Pentagon officials say a discussion is ongoing about the possibility of granting US forces in the Philippine authority to conduct airstrikes against the nation’s ISIS affiliate, and that the announcement and naming of the new operation could happen within the next 24 hours.
ISIS affiliates have been active in the southern Philippines in recent months, seizing the city of Marawi and leading to a protracted battle with the Philippine military, which the US has been participating in in a limited role.
The US is always keen for deeper military involvement in the Philippines, especially as President Duterte was until very recently talking about his interest in getting the US military out of his country entirely. This could be just the pretext to get the US dug in even deeper.
Philippines military officials were quick to deny the reports, saying that the Pentagon hadn’t spoken to them about it at all. While that hardly disproves the US discussions, they did note the agreement with the US would only allow such airstrikes in the case of a foreign invasion.
Duterte had been courting ties with Russia and China, but now seems to be committed to the US, greeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by declaring himself to be America’s “humble friend in Southeast Asia.”