The Pentagon is reportedly considering plans to conduct airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Philippines.
The recent surge of terrorist networks affiliated to the Islamic State along with an ongoing assault on the southern city of Marawi, has caused alarm in the Philippines and neighbouring countries who believe that ISIS may establish a regional southeast Asian hub as it declines in the Middle East.
The Telegraph reports:
The authority to strike Isil targets as part of a strategy of collective defence could become part of a military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday, two defence officials told NBC News.
The strikes would likely be conducted by armed drones, a strategy already used across the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and one which has a controversial record over allegations of civilian casualties.
If the Pentagon plan is approved, the US military would be able to conduct strikes against the Isil groups the Philippines forces are currently battling in the country’s southern islands.
The US has been sharing intelligence and had a counter-terrorism presence in the Philippines for 15 years.
Speaking at a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in the Philippine capital, Manila, where he met President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington had already provided Cessna planes and UAVs (drones) for intelligence purposes.
“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.”
Reports of US troops on the ground near the besieged city of Marawi emerged as early as June. Marawi, a Muslim-majority city of 200,000, was overrun by groups claiming allegiance to Isil in late May, and the Philippine military has been unable to regain full control.
The Americans were not fighting but “operating equipment to provide information on situation awareness to our troops,” said military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla in June.
Mr Duterte initially claimed he was “not aware” of their presence and that he had “never approached America” for help.