U.S. May Soon Target ISIS in the Philippines
August 08, 2017
The war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria entered its fourth year on Tuesday with news that the U.S. under President Donald Trump may intensify its efforts in a region far removed from either Middle Eastern country.
Throughout the War on Terror, the people of the Philippines have also had to deal with Islamic terrorists. Much of that fight has gone on with little notice from the mainstream media under the auspices of Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident. But with the convergence of two presidencies—Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and Donald Trump in the U.S.—it seems the war to destroy ISIS could be ramped up there very soon.
According to NBC News, quoting two defense officials, the Pentagon is considering drone airstrikes on ISIS in the Philippines. Secretary of Defense Rex Tillerson met with Duterte on Monday and discussed a number of regional issues, including China and North Korea, as well as the threat of ISIS. Although the new Pentagon operation—which is reportedly going to be announced later in the day Tuesday—was not brought up during Tillerson’s press conference Monday, he did mention it in off-the-cuff remarks during the day.
“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,” he said. “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.”
During his confirmation hearing for a new two-year term as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva was asked about the ongoing counterterrorism effort in the Philippines—which has now reached its 15th year—and whether or not the operation needed to take on a more official title. Doing so would provide more funding than is currently available for those efforts.
“In every case where we see the resurgence of terror networks, particularly in the fragile areas of the southern Philippines, I think it’s worth considering whether or not we reinstate a named operation, not only to provide for the resources that are required, but to give the Pacific Command commander and the field commanders in the Philippines the kinds of authorities they need to work with indigenous Philippine forces to actually help them be successful in that battle space,” he said.
Selva also noted that there is still much work to be done in Iraq and Syria with regard to ISIS. He said there remains a necessary push into Iraq’s Anbar province to secure its border with Syria.
Meanwhile, at the Pentagon daily press briefing Monday, spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis noted the three-year anniversary of the fight against ISIS, which began with airstrikes over Irbil in Iraq:
“Eight million people were being ruthlessly held captive by their rule, living in misery, many fleeing their homes, many forced into refugee status, many forced into slavery. And we saw their depravity in videos that they posted on YouTube,” he said. “We know that they continue to murder and wound innocent people — using them as human shields and displacing families into refugees. And we know that they’re spreading to other places. We’ve seen their attacks in Europe … [and] we’ve seen their influence shift into places like Afghanistan, Mali, and now even the Philippines.”
He also noted the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s successes:
- In Iraq, about 70 percent of the territory ISIS once held is now liberated.
- In Syria, 50 percent of the territory they once held is liberated.
- The coalition now includes 73 partners—69 nations plus the European Union, NATO, the Arab League and Interpol.
“The coalition is progressing and ISIS is facing its inevitable defeat. We will win and they will lose,” Davis added. “Our campaign against ISIS has been done with the utmost care to minimize civilian casualties … Civilians do die in war and that’s a sad truth. But the 5 million innocent people liberated from ISIS would still be living under that brutality and the death toll would be even higher but for our efforts against ISIS.”