Marawi crisis is not a US military achievement

When President Rodrigo Duterte took a step away from its relationship with the United States by ending the ten-year Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that allowed American forces to train in the Philippines, U.S. President Donald Trump was quick to comment as if Americans did not need it anyway. “If they would like to do that, that’s fine. We’ll save a lot of money,” Trump said.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila even issued a statement saying that the VFA termination is a “serious step with significant implications” on the alliance of the Philippine and the U.S. It is clear that the Americans are trying to paint a picture that it would be a loss for the Philippines to discontinue the bilateral military accord.

Trump was also sour-graping when he overstated that the U.S. entirely saved the Philippines from Islamic State terrorism. “We helped them defeat ISIS. But if you look back, if you go back three years ago, when ISIS was overrunning the Philippines, we came in and, literally, single-handedly were able to save them from vicious attacks on their islands,” Trump said.

Yet in fact, the Armed Forces of the Philippines efficiently handled that crisis situation in Marawi City. It is not true that the ISIS ever overran the whole Philippines. The crisis situation was only confined inside Marawi City, an area of 87.55 km2, just .0291% of the 300,000 square kilometers total area of the Philippines.

There was not even a shadow of American forces on the ground in the main battle area. While there were few U.S. military personnel that were stationed in Mindanao during the crisis, they were merely for intelligence and civil affairs support to Filipino troops. They did not participate in any actual combat in Marawi and in other armed conflicts simply because having foreign troops in combat in the Philippines is a breach of the country’s law.

It is true that the U.S. and Australian aircraft helped with surveillance but the major feat of eliminating the terrorists in five months was in the Filipinos’ hands. When the AFP launched a massive offensive against around a thousand of ISIS terrorists who briefly held control of 22 barangays (neighborhoods) out of 96 barangays, it was the AFP and handful support from PNP and Coast Guard that single-handedly crushed the terrorist forces, not the Americans.

This is a reminiscence of the mock battle of Manila Bay in 1898 staged by the Americans and Spaniards at the brink of ending the 300-years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. As history reveals, the Americans snatched the bragging rights of defeating the Spaniards from Filipinos. Like the 1898 mock battle, the Marawi crisis is by no means a single-handed U.S. military achievement. Like in the 1898 mock battle where Americans stole the credit from Filipinos, Trump is now stealing the credit in defeating ISIS terrorists in the Philippines. (