Monday, December 29, 2008

Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines, a Comprehensive Overview

The next edition of the magazine The Weekly Standard includes an article (available online now) written by Max Boot and Richard Bennet that provides an overview of the ongoing work of the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P) .

At the request of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), U.S. military personnel routinely deploy to the Philippines to provide support to its efforts to defeat violent extremists. The approximately 600 men and women of JSOTF-P provide direct support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in areas that include information sharing, tactical training programs, and help with providing humanitarian assistance.

JSOTF-P activities are part of an interagency approach that requires close coordination, integration, and unity of effort within the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. State Department, and other agencies. The Weekly Standard article also notes that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is active in the southern Philippines. This “whole-of-government” approach has been the key to providing effective support to the GRP in its efforts to counter violent extremists.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies expands partnerships

Within the past several weeks, 77 Fellows representing more than 25 countries have graduated from the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Honolulu.

The most recent graduates completed either a three-week course in terrorism responses on Dec. 11, or a four-week course in comprehensive crisis management on Dec. 18.

Through its many programs of courses, conferences and research—in Hawaii and throughout Asia-Pacific—APCSS supports the Pacific Command objective of strengthening and expanding relationships with allies and partners.

The Comprehensive Security Responses to Terrorism Course included 29 participants from American Samoa, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Guam, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

The countries and the territory represented at the Comprehensive Crisis Response Management: Preventing, Preparing and Responding Course, attended by 48, were American Samoa, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Cook Island, India, Indonesia, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Micronesia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, the United States and Vietnam.

Since its opening in 1995, APCSS has had representatives from 72 countries and three international organizations attend the courses at the Center for a total of 3,853 alumni. The Center has also hosted or co-hosted conferences and seminars for more than 7,200 participants.


Friday, December 19, 2008

PACOM Commander Briefs at Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C.

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), highlighted key points of the PACOM Strategy and took questions from reporters representing a number of Asia-Pacific nations, and others, at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C. Dec. 18.

The Admiral was in Washington, D.C. in the midst of a trip to the U.S. East Coast that included a series of meetings and updates.

During his opening remarks at the Foreign Press Center, Adm. Keating highlighted three important points at the centerpiece of the strategy – partnership, presence, and military readiness.

The Admiral noted it is important everyone in the PACOM area of responsibility (AOR) understand the U.S. military is committed to security, stability, and prosperity throughout the region, which covers over half of the earth’s surface. He also noted the U.S. military is going to remain present and engaged throughout the AOR and that we will be there in the years ahead, as we have been there for decades in the past. He emphasized that it is important that our friends and allies remain confident and comfortable in our ability to respond across the entire spectrum of operations, should the need arise.

The Admiral then responded to questions from the media on a broad range of topics related to the PACOM AOR. Topics included China’s announcement of possible deployments of its navy ships to the coast of Somalia as part of an ongoing international effort to counter piracy, India’s reaction in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and the health of North Korea’s leader.

The Admiral expressed optimism that China’s possible deployment to support anti-piracy efforts in waters off Somalia could potentially be used as a springboard for the resumption of dialogue and other military-to-military engagement between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and U.S. Pacific Command.

Adm. Keating also noted that he was encouraged by the progress being made between China and Taiwan in reducing tensions across the Taiwan Strait through the recent cross Strait agreements.

The transcript of the event, from the Foreign Press Center, a Defenselink story, and the video, courtesy of the Pentagon Channel are provided for your interest.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Correcting the Record -- The Straits Times Dec. 12 article with Adm. Keating

The Straits Times (Singapore) recently published and posted an article to their online subscription news service as a result of an interview they conducted with Adm. Timothy J. Keating, who is the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, regarding the potential for a naval arms race in Asia-Pacific.

Overall, the reporter outlines why he does not envision a naval arms race in Asia-Pacific, citing several sources.

It is an interesting read with one comment from Adm. Keating unfortunately being misplaced. The reporter inadvertently placed a quote by Adm. Keating in the incorrect context leading readers to believe that U.S. Pacific Command views China as a definite threat, which is not the case.

The reporter has acknowledged this unfortunate mistake and noted that he meant to write that the admiral did not think China would pose a threat.

The correct question and context of this particular exchange is below:

Straits Times: "I want to cite your national maritime strategy that came out last year where you talked about deterrence and you were talking about you will not permit conditions under which the maritime process will be impeded from freedom of maneuver and freedom of access. Now it is speculated that the Chinese are trying to deny kind of access to the Taiwan Strait for example. Do you think you have the capability to actually counter any Chinese power projection in that area?"

ADM Keating: "I don’t think it, I know it."

Media: “Do you think they are actually trying to deny you access?”

ADM Keating: “I think they are pursuing development of systems that could be used to attempt to deny us. Our conversations with them say don’t bother, you’re not going to be able to. You might make it painful; you won’t prevail, so why bother? Why not engage in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration with all of us and enjoy access to the maritime domains by contributing to the security of the domains, not by challenging the security of the domains."

Adm. Keating also discussed the importance of engagement with China and throughout the region as the best approach for helping to ensure security, stability and prosperity. U.S Pacific Command continues to stress the importance of a collaborative approach to security through partnership.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Army, JGSDF exercise concludes in Japan

The latest edition of exercise Yama Sakura kicked off Dec. 7 in Japan and wraps up today. It's a large command post exercise (CPX) designed to sharpen staff coordination between elements of the U.S. Army and the Japan Ground Self Defense Force. Yama Sakura exercises a variety of scenarios that might be faced in the defense of Japan. Story here.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Air Force prepares for Micronesia goodwill mission

This is a nice story about a mission that's been going on for more than 50 years, called Operation Chrismas Drop. Originating from Guam, but supported by other Pacific Air Forces units from off the island, it brings donations to the islands of Micronesia.


Navy strengthens relationships in Japan

Tens of thousands of Japanese citizens toured USS George Washington (CVN 73) and the Yokosuka Naval Base Dec. 6 during Friendship Day in Yokosuka, Japan. Tons of work goes into organizing and executing events like Friendship Day, which go a long way toward strengthening partnerships. You can read the story here.


Friday, December 5, 2008

U.S., Indian armies conclude exercise

A two-week exercise focused on Peacekeeping skills is winding down on Oahu. Great example of partnership with India. Story here.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Soldier Saves Three Lives in Philippines

Staff Sgt. Ruben D. Gonzalez, a deployed Army Soldier assigned to the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, was awarded the Soldier's Medal Dec. 2 for risking his life to save three Philippines college students from drowning. Here's the story.


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