Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has made a top priority of his foreign policy establishing a strong measure of autonomy compared to the nation’s traditional dependence on the US, and the sudden news of US forces becoming involved in the siege of Marawi has raised a lot of eyebrows.
Duterte, for his part, says he “never approached America” for military support in the offensive, and that he was “not aware of that until they arrived” in the area on the southern island on Mindanao, which has been placed under martial law since the local ISIS affiliate seized the city of Marawi.
Duterte has publicly called for the expulsion of US forces from the Philippines in the past, but the nation’s military has a close relationship with the Pentagon. This has raised speculation that the military went around Duterte and approached the US directly on support for the offensive.
Philippines military officials insist that there are no US “boots on the ground” in the city itself, and that the US involvement so far is purely “technical assistance.” It’s not clear if that’s going to remain the case, particularly if the local ISIS affiliate continues to grow in influence across the nation’s always unstable Muslim regions.