January 16, 2018, 11:06 pm
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US air strikes not needed

FROM out of nowhere comes the news that the United States is planning to conduct “drone strikes” on the Islamist Maute-Abu Sayyaf combine now still holding out in a small portion of Marawi City. These jihadist fighters are affiliated with the Islamic State or ISIS.

This plan of the Pentagon, curiously not relayed to our very own defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, was reported by NBC News in America.

Quoting unnamed US defense officials, the NBC News said “the authority to strike ISIS targets as part of collective self-defense could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday.”

Lorenzana promptly denied the report, saying “no discussions regarding air strikes from whatever platforms hitting local targets transpired” at his level. The qualifying phrase “at his level” puts his denial in the proper context, because his boss, President Rodrigo Duterte, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just finished a one-on-one meeting which, although short, could have discussed the possibility of US involvement in Marawi.

The defense secretary stressed that a US-led drone attack “is not within the provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty.”

In his press conference at Sofitel Hotel last Monday, Tillerson said his country is providing the Philippine government with “intelligence capabilities” in the Marawi conflict.

Tillerson noted that the US provides information and some surveillance capabilities, citing the recent transfer of a couple of Cessnas and a couple of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones) to allow Filipino troops to have better information in which to conduct the war.

The US state secretary is proud to provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines some training and guidance on how to deal with “an enemy that fights in ways that is not like most people have ever had to deal with.”

He admitted that the US has accumulated knowledge and experience in fighting ISIS in other parts of the world, and it is also in their national security interest to share these to the government.

We believe President Duterte when he says we are only a matter of weeks away from complete liberation of Marawi, and hope that this will deter any more plans by the US to widen its participation in the defense of the city.

Like many Filipinos, Duterte is careful and wary that the Americans might just take up the fight with ISIS on its own, inasmuch as Isnilon Hapilon is very much wanted by their government. Remember that when they killed Osama bin Laden they did not even have the courtesy of informing Pakistan that an operation was under way?

The Americans fight their wars with devious and ferocious force and it is best that they do not play an active role in Marawi.
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