Jan. 31, 2019 —
We determined whether DoD efforts to train, advise, assist, and equip the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as articulated by DoD and USPACOM Operation Pacific Eagle–Philippines execute orders, increased the AFP’s capability to counter existing violent extremist organization (VEO) threats and built sustainable AFP capabilities to disrupt, defeat, and deny safe haven to current and future VEOs in the Philippines.
U.S. Forces and the AFP have conducted bilateral counterterrorism (CT) operations in the Philippines since 2001. U.S. forces have advised and assisted AFP CT operations, coordinated training and exercises with the AFP, and facilitated proposals and programs for equipment to support AFP forces. In 2017, an ISIS‑Philippines (ISIS-P) attack on the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines highlighted CT capability gaps in the AFP, particularly in AFP conventional units. In response, the DoD and USINDOPACOM initiated Operation Pacific Eagle–Philippines in 2017 to continue to advise and assist Philippine Security Force (PSF) CT operations and to build PSF partner capacity in critical SOF and conventional force capabilities.
U.S. Forces advice and assistance helped the Armed Forces of the Philippines counter violent extremists in the city of Marawi. In 2017 the AFP, with advice and assistance from a U.S. Special Operations Task Force, fought a 5-month battle with ISIS-P forces in Marawi, returning the city to the Philippine government’s control. The U.S. advise and assist forces did not participate in AFP operations or directly train the AFP. However, U.S. force advisors identified AFP critical capability gaps, and advised and assisted AFP counterparts to help them overcome capability challenges during Marawi CT operations.
We also determined that USINDOPACOM and the Joint U.S. Military Advisor Group at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines complied with requirements to vet individuals and units for gross human rights violations. They also conducted rule of law and human rights training before providing U.S. Government assistance to the AFP.
In addition, we determined that U.S. Forces did not provide CT training to the conventional forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as directed in the USINDOPACOM Operation Pacific Eagle–Philippines Execute Order, October 5, 2017. The USINDOPACOM components lacked resources to train AFP conventional forces on capabilities specified in the USINDOPACOM execute order. Finally, USINDOPACOM components did not develop project proposals to provide training and equipping to AFP conventional forces using 10 U.S.C. § 333  “Foreign Security Forces, Authority to Build Capacity” funding authority.
We recommend that the Commander of USINDOPACOM, in coordination with AFP leadership:
- Determine the priorities and resources required to develop CT capacity of AFP conventional forces.
- Determine training responsibilities within USINDOPACOM for developing programs to build the capacity of AFP conventional forces.
- Consider developing proposals for 10 U.S.C. § 333 authority to build the capacity of AFP conventional forces to support CT operations.
Management Comments and Our Response
The USINDOPACOM Chief of Staff, on behalf of the USINDOPACOM Commander, acknowledged the report’s recommendations and provided comments. Although the USINDOPACOM Chief of Staff neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations, he stated that U.S. Forces would continue to provide CT training to AFP conventional forces. He stated that USINDOPACOM conducted multiple subject matter expert exchanges and exercises intended to enhance the interoperability of AFP capabilities in the six critical training tasks directed in the USINDOPACOM OPE-P EXORD. USINDOPACOM planned to use the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) process to address long-term training plans with the AFP. He also stated that USINDOPACOM would continue to use the Country Security Cooperation Plan (CSCP) to inform planning efforts for AFP BPC and pursuit of required resources, to include 10 U.S.C. § 333 funds and other Title 10 and Title 22 funds.
The recommendations in this report are resolved, but remain open. To close these recommendations, we request that the USINDOPACOM Commander provide:
- USINDOPACOM’s plan or proposal to develop the capacity of WESTMINCOM conventional forces on the six critical capabilities directed in the USINDOPACOM OPE-P EXORD, including details of CT training coordinated through the MDB-SEB process in 2019.
- An update on responsibilities assigned to USINDOPACOM subordinate commands, as part of the plan to develop the capacity of WESTMINCOM conventional forces on the six critical capabilities directed in the USINDOPACOM OPE-P EXORD.
- An update on USINDOPACOM plans to develop 10 U.S.C. § 333 projects to build the capacity of Armed Forces of the Philippines conventional forces to support counterterrorism operations.
This report is a result of Project No. D2018-D00SPO-0139.000.