PENTAGON officials have revealed the United States is considering a plan that would allow the military to launch airstrikes against Islamic State-linked fighters in the Philippines.
Two defence officials reportedly told American broadcaster NBC News the US was considering airstrikes against the Maute Group fighters in Marawi City, which would likely be carried out by armed drones.
The move, if approved, would be on the basis of collective self-defence due to the threat posed to US allies in the region by IS-affiliated militants.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher B. Logan said “collective self-defence doesn’t necessarily mean airstrikes,” and that it was primarily about intelligence-sharing – for example providing information to the Philippines military to ensure they can protect themselves.
Nevertheless, Logan would not rule out the US would conduct airstrikes itself, nor whether additional drones provided to the Philippines would be armed, reported NBC News.
In Manila, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday: “We’re providing them some training and guidance in terms of how to deal with an enemy that fights in ways unlike most people have ever had to deal with.”
Last month, the US also conducted a joint patrol with the Philippines navy amidst fears militants sympathetic to IS would cross maritime borders from Malaysia and Indonesia to join Islamic rebels who seized Marawi City.
“We have had a consistent CT [counterterror] presence in the Philippines for 15 years now,” another Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis told NBC News.
Wearing on now for the third month, the fighting in Marawi has killed 122 military and police personnel and 45 civilians according to data released by the Philippines government on Monday. Authorities claim 528 militants have been killed.
An estimated 30 to 40 gunmen are still holed up in Marawi, who are thought to be holding around 100 civilian hostages in a mosque.
Despite the continuing fighting, the Philippines government has begun its post-conflict appraisal.