Duterte Thanks Trump For Helping Him Hammer ISIS

Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The president of the Philippines is singing America’s praises for its assistance in the fight against the Islamic State — the exact opposite of what was being said around this time last year.

Muslim militants with direct ties to ISIS overran Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines, in late May. Since the radicals first raised the black ISIS standard above the city four months ago, hundreds, possibly thousands, of people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Efforts to liberate the city from the radical Islamic terrorists are ongoing.

The Trump administration has been, from the beginning, ready to aid the Philippines in its fight against ISIS.

“These cowardly terrorists killed Philippine law enforcement officials and endangered the lives of innocent citizens,” the White House said in May. “The U.S. is a proud ally of the Philippines and we will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries.”

The U.S. already had a contingent of military personnel in the country to provide support. The U.S. also dispatched a P-3 Orion spy plane and other intelligence assets to the region to aid Filipino forces engaging ISIS combatants. The U.S. also supplied local troops with new counterterrorism weapons. “This equipment will enhance the PMC’s counterterrorism capabilities, and help protect Philippine Marines actively engaged in counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines,” according to the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.

“I would not say that they were our saviors, but they are our allies and they helped us. And even today, they have provided the crucial equipment to our soldiers in Marawi to fight the terrorists,” President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday, according to local media reports.

“Without their help also, we would be having a hard time,” he added, “We thank you.”

Around this time last year, Duterte could be heard repeatedly railing against the U.S., a response to the Obama administration’s criticisms of the brutal war on drugs that has ended the lives of thousands of Filipinos. The past administration expressed concerns about human rights violations, allowing these issues to impact the bilateral relationship.

“I announce my separation from the United States,” Duterte stated in China last October, “America has lost.” On multiple occasions, he announced that he wanted U.S. troops out of his country.

“You can go to hell, Mr. Obama, you can go to hell,” he said angrily in another forum, and he called former President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” in another furious rant. Duterte has been decidedly less hostile and critical of the U.S. since President Donald Trump took office.

“I’d rather be friendly to [the Americans] now,” Duterte said recently. Last month, the Philippine president explained that he is Trump’s “humble friend in Southeast Asia.”

While Duterte is decidedly unpredictable, it appears that the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines is generally moving in a more positive overall direction.

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