MANILA, Philippines—The capability of Abu Sayyaf Group to raise terror remains a concern of the United States even as it claimed that the situation in Mindanao has “progressed” over time.
“Well they are still down there, let me just say that you know that we advise and assist the Philippine security forces so we do not conduct unilateral operations down there, that said if you took a snap shot from now back in 2002 and compare both, I think you’d be very pleased with the progress that our Filipino partners have made down there, that said yes we are still concerned,” said Captain David Cole, deputy spokesperson of United States Joint Special Operations Task Force.
The JSOTF-Philippines was established to support the Philippine military to fight terrorism and is focused in Mindanao region.
“They are still an organization that bears watching and we will continue to advise and assist our Philippine partners as long as the invitation from the government of Philippines here still open to us,” he added.
Cole also said that while the situation there is “managed,” vigilance still continues to be a necessity.
“We keep working and our interagency partners here both in the embassy and with the Philippine government to address some of the underlying conditions that we think combine to provide safe havens for violent extremist organizations down there.
“So obviously having good governance, rule of law, trying to crack down on corruption, economic opportunities for Filipinos in southern Mindanao, all those factors work together to hopefully we can provide that good foundation,” he said.