Top US commander warns Philippines rift could hurt counter-terrorism fight Feb 14, 2020 0 644 12345 AFPSydneyA TOP US commander warned ending a security pact with the Philippines’ would hurt counter-terrorism efforts in the country’s restive south on Thursday, putting him at odds with commander-in-chief Donald Trump.Washington’s top military officer in Asia-Pacific Admiral Philip Davidson said he hoped Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to scrap a deal allowing US forces to be based in the country would be rethought.Manila has given “180 day notice so we have some time for diplomatic efforts,” Davidson said at an event in Sydney. “I hope we can get to a successful outcome.” Trump has said he would be “fine” with the end of the visiting forces agreement as it would save the United States “a lot of money”.But Davidson insisted the move would hamper military operations in Duterte’s home island of Mindanao -- where separatist and Islamist violence has killed some 100,000 people.“Our ability to help the Philippines in their counter-violent extremist fight in the south, our ability to train and operate within the Philippines and with Philippines armed forces would be challenged without that visiting forces agreement,” he warned.Though a landmark peace deal with the largest of the rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was sealed in 2019, the most brutal extremist factions were not included.Those groups include the Islamic State-aligned BIFF and Abu Sayyaf, a kidnap-for-ransom gang that has been behind some of the nation’s deadliest attacks.In late December at least 17 people -- including soldiers -- were injured in a dual hand grenade and IED attack on the island. The rotating deployment of US troops in the country -- coupled with a long-standing mutual defence pact and regular military exercises -- is also seen as a bulwark against rising Chinese influence in the region. Pages 12 RELATED ARTICLES Indonesian volcano spews ash, lava Feb 14, 2020 0 1575 Business booms for ‘Parasite’ locations Feb 14, 2020 0 423 Virus death toll soars as China changes counting methods Feb 14, 2020 0 379 BOOSTING TIES: TURKEY’S ERDOGAN IN PAKISTAN Islamabad (dpa) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Islamabad on Thursday, months after Pakistan''s rebuke to a plan some saw as a challenge to Saudi Arabia''s hegemony in the Muslim .. US announces week-long partial truce with Taliban AFP Brussels The United States has secured a seven-day reduction in violence in talks to help seek a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan, Pentagon chief Mark Esper said on Thursday. The announcement came as NATO .. Mall reopens in Thailand, days after mass shooting Bangkok: A shopping centre in north-eastern Thailand that last weekend was the scene of the country’s deadliest mass shooting reopened its doors to the public on Thursday. Large crowds turned out at Terminal 21 mall in .. Blast kills another Pakistani Taliban leader in Afghanistan Peshawar: A senior Pakistani Taliban commander was killed by a bomb in eastern Afghanistan, militant and intelligence sources told AFP on Thursday, the latest such incident to target the group in recent days. Sheharyar .. At least 14 killed, 31 hurt in bus-truck collision in India New Delhi: At least 14 people were killed and dozens injured when a speeding bus rammed into a parked truck in northern India, police said on Thursday. Police officer Iraj Raja said the crash occurred on an expressway in .. Russia fines Twitter, Facebook for keeping data abroad AFP Moscow A Moscow court on Thursday fined social networking giants Twitter and Facebook for ignoring a Russian law requiring them to store Russian citizens’ user data inside the country. A court slapped the US-based ..