MINDANAO, Philippines — It’s unfair to compare the Iraq or Afghanistan insurgencies with the one being battled in the southern Philippines, officials stressed during recent interviews.

U.S. troops with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines provide “assistance and advice” to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops are fully engaged in combat operations.

Recently, the Philippine military has killed several high-value targets and appears to have the Abu Sayyaf Group on the ropes on Jolo Island. Soldiers told Stars and Stripes that Abu Sayyaf hasn’t been able to mount any sort of attack in months.

Meanwhile, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been criticized as ineffective and insurgent attacks occur almost daily.

U.S. officials say that many now would like to compare the successes in the Philippines to the situation thousands of miles away.

But conditions are vastly different between the countries, said task force commander Army Col. David Maxwell.

“Here we are working with an ally,” he said. “In Iraq we had a war and we had to go in and re-establish the rule of law, security, stability and re-establish functioning systems in the midst of very complex security problem.”

And the Philippine military is a strong and skilled force, Maxwell said.

“Certainly they need assistance, they’re always improving. That’s why we are here to advise and assist. But they have an established military that we have a long relationship with and we are strong partners,” he said.

“ It’s truly ‘apples and oranges,’” Maxwell said. “So it’s unfair to say what we are doing here is the right way as opposed to somewhere else is not the right way.”

Day 2:Slideshow

Finding the root of home-grown terrorism

Special forces lend a hand to counterparts

Navy helps Philippines' sea defense

Making friend's in Abu Sayyaf's territory

Civil affairs team members roughing it at remote camp

Officials say Philippine fight much different than Iraq, Afghanistan

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now