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US Troops Join Philippine Counter-Terror Operations - 2002-01-15

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirms U.S. troops are joining Philippine forces in counter-terrorist operations against Muslim rebels linked to al-Qaida.

Mr. Rumsfeld declines to say whether the initial American deployments in the Philippines are a prelude to an expanded U.S. military role in counter-terrorism operations there.

But in a radio interview, Mr. Rumsfeld concedes the several hundred U.S. soldiers going to the Philippines are "not a modest number." He says the country has a serious terrorist problem.

They have a very real terrorist problem and we have been friendly with the Philippines for many, many years and we're happy to be providing assistance to them and training.

The deployment of more than 600 U.S. troops, including 150 members of the Special Forces, is viewed as the first significant expansion of the U.S. war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan. Philippine authorities say the Americans are not expected to participate in combat operations.