The US already has a small military force in the Philippines to help in the fight against ISIS, but NBC News reports that the Pentagon might ramp things up by allowing US drones to conduct airstrikes. The strikes would be part of an official military mission that could be unveiled this week, one designed to root out the Islamic State in the region. The development comes after a relatively cordial meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Philippines' controversial leader, Rodrigo Duterte, in Manila. While Duterte has been criticized for human rights abuses amid a brutal crackdown on drugs, he told reporters afterward that the issue came up "only in passing" during their meeting, per the Guardian. He said the same held true for his meeting with Australia's foreign minister.
"Mostly they have considerably toned down in human rights," he said, according to the state news agency. He bristled when asked details about discussion of the issue. “Human rights, son of a b----," he said. "Policemen and soldiers have died on me. The war now in Marawi, what caused it but drugs? So human rights, don’t go there." Tillerson has generally de-emphasized the issue, reports ABC News, telling employees of the State Department earlier this year that national security sometimes has to take precedence over human rights concerns abroad. In addition to the US special task force currently on the ground in the Philippines, the US shares military intelligence with the nation and provides training. (Tillerson says the US will respond to Russia's recent diplomatic retaliation within weeks.)