WASHINGTON D.C. The Pentagon is reportedly considering launching air strikes against ISIS-inspired Maute militants holed up in Marawi for three months despite a nearly daily barrage from government artillery and aircraft.
However, Philippine officials said they have not gotten any formal notice about the alleged plan. It’s also drawing opposition from left-leaning groups concerned about growing US military involvement in the fight against local militants. NBC News claimed the US military was considering a bombing campaign to help break the apparent stalemate in Marawi.
Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) questioned the feasibility of such a campaign because half century-old Mutual Defense Treaty only allowed direct military action in the event of an actual invasion.
While he expressed appreciation for the US’ “reported desire” to help the Philippines end the Marawi siege, Gen. Ano said such a plan will have to be approved at the highest levels of government both in Manila and Washington.
The US has delivered millions of dollars in armaments, including rockets, drones, Gatling guns, communications and surveillance equipment, since the fighting erupted in Marawi City. American P-3 “Orion” spy planes have also been supporting Filipino ground troops.
There is a small US military presence on the ground coordinating operations with the AFP, called Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident. But the Pentagon has recently been talking about their desire to open a new named operation in the Philippines. Having a named operation will allow more funds and resources to be diverted to the country.
The US wound down the last one in 2013 as the threat from the Abu Sayyaf group, an Al-qaeda franchise terror group in Sulu and Basilan, waned from relentless government pressure.
“In every case where we see the resurgence of terror networks,” said Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the US Joints Chief of Staff, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “particularly in the fragile areas of the southern Philippines, I think it’s worth considering whether or not we reinstate a named operation, not only to provide for the resources that are required, but to give the Pacific Command commander and the field commanders in the Philippines the kinds of authorities they need to work with indigenous Philippine forces to actually help them be successful in that battle space.”
If approved, the US military would be able to conduct strikes against ISIS targets in the Philippines that could be a threat to allies in the region, which would include the Philippine forces battling ISIS-affiliated groups in Mindanao and other parts of the country.
The NBC report indicated that if the strikes are approved, the US will be using missile-firing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).