France is not fighting in Libya either directly or in secret, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said this week during an official visit to Oman. Sure, France is not fighting directly but personnel from the DGSE (General Directorate for External Security, France’s foreign intelligence agency since 1982) and French special forces have been deployed on Libyan soil tasked with “identifying targets” Le Drian confirmed in July during a joint hearing by the French Parliament’s National Defence and Armed Forces Committee and the Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces Committee, details of which were released this week.
France’s aims, concerning Libya, have not changed since this 26 July hearing and still consist in supporting President Fayez Al Sarraj’s government of national unity, the only one recognised by the international community. “We only provide the Libyan government and President Fayez Al Sarraj with support when it is needed,” Le Drian said in Oman.
Even if this “support” is limited to reconnaissance and intelligence missions, these do not always go smoothly as shown by the death of three DGSE agents last July. During his hearing, Le Drian touched upon “the problems of coordination between the special forces and the DGSE: it [the coordination] is often very positive but, in this case, it can raise issues.”
This worrying observation was shared by Senator Jacques Gautier, who said he thought he’d “understood that the excellent cooperation between these two services [DGSE and special forces] in the Sabre task force in the Sahel was not at the same level in Libya” and wondered whether it would be possible “to improve their relationship?” Somewhat sidestepping the issue, Le Drian simply confirmed that “adjustments are sometimes necessary but their relationship is very efficient and I take my hat off to them.”