A U.S. counterterrorism official has reaffirmed Washington's support for the Philippine government in its fight against terrorism, and called peace talks with a Muslim rebel group there encouraging.
The U.S. State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, Henry Crumpton, says he is impressed by the focus, determination and professionalism of the Philippine security forces.
He says that, over the last one and a half years, Philippine authorities have neutralized 183 terrorists, most of them members of the Islamic militant group, Abu Sayyaf, which has carried out a string of kidnappings and bombings in the south of the country.
He also cited the capture in Manila this year of an operative of the regional terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah, and the seizure of 600 kilograms of material allegedly intended for suicide bombings against the United States and its allies in the war on terrorism.
"The U.S. stands with the Philippines in this fight," Mr. Crumpton said. "We are working closely with the Philippine national police and the armed forces of the Philippines to help them defeat these enemies. The success of the Philippines is also our success."
On a related subject, he praised the Manila government for its peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the MILF, which has waged a long-standing separatist insurgency on the southern island of Mindanao.
"I am encouraged and hopeful by the ongoing peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF," he said. "I am also grateful for the role that the government of Malaysia is playing in brokering these negotiations. We all need to see these negotiations come to a successful conclusion to bring the MILF into the fold."
Mr. Crumpton noted with satisfaction that a pending peace deal between the government and the MILF requires the group "to participate and to help the Philippine government in counterterrorism efforts."
During his time in the Philippines, Mr. Crumpton met with President Gloria Arroyo, along with top defense, military and security officials. Manila was the last stop on a Southeast Asian tour that also included Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.