Australia offers Duterte military help 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been offered Australian help to train the Philippine military in its fight against Islamist extremists, according to Canberra’s foreign minister Julie Bishop.

Bishop said she offered the same assistance that Australia was providing Iraq as it tried to dislodge Isis.

The extremist group says it is trying to establish a caliphate in the southern Philippines.

Australia has already sent two surveillance planes to the island of Mindanao, where militants that have pledged loyalty to Isis seized the city of Marawi in May.

Philippine forces have been supported by other militant groups opposed to Isis, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“It is a very dangerous fight but Australia has already offered – and is supplying – support to the Philippines and we stand ready to assist should they require more,” she told a Canberra press conference.

“Obviously, we would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training, as the Armed Forces of the Philippines are in the process of engaging in a pretty brutal fight with Isis.

“We’ve offered to assist in any way that might add to the likelihood of defeating this scourge in the southern Philippines: it’s in our region.”

The US, Malaysia and Indonesia had also offered to help, Bishop said.

Australia’s security agencies say they are growing increasingly alarmed at the rise of Islamic State around Marawi.

This month the head of Australia’s foreign intelligence agency ASIS, Nick Warner, was criticised for joining Duterte in his trademark fist-pump pose, during a meeting discussing the threat of Isis.

Western figures have been reticent about getting too close to Duterte, who this week told his police to kill “idiots” who resisted arrest.

“Your duty requires you to overcome the resistance of the person you are arresting… if he resists, and it is a violent one… you are free to kill the idiots. That is my order to you,” he told his officers.

He added, however, that “murder and homicide and unlawful killings” were not allowed.

In June, the commander of the US Marine Corps in the Pacific said he expected Australian forces would soon join his troops fighting Islamist extremism in Asean.

“Both of us have a long history of being an expeditionary force when needed, so we begin from a common point I think and we’ve operated alongside for 100 years,” Lieutenant General David Berger told ABC.

Australian troops leave a US landing craft during a military exercise. Picture credit: Wikimedia