Unmanned US strike drones up for consideration
SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - August 9, 2017 - 4:00pm

The United States, through State Secretary Rex Tillerson, has reiterated its strong support for the Philippines’ fight against terrorism, in particular the ongoing battle in Marawi which the US official called a “tragic situation.”

There are those questioning reports that the US is considering airstrikes to flush out the remaining militants in Marawi, arguing that the terms of the Mutual Defense Treaty do not allow direct participation of US troops except when the Philippines is invaded by another country.

An inside source told us the real story is the possible use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones as an option in the war against terrorism because the drones are more precise – but the strikes would be conducted by Filipinos who have been trained by US personnel in manning the drones.

However, the drones would primarily be used for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance activities or ISR, the source said. As Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Logan said, the US respects the sovereignty of the Philippines and will not pursue any unilateral action, saying that all US military assistance is conducted at the request of the Philippine government.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that over the years, the US has been providing assistance through training and sharing of intelligence in the war against terrorism, but US troops have not directly engaged in the conflict in Marawi – something Malacañang underscored early on, saying that US assistance “does not involve boots on the ground, nor is there any direct participation in combat operations” as this is prohibited by law.

Early this year, the United States donated hand-held Raven drones – described by experts as the most widely-used unmanned aircraft system in the world today – which are highly mobile and can be rapidly deployed for low altitude surveillance and reconnaissance intelligence activities. The US is also donating ScanEagle UAVs that have the capability to monitor enemy concentrations, detect the movement of vehicles and people, as well as identify buildings and terrain features.

The fact is, many nations are eager to help the Philippines in its war against terrorism and finish off the Maute group and its extremist cohorts. Singapore, for instance, has offered drones to help boost the AFP’s intelligence gathering, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, noting that surveillance can be an issue because of the wide expanse of the areas surrounding Marawi. Singapore has the Heron 1 drone that can stay up for 24 hours with a scan range of 200 kilometers, while the Hermes 450 drone can fly up to 14 hours with a range of 100 kilometers.

Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said they are also willing to train Philippine troops in urban warfare and fighting in built-up areas, even offering a training facility (located in an urban village) that the Singapore Armed Forces uses to hone the skills of their soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defense Minister Ng – who praised the AFP for taking decisive action in Marawi – said many countries are monitoring the situation because if the terrorists are not stopped and they are able to gain a foothold in any part of ASEAN, they could launch attacks against other cities not only within Mindanao, but also in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Aside from Japan, which has pledged its continued commitment in helping the Philippines fight terrorism, one other nation that has been showing strong support is Australia which recently pledged close to P800 million for the recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi. According to Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop, the financial assistance – which will be extended over a period of four years – will include funding for small-scale infrastructure projects for areas around Marawi.

Early on, Australia sent two of its AP-3C Orion aircraft to conduct surveillance in Marawi – knowing that the situation has to be contained because of the potential of ISIS militants to entrench themselves in the area and become a magnet for militants fleeing the Middle East.

Sources also disclosed a disturbing new propaganda video by an Australian ISIS fighter who goes by the name “Abu Adam al-Australi” – who is urging ISIS followers to go to the Philippines if they cannot travel to Syria. Addressing the mujahideen in Australia, Abu Adam exhorted “Those of you who can’t make it to this battle (in Syria)…  then go aid your brothers in the fight against the crusader government of the Philippines.”

Abu Adam – whose real identity is said to be that of Mounir Raad from Melbourne – attacked the Australian government for providing support to the Philippine government and called on Australian Muslims to “make the land of the crusaders your battlefields,” telling them to engage in “terror attacks” at home with the use of nail guns and burning trucks.

Many are convinced the terrorist attack in Marawi was for the purpose of clearing the path for ISIS to gain a foothold in Asia and turn Mindanao into its new wilayat or province – something that will not happen if nations work together to fight this evil terrorist scourge.

Married men forced to ‘good’

An informal survey conducted by one of our associates showed that a lot of men are now more cautious in dealing with problems with their wives – with their responses prompted by the now high-profile marital row between Comelec chairman Andy Bautista and his wife Patricia.

Many of the men who took part in the informal survey said they should take the saying “hell has no fury like a woman scorned” very seriously because of its very serious ramifications.

One government official jokingly said, “The moral lesson of the story is that you can love your girlfriend – but you should love your wife more.”

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Email: spybits08@gmail.com

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