With the dust-up earlier this month over a planned and cancelled meeting still fresh in everyone’s mind, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded that the US withdraw its remaining troops from his nation’s southern islands, complaining they are complicating the military operations against militants there.
The US nominally ended the military operation in the southern Philippines in 2015, but still keeps some troops there. The State Department downplayed the demand, insisting that there are only “a handful” of ground troops left anyhow.
Duterte argued that the Abu Sayyaf militants in the south are eager to kidnap Westerners, and that the presence of small numbers of American troops makes them a target, and forces the operations against them to plan around the threats to US forces.
The White House fired back at the Philippines for electing Duterte at all, saying the latest acrimony was “an indication of how important elections are,” and that the Philippines had ample warning that Duterte didn’t have qualities “like decorum and temperament and judgment.”
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