Two officials from the United States Department of Defense have reportedly released information that the Pentagon is planning to conduct airstrikes on the ISIS presence in the Philippines in the context that the group poses a threat to allies in the region.
According to NBC News, the strikes against ISIS would potentially be conducted by weaponized aerial drones as part of an official collective self-defense military operation by the U.S. armed forces. The unnamed officials reportedly said that the plan may be named as early as Tuesday.
Should the plan be approved, the U.S. military would be allowed to carry out strikes against ISIS members who have recently been causing a disturbance in the southern islands of the Philippines.
Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis, who called the Philippines a “steady state”, stated that the U.S. military has been sharing intelligence with its Philippine counterpart for many years now.
“We have had a consistent CT [counterterror] presence in the Philippines for fifteen years now,” he was quoted as saying.
Currently, a small U.S. military contingent remains in the Philippines under the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident, which supports the counter-ISIS fight on the ground.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during his Manila visit that the U.S. was providing the Philippine government with “intelligence capabilities” in the fight against ISIS, including “some recent transfers of a couple of Cessnas and a couple of UAVs (drones) to allow to them to have better information with which to conduct the fight down there.”
“We’re providing them some training and some guidance in terms of how to deal with an enemy that fights in ways that are not like most people have ever had to deal with.
“I see no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of other human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counternarcotics activities.”
Philippine President Duterte welcomed Tillerson, who was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and other American officials, yesterday in Malacanang Palace.
“I’m your humble friend in Southeast Asia,” Duterte said, adding that he was thankful to the U.S. for its assistance to the Philippines, noting that the two countries had been friends “for many years.”
Duterte, who has been known for his anti-U.S. tirades, has been calling for the removal of all foreign troops from the Philippines since his election last year.
“I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops. I want them out,” he was quoted as saying back in October 2016.
“And if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, this shall be the last maneuver, war games between the United States and the Philippines military.”
Meanwhile, Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement that the U.S. government’s alleged plan to launch airstrikes in ISIS-stricken Marawi City was not discussed during Tillerson’s visit.
“This (US’ planned airstrike in Marawi City) was not taken up during the meeting between President Duterte and Secretary Tillerson,” he was quoted as saying.