Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Kenney doesn't expect changes in policy on US troops presence in south
US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney arrives in Zamboanga City to lead in the distribution of 250,000 books at the Book Fair organized by USAID's EQuALLS2.
US government officials based in the Philippines on Monday said they don't expect major changes in US policy toward the US military presence in the southern Philippines when US president-elect Barack Obama takes office on January.
Obama's perspective on the US-led global campaign against terrorism differs greatly from outgoing President George W. Bush. He calls for a complete withdrawal of American troops within 16 months.
"Let him takes office first on January. So we don't expect any changes. The exact things will continue both on the security side and development we're doing here," US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney told local reporters in an interview.
Kenney arrived here to lead the distribution of USAID's 250,000 books valued at US$10 million to over a 100 elementary schools in cities of Zamboanga, Isabela, and provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. She also graced the groundbreaking rites of the Zamboanga City Medical Center Birthing Clinic.
"Education is a future. Your children deserve of that. Here is a book represents of every kinds of learning and it's a great tool for your chindren. Use them, read them, read them and read them," she said.
When asked about the continued presence of US troops in Mindanao, she replied: "The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) determines whether we still have temporary support, and every indication that they still interested on that, so we'll continue."
Colonel William Coultrup, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), corroborated Ambassador Kenney's statement saying that he does not think there's an overall pullout from everywhere.
"I mean every new administration has the right to change policy, but there's always a re-evaluation that constantly goes on," said Coultrup. "I think they're going to re-evaluate case-by-case (basis) every location."
He said that they're not aware of anything right now, although he's certain that there are options. "I think it will happen…we'll start to get an idea after January, once the new president has sworn in to office."
But Filipino political analysts believe that the marked change in policy would be seen in the US global campaign against terrorism, wherein Obama will put more emphasis on economic development to deal with extremism.
Some Philippine government officials had earlier said with Obama's presidency they expect no major shift in US foreign policy toward the Philippines considering it has been set a long time ago.
Others are eager to see an end to a US military presence in Mindanao they consider intervention in domestic affairs. They believe the humanitarian mission by American troops was a cover for counterinsurgency operations.