U.S. military planning to leave Philippines without Burnhams
U.S. troops will leave the Philippines July 31 whether or not American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham have been freed, officials told the Los Angeles Times over the Memorial Day weekend. "Obviously we're impatient to see the Burnhams released but the fact is we have methodical program and time management to help improve the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines," U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. told the paper. "It [the exercise] seems to be on time and proceeding well."
New Tribes Mission is outraged. "It's a travesty that they [the U.S. Special Forces] could come and go with Martin and Gracia still in captivity," mission spokesman Robert Mycell said. "This will be very difficult for people to understand."
The Wall Street Journal is having a hard time understanding it too. "U.S. departure from the Philippines still seems premature," the paper editorializes today, though it notes many successes of both the American and Philippine militaries. "After the attacks of September 11, President Bush declared that violence against Americans would not be tolerated and would guarantee reprisals. There are now worries that the Bush Administration is softening that stance. Perhaps those worries are overdrawn. But pulling U.S. troops out of the Philippines while Americans are still held captive, and before al Qaeda is defeated, sends the wrong message to terrorists around the world."
Of course, July 31 is still a ways off, and the Philippine military says it may have the Burnhams by then. Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Roy Cimatu says Abu Sayyaf is now a "spent force" and that the military is now "in the last phase of our operations" against ...1