The city is being destroyed in order to save it from a group affiliated with the so-called Islamic State. The U.S. advisers reported there in June are nowhere to be seen.
MARAWI, Philippines—After pulling out of the battle zone, the convoy of armored vehicles lumbered past smashed-up shop fronts and shot-up facades on its way through town.
While the powerful engines roared, the soldiers inside the sturdy machines sat silently, their faces sullen. Wooden planks had been attached to the flanks of the vehicles to add protection against high-caliber rounds, and bullets had cracked the windows of the driver’s compartments, a testament to the tooth-and-nail combat they had left behind.
Granted a rest from the fighting, the soldiers in the convoy had left the center of Marawi, a city on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, where the front line is a tightening noose around a dwindling number of jihadist insurgents. But the Maute Group, named after the brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute who lead the militants, have proven difficult to dislodge.
The Mautes have pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, and use many of the tactics that the terror group honed in years of conflict in Iraq and Syria.
Despite vehement antagonism toward the U.S. and its military expressed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte back in December, after the Mautes moved on Marawi in May, The New York Times reported U.S. Special Operations Forces were here as advisers supporting Philippine operations in June. If so, the Americans have gone or slipped out of sight. We saw no sign of them.
The Philippine military, fighting its way through a warren of heavily fortified positions, sniper nests, and explosive booby traps, has succeeded in retaking most of the city, constricting the insurgents in a shrinking pocket of resistance in the city center. Buy progress has been costly.
The army, marines, militarized police and special forces deployed in Marawi have lost around 150 men while the soldiers adapted to the urban conflict. [/restrict]