U.S. special forces are now assisting the Philippines military in the battle against Islamic State fighters after militants seized the city of Marawi.
These forces have been deployed at the request of the Philippine government to help take Marawi back, to prevent the terror group from gaining a hold in the country. However, the U.S. will refrain from ground fighting, Reuters reports.
U.S. forces are limited to technical support at this time and surveillance aircraft, particularly the P-3C Orion and RQ-20 Puma Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
So far, dozens of government troops and ISIS militants have died fighting for control over Marawi. Thirteen Philippines Marines died in combat Friday. When ISIS-loyal militants from terror groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute seized Marawi in May, they burned down churches, schools and butchered Christians. They then released a shocking image of the executions.
Despite airstrikes, the Philippines military is finding it difficult to rout out the ISIS militants, as these fighters make use of anti-tank weapons and take shelter in bomb-proof tunnels. They also use human shields, a tactic commonly used by ISIS troops facing heavy assault in Iraq and Syria.
The Pentagon told CNN that special forces have operated in the Philippines for years, and at any time, there are 50-100 troops on the ground.
Although the U.S. is providing military support, the long-standing alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines has been on somewhat shaky ground as of late because of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s loud remarks about pivoting to China and Russia. In a recent interview with RT in May, Duterte stated he wanted a closer relationship with China and Russia, as the Western world engages in “double talk.”
“I have nothing against America, [US President Donald] Trump is my friend,” Duterte said. “But my foreign policy has shifted. I want to deal with China and Russia. Because in Western world, it’s double talk.”
“You treat me as if I’m your colony still. You must be kidding! We’re an independent country. I want my country to be treated with dignity,” Duterte added.
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