Expanded US role in Marawi unlikely – Palace

June 20, 2017 - 2:14 PM
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A US special forces soldier with a surveillance drone inside Camp Ranao in Marawi City in a photo obtained by News5.

MANILA, Philippines — The government has no plans of expanding the role of the US in the continuing campaign to rid Marawi City of extremist gunmen, Malacañang said Tuesday.

At the same time, the Palace allayed fears expressed by some US senators that Marawi could become the next stronghold of the Islamic State, to which the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and a number of other local extremist groups have sworn allegiance.

“It’s unlikely for Marawi to become a new hub for IS fighters,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said. “The Philippine military has already pre-empted the Maute group from establishing a wilayat or province in Marawi so the role of US … is to provide technical assistance as prescribed by the Constitution and we will abide by that.”

At the same time, Abella said the US forces’ presence in Marawi does not mean Duterte has changed his mind about not wanting foreign troops on Philippine soil, only that “he’s accepted the situation at this stage.”

Earlier, the US embassy in Manila said the Philippines had requested the assistance.

“There is no direct US participation in combat, which is prohibited by Philippine law, although our forces involved in training the Philippine military are authorized to defend themselves,” a US official told Reuters earlier.

After the military confirmed the American help, Duterte said he was “not aware of that.”