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US Special Operations Forces Have Opened A New Front In The Campaign Against ISIS: The Philippines
U.S. special operations forces are assisting the Philippine army in its effort to expel ISIS-affiliated militants from the city of Marawi, Reuters reports, signaling a gradual expansion in the scope of the Trump administration’s intensifying campaign against the jihadist.
Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told the media June 10 that the new U.S. involvement was confined to the Pentagon’s usual "advise and assist" mission, asserting that special operations forces “are not fighting. They are just providing technical support."
On May 23, 400 local militants claiming loyalty to ISIS stormed the southern capital of the Lanao del Sur province with assistance from “about 40 foreign fights,” Reuters reported. The AFP deployed some 4,000 ground forces backed by attack helicopters and air strikes.
"This will be over in about three more days,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on June 3 after a visit with wounded AFP troops. “I will not hesitate to use every power available.”
It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the siege of Marawi and another crucial campaign in the war on ISIS. The news came one day after Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed that special operations forces were providing support to the Syrian Democratic Forces and Kurdish militias girding themselves for a months-long siege against ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa. And AFP spokesman Herrera’s language appears to echo CJTF-OIR spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon’s June 9 statement that U.S. forces in Raqqa are not “kicking down doors,” suggesting that special operations forces are performing similar ‘advise and assist’ functions in Marawi as in the campaigns against ISIS strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa.
But given the Pentagon’s increasing reliance on SOF to beat back jihadists across the planet — more than 8,000 U.S. Special Operations Command troops are stationed in over 80 countries on any given day — it’s unlikely U.S. forces will remain in a purely support role. And that means the Pentagon may have just opened a new front in the expanding campaign against ISIS.
On its face, deploying special operations forces to the Philippines isn’t that unusual. As Reuters notes, the United States and the Philippines have been strategic allies for decades, a relationship Trump recently affirmed in an April 29 phone call in which he praised Duterte’s embrace of extrajudicial killings to combat the country’s growing drug problem. There appears little possibility of a diplomatic or political kerfuffle that could complicate that bond.
More importantly, the Trump administration may have the legal right to engage ISIS beyond the theater of OIR. The Obama administrations have claimed that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed shortly after 9/11 and the 2002 Iraq War Resolution both provide the legal basis not just for pursuing ISIS, which didn’t exist when the legislation was crafted more than 15 years ago, but for targeting the group anywhere the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the Pentagon’s involvement in the Philippines struggle against ISIS may already be in jeopardy. The day after ISIS jihadists launched their siege of Marawi, U.S. lawmakers introduced a new bipartisan AUMF designed explicitly to place limits on the Pentagon’s ever-expanding 16-year-old campaign against global terrorism.
While the new legislation, introduced by Sens. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, and Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, would explicitly authorize military action against al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and “associated persons or forces” who target the United States, it would also establish a system of congressional oversight system to give lawmakers control over which countries (and for how long) military action can actually take place.
The debate around a new AUMF has been growing louder and louder for years as lawmakers and taxpayers alike grow weary of the never-ending conflict against global terror abroad, but new legislation has often failed to make headway in Congress — and until it does, this may just be the beginning of the DoD’s new Philippine campaign against ISIS.
'We are dropping like flies' — Former fighter pilots are pushing the Pentagon for earlier cancer screenings
WASHINGTON — Former Air Force and Navy fighter pilots are calling on the military to begin cancer screenings for aviators as young as 30 because of an increase in deaths from the disease that they suspect may be tied to radiation emitted in the cockpit.
"We are dropping like flies in our 50s from aggressive cancers," said retired Air Force Col. Eric Nelson, a former F-15E Strike Eagle weapons officer. He cited prostate and esophageal cancers, lymphoma, and glioblastomas that have struck fellow pilots he knew, commanded or flew with.
Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are warning soldiers and military families to be aware of scammers using the Exchange's logo.
In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.
KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.
The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.
Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.
The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".
Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.
In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.
Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.
The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.
Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."
Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.