The United States is reportedly considering a plan that would allow the military to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) group in the Philippines, where the group has gained ground in recent months.
NBC News, citing two U.S. defense officials, reported on Monday that an operation under a ‘collective self-defense’ mission could be named as early as Tuesday. The airstrikes would likely be carried out by armed drones.
Under the plan, the U.S. military would be allowed to conduct airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Philippines if they threaten U.S. allies, which would include Philippine security forces which are battling ISIS militants on Mindanao island.
It was not immediately clear if the Philippine government supports the plan or whether the Philippine military would direct the U.S. airstrikes. The U.S. already has a small military presence on Mindanao, where Philippine forces are fighting to retake the city of Marawi.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that ISIS is “gaining a foothold” in the Philippines and he noted that some ISIS fighters have gone to the Philippines from Syria and Iraq. He added that the U.S. is talking with the Philippine government to provide training and other means to combat ISIS.
Hundreds of people have been killed since late May when militants seized Marawi in an attempt to establish a “wilayat,” or province, for the Islamic State group. The conflict prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law and he recently asked Congress for funds to recruit 20,000 new soldiers.
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