Philippines, To Counter the Islamic State, the U.S. Deploys Drones

Di Vincenzo Santo*

(Da Stratfor – 12 settembre 2017)

Washington. The United States is becoming more involved in the fight against the Islamic State in the Philippines. Most recently, the U.S. military deployed MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones there to support counterterrorism efforts, according to a Sept. 11 statement issued by the U.S. Embassy. This is notable in light of early August leaks from U.S. Department of Defense officials that Washington was considering expanding its assistance against Islamic State-aligned militants in Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao to include direct airstrikes, possibly using drones. (…) In the past, the United States provided the Philippines with Scan Eagle drones for surveillance and, more recently, helped with surveillance and reconnaissance in Marawi City to direct Philippine airstrikes. Islamic State-aligned militants have held the city since late May, although the Philippine armed forces have been slowly forcing them out through intense urban fighting. The United States has been involved in counterterrorism on the restive island of Mindanao since 2002 under the rubric of the Joint Special Operations Task Force – a model pioneered to avoid a direct combat role for U.S. troops amid political sensitivities about the U.S. role in the Philippines. But these drones do not mean that direct airstrikes are on the table. Such a shift would require direct approval from the Philippine president and, if done openly, would risk sparking political backlash. Instead, the embassy emphasized that the Gray Eagles’ longer flight duration would allow for reconnaissance over larger areas than current systems. The statement did not specify that the drones would be armed, and their use could easily be limited to surveillance. (…)

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