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Role of U.S. Troops in Philippine Combat Uncertain

The role U.S. troops will play in the Philippines in the fight against Muslim rebels is still uncertain, Philippine Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said on Friday. U.S. officials and Philippine officials were discussing whether the troops would be prohibited from opening fire except when fired upon, or whether the Americans would be allowed to shoot while simply under threat of attack, Reyes said. The Pentagon said last week that about 1,750 U.S. troops, including elite units, would go to the Philippines to help subdue Muslim separatists who have been fighting the mainly Roman Catholic nation for three decades. The 350 Special Operations troops would head for troubled Jolo Island in the Sulu archipelago and be supported by 400 troops stationed at Zamboanga, U.S. officials said. Meanwhile, about 1,000 U.S. Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit would remain offshore on ships to provide emergency backup and air support. The Philippine military said the Sulu exercises may not start for at least four weeks. Full Story

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