy Press Attache, told AP. He said most terrorist groups in the region "have largely devolved into disorganized groups resorting to criminal undertakings to sustain their activities."

The Philippine government bans US troops from engaging in direct combat in the Philippines.

According to, the JSOTF-P consisted of between 500 and 600 personnel, including Army Special Operations Forces, Navy Seals, Air Force special operators, and support personnel.

Its headquarters was based at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City, and had 3 regional task forces.

Several JSOTF-P personnel also worked in Manila to coordinate activities with the US embassy and the AFP General Headquarters, said.

The task force had a Joint Special Operations Aviation Detachment (JSOAD) for special operations in country.

The JSOAD had a small fleet of PC-12 and C-12 fixed-wing aircraft, as well as Bell 214 helicopters.