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Politics

Richard Heydarian: Mindanao crisis stops Duterte from cutting the US cord

Islamic State-aligned fighters change the foreign policy calculus

Now in his second year in office, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is confronting his greatest political challenge. For the past month and a half, a legion of Islamic State-affiliated fighters, under the command of the Maute group, have stubbornly held onto several barangays (neighborhoods) in Marawi, a provincial capital on the southern island of Mindanao and the country's largest Muslim-majority city.

The brazen assault on the city, which has forced more than 200,000 people to flee for safety and claimed close to 400 lives, marks the first attempt by an IS regional affiliate to control a large urban territory. The ultimate goal is to establish a distant caliphate, or a so-called Daulah Islamiya Wilayatul Mashriq -- an "Islamic State province in the Orient."

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