PH military confident to end Marawi conflict without US airstrikes
THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is confident that Filipino troopers are capable of liberating Marawi City from local terrorists even without the airstrikes reportedly offered by the United States.
Joint Task Force Marawi Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner on Wednesday, August 9, maintained that the AFP does not need additional troops from other countries to defeat the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group.
“[The] AFP is capable, we have enough ammunition and troops. Kayang kaya po ng tropa natin to (Our own troops can) finish the mission,” Brawner told reporters.
He stressed that foreign militaries in Marawi can only provide technical, educational, and training support, as stated in the Constitution.
He also noted that the Mutual Defense treaty between Manila and Washington only allows U.S. soldiers to help Philippine forces in combat operations on cases of external aggression.
“In the mutual defense treaty, U.S. comes to our aid if there is an external aggression. In the case of Marawi, hindi ito (this is not an) external aggression. In fact, we call them local terror group,” Brawner explained.
He further emphasized that it is the responsibility of the Philippine government to protect its territory and people.
Earlier this week, reports from NBC news says that Pentagon is considering a plan that allows the U.S. military to conduct airstrikes on IS militants in the Philippines as part of collective self-defense, citing two U.S. officials as its source.
Another report from Agence France-Presse quoting a U.S. defense official says discussions are “pretty advanced” and would see the U.S. provide increased surveillance drone capabilities and training for local forces.
Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher B. Logan clarified that Washington “respect[s] the sovereignty of the Philippines, and [is] not pursuing unilateral action in the Philippines.”
In separate statements, both Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Año said that they have not yet received any formal notice about the reported offer.
Both officials also expressed appreciation over Washington’s desire to help Manila in ending the ongoing fight against terrorists in the southern Philippines.
“We appreciate Pentagon’s reported desire to help the Philippines in the fight against Daesh-inspired Maute group because terrorism is a global menace that the community of nations must unite to fight against,” Lorenzana said.
The Defense secretary, however, stressed that such proposition “has to undergo a process” and “a covenant must be had between the commanders in chief of both nations.”
Nearly 700 people have been killed in the ongoing operations to liberate the city. According to the official count, 528 militants and 122 government troopers were killed since the attack on May 23, while civilian casualties remained at 45.