Growing Fears of ISIS Establishing a Foothold in Southern Philippines

Military Chief Downplays 'Weak' Militant Force

Officials across the Philippines are expressing confidence that they’ll quickly get back ahold of the southern city of Marawi, which was overrun by ISIS forces last week. Gen. Eduardo Ano, the military chief of staff, has mocked the forces in Marawi as “weak,” saying they aren’t a serious threat and the slow rate of taking the city back was to keep civilian casualties down.

The heavy fighting began long before this past week in Marawi, however, and that is raising a lot of concerns that this is ISIS gaining a real foothold in the Southern Philippines, were a substantial Muslim population with a history of grievances is being targeted for recruitment.

President Duterte has declared martial law across the nation’s south, and the fighting in Marawi, which has turned a city of 200,000 people into a war-torn ghost town, is feared by many to be just the first volley in a new, escalated stage of insurgency.

The assurances from top officials are clearly attempted at least in part to calm domestic fear about the growth of ISIS,, but also read awfully similarly to other nations, from Iraq and Syria to places like Egypt and Afghanistan, where early ISIS moves were vastly underestimated, and the threat only recognized after ISIS had already become a substantial problem.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of