June 15, 2017
There is no legal basis for the participation of US troops in Marawi.
The US Special Forces in Marawi provide battlefield or “battlespace” awareness for Philippine commanders, allowing the US to influence military operations even at the tactical level. It goes beyond “boots on the ground” combat participation. The US is in a position to direct the entire combat operations in ?Marawi using their high-tech intelligence-gathering equipment and exclusive control of intelligence information.
Does the Mutual Defense Treaty allow this? No. The MDT only contemplates external attacks not counter-insurgency or domestic conflicts.
Does the VFA allow this? No. The VFA supposedly contemplates only “military exercises” and not direct involvement in armed conflict. This however has been repeatedly violated by the US and PH governments since 2002.
Does Duterte allow it? Well, despite his earlier pronouncements of having an independent foreign policy, the President seems thankful for US involvement and is apparently willing to allow their continued participation in the conflict. This is the most important thing. At the end of the day, it is primarily a political question rather than a legal issue.
US forces remain in Marawi because Duterte apparently does not want to evict them from the ongoing conflict. He wants them to stay. He continues to backtrack on his earlier promise of removing foreign troops from Philippine soil.
Is Duterte now so insecure of the US and the threat of his removal from office by the local pro-US reactionaries? Is he now so beholden to the pro-US militarists in his cabinet?
Duterte should seriously reconsider the increasing role of the US in Marawi. ###
*Photo credits to Interaksyon