Now that ISIS - the perpetual scapegoat for US intervention in the Syrian proxy war - is no longer viable, with the Qatar, Saudi-funded and Pentagon-equipped terrorist organization scattered and on the run, and there is no longer an imperative to remove Assad from power as the Qatar natgas pipeline to Europe is mothballed indefinitely while Russia and Iran are the de facto undisputed rulers of Syria, it is time to focus popular anger against ISIS elsewhere... like in the Philippines. And not wasting any time, NBC reports that the Pentagon is considering a plan allowing the U.S. military to conduct airstrikes on ISIS in the Philippines.
Unlike in Syria where the US arrived (and is now on its way out) to wage war against the Assad regime ISIS uninvited, the authority to strike ISIS targets as part of collective self-defense could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday, said the anonymous officials who spoke to NBC. The strikes would likely be conducted by armed drones.
If approved, the U.S. 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 on the ground in the country's southern islands.
Since the U.S. military has been sharing intelligence with the Philippines for years, according to Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis, the US drones will have no problem orienting themselves. "We have had a consistent CT [counterterror] presence in the Philippines for fifteen years now," he said. And, like in Syria, there is already a small U.S. military presence on the ground supporting the counter-ISIS fight, called Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident. We expect the presence will get bigger.
An MQ-9 Reaper drone sits armed with Hellfire missiles and a 500-pound bomb
The news may explain the dramatic U-Turn by Philippines' outspoken president Rodrigo Duterte, whoe just two weeks ago said he would never visit the U.S. because he’s “seen America and it’s lousy."
"There will never be a time that I will go to America during my term, or even thereafter," Duterte said. "So what makes that guy think I'll go to America?" Duterte told reporters. "I've seen America and it's lousy ... it would be good for the U.S. Congress to start with their own investigation of their own violations of the so many civilians killed in the prosecution of the wars in the Middle East. Otherwise I will be forced to investigate you also. I will start with your past sins."
But that pales in comparison to Duterte's comments about former President Obama, whom he called "son of a whore" on more than one occasion and told to "go to hell."
Fast forward to today when in an abrupt reversal, Duterte said on Monday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is currently in Manilla, should consider him a "humble friend" as the two met. "I am your humble friend in Southeast Asia," Duterte said to Tillerson at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum in Manila, according to the network.
On Monday Tillerson said the U.S. was providing the Philippines government with "intelligence capabilities" in the fight against ISIS, including "some recent transfers of a couple of Cessnas and a couple of UAVs (drones) to allow to them to have better information with which to conduct the fight down there."
"We're providing them some training and some guidance in terms of how to deal with an enemy that fights in ways that are not like most people have ever had to deal with, so it’s a tragic situation down there. I see no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of other human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counternarcotics activities."
As the Hill reported earlier, Tillerson and Duterte reportedly discussed their joint military efforts to combat militant fighters in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.
Also on Monday, Tillerson dismissed the notion that working with the controversial leader would create a “big contradiction.”
“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, NBC News reported.
And now the bombing can begin.