The Philippine Armed Forces may have cordoned off Marawi, but tough urban fighting looms ahead even as the Scout-Rangers and Light Reaction Regiment have cleared buildings on the outskirts of the city. With the Maute Group having press ganged civilians into service, the enemy numbers somewhere around 300 armed fighters who are holed up in the central part of the city. American ISR support has helped the Philippine forces, but the coordination is happening at a Brigade level and intelligence information is said to not always reach the men on the ground who could capitalize on such information.
The enemy is also said to have evolved their tactics, techniques, and procedures. The Maute Group is deploying quad-rotor drones with thermal imaging devices. These are especially effective at locating Philippine sniper teams and scout elements. Other threats include the enemy effectively using forward observers to call in 81mm mortar fire, and the deployment of small hunter/killer teams to the front lines that target Philippine forces. Whether the enemy is learning from communications with Middle Eastern terrorist groups (Maute claims to be an ISIS affiliate) or if they have simply learned from previous engagements with Philippine Special Operations units is unclear. Previously, Maute has clashed with the Light Reaction Regiment and NAVSOG in Mindanao. Each contact provides a learning experience and the enemy learns through a process of military Darwinism.
There is no doubt that the Philippine forces will prevail in Marawi, but a series of slow-paced urban operations await the troops. For Maute, this is their time to do or die. The Philippine government would seek to spread economic development to the south but this would sweep the legs out from under terrorist groups like Maute. Without poverty, and a system that keeps people in poverty, these terrorist organizations lose their pull in the region and their pool of potential recruits quickly dries up. The Maute Group’s actions in Marawi draw some confusion from the Philippine troops in regards to understanding their motives. It is understood that Maute wants to establish a caliphate in the Southern Philippines, but what their end game in Marawi is unclear. Some speculate that the Marawi siege is a last-ditch effort by Maute to get the government’s attention and achieve some kind of acknowledgement.
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