Remember a few months back when news emerged that the United States wants to have increased access to Philippine ports and airfrields to use as potetnial dispersal bases in any conflict in the Western Pacific? At the time, it seemed that Defense Department officials merely wanted occasional -- if frequent -- access to these installations, not permanent bases. Well, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just dropped a hint that the Pentagon may well be planning on basing U.S. troops in the Philippines for the first time since America shuttered its massive bases in the ex-U.S. colony 20 years ago.
Check out these lasts paragraphs of a Defense News article on Panetta's current trip to Asia where he's trying to "define the new defense strategy for the region, particularly the emphasis on the rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region."
DoD also wants to strengthen its presence in the region, particularly though rotational deployments, which would be similar to the arrangement the Pentagon has with Australia to deploy Marines there.That's right, the U.S. is considering some sort of basing arrangement in the Philippenes, a country that wants Amercia's help in fending off the threat of Chinese domination of the Philippines' resource-rich corner of the South China Sea (Google the Spratly Islands). All the term "rotational" means is that different units will swap in and out of facilities in the Philippines and elsewhere; basically, there's going to be a long term American military presence in these places. This could simply be a rotation of U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance planes to the islands -- something that Pentagon planners have already referred to -- or it could be something bigger, adding to the 330,000 American troops that are already based in the Pacific. Time will tell.
The Pentagon “working on” an arrangement like this in the Philippines and “elsewhere,” Panetta said without naming additional countries.
Click here to read more about the Pentagon's plans for the Pacific and the Philippines.
Ps. American SOF troops have been quetly operating in the southern Philippenes for a decade, helping the local military combat an Islamic insurgency, but you already knew that.