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Rumsfeld, Reyes to Meet on Philippines' Abu Sayyaf Threat

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Philippine Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes will meet at the Pentagon Feb. 28 to hammer out details of U.S. participation in operations against the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

Current plans call for U.S. troops to support Philippine forces in operations in the Sulu Archipelago, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis. About 350 U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force special operations personnel will work with Philippine soldiers. Another 750 Americans will provide logistics support from the headquarters in Zamboanga on Mindanao Island.

The Philippine government has asked the United States to follow up on last year's successful deployment to Basilan Island. U.S. troops supported Philippine soldiers in driving Abu Sayyaf from the island.

"We have agreed to that request and will deploy forces," Davis said. "The armed forces of the Philippines will lead the operation and U.S. forces will assist them."

The United States and the Philippines are treaty allies. U.S. service members will participate in a number of exercises and training missions all over the island nation. The two nations stand united against terrorism, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. He said Abu Sayyaf intends "to wreak havoc on the people of the Philippines."

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