US Special Forces; US Navy Join Fight against Islamic State Terrorists in Marawi City, Philippines
The Philippines' anti-American; pro-China and pro-Russia president has remained oddly silent as soldiers of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) he ordered to leave the Philippines last year are now fighting side-by-side with government troops trying to destroy Islamic State Muslim terrorists that continue to cling to parts of Marawi City on Mindanao Island they seized last May 23.
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The crazed and psychotic Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law covering the entire Mindanao Island nine hours after the terrorists began their rampage, setting fire to homes and institutions and daring the Philippine Army to come get them.
Both the Army and the Philippine Marines, which together have thousands of men on the island, have proven unable to quickly crush a small force of terrorists led by a bandit named Isnilon Hapilon who leads Islamic State forces in Southeast Asia and supported by the bandit Maute Group that swore fealty to Islamic State in December 2016.
The Muslim terrorists are said to number no more than 300 men, according to the army. As of June 9, the army and Marines lost 48 men killed-in-action; 10 killed in a friendly fire incident and over 100 wounded in the ongoing 'Battle of Marawi" or the "Marawi Crisis."
The army estimated Muslim terrorist casualties at 138 killed. Close to 40 civilians have been killed in the fighting, many of whom were executed by the Muslim terrorists.
The army said some of the terrorists are foreigners, noting that some of those killed and whose bodies were recovered looked like they came from the Middle East.
Marawi City is the capital of Lanao del Sur province and is the largest Muslim city in the Philippines in terms of a Muslim population.
Philippine media said USSOCOM has been providing "technical assistance" to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The army took pains to emphasize the U.S. role "is limited to intelligence sharing" so as not to antagonize the unsound Duterte, who is a known communist sympathizer and an admitted murderer.
U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific, however, told media that "U.S. special operations forces are assisting the AFP with ongoing operations in Marawi that helps AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG militants" at the request of the Philippine government.
It noted that "the U.S. government continues to work with the AFP to increase intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities through security assistance and training."
The U.S. Embassy in Manila said USSOCOM was assisting Filipino troops battling the Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants in Marawi.
"The United States 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, including on counterterrorism issues," said the embassy in a statement.
China and Russia have provided no material aid to support Philippine government troops in the Battle of Marawi.
A U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft was seen flying over Marawi on different days, according to local media reports.
U.S. sources said Philippine media covering the fighting have photographed an AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma Unmanned Aerial Vehicle being operated by American personnel and the P-3C Orion circling the city on separate occasions.
The P-3C Orion clearly displayed markings of the U.S. Navy. American military media said this aircraft is performing persistent surveillance and intelligence-gathering tasks using its powerful electro-optics and other onboard systems.
The Orion played a similar role for coalition land forces in operations over Iraq and Afghanistan. The smaller RQ-20 Puma performs a similar mission but on a tactical level.
Washington deployed USSOCOM Special Forces operators to Mindanao in 2002 to train and advise army and Marine units fighting Abu Sayyaf terrorists. More than 1,200 American operators served in Mindanao.
The program was discontinued in 2015, but a small number of operators remained for logistics and technical support. The unhinged Duterte ordered this small force to leave in 2016.