The Pentagon is mulling U.S. air strikes against ISIS militants in the Philippines, and could announce an official military operation including such strikes as early as Tuesday, NBC News reports.
Philippine armed forces — and a smattering of U.S. special forces — are already battling Islamist militants in the country’s southern islands. The Defense Department is currently considering a plan that will allow the use of American airpower against any ISIS targets that pose a threat to U.S.
allies in the region.
On Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Philippine president (and self-avowed murderer) Rodrigo Duterte in Manila. Tillerson made no mention of American air support, but did say that the U.S. is “providing [the Philippines] some training and some guidance in terms of how to deal with an enemy that fights in ways that is not like most people have ever had to deal with.”
Nearly 700 people have been killed in fighting since gunmen affiliated with the Islamic State stormed homes and businesses in the city of Marawi, a heavily Islamic community in the predominantly Catholic nation.
While President Trump has praised Duterte’s approach to combating drug addiction — namely, encouraging vigilantes to extrajudicially murder drug users by the thousands — Tillerson suggested that this policy was not good, but also irrelevant to the question of whether the U.S. should intervene against ISIS on Duterte’s behalf.
“We see no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of the human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counter-narcotics activities,” Tillerson said, with characteristic eloquence.
Duterte, for his part, called himself America’s “humble friend in Southeast Asia” — and then offered this display of that signature humility.
“Human rights, son of a bitch,” Duterte said. “Policemen and soldiers have died on me. The war now in Marawi, what caused it but drugs? So human rights, don’t go there.”