by Nathan Gain and Christina Mackenzie
Whilst the Iraqi army, supported by an international coalition, is striking victories against Daesh, the 30 or so countries engaged in a coalition against the terrorist organisation met on 19 and 20 July in Washington to discuss the way forwards. The occasion was used by France’s defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to announce a strengthening of his country’s military engagement: “The President of the Republic has announced a rise in our military contribution which involves another deployment of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, and increasing the role played by our ground forces in support of the Iraqi and coalition forces.”
Just like the threat posed by Daesh “the French contribution to the coalition campaign (…) is significant: in Baghdad we are training members of the elite counter-terrorist unit, we are training ground force units; we are working hand in hand with the Peshmergas,” Le Drian remarked. These missions, in partnership with the United States, have led to impressive results. Recent military victories now enable “us to glimpse the moment (…) when Daesh will have lost its territorial foothold in the Levant,” Le Drian said, thus, de facto, limiting “its capacity to act against us, and notably its capacity to plan complex attacks.” As the defence minister confirmed, Daesh has lost control of 40% of the territories it occupied in Iraq and 20% of those in Syria. Today 680 French nationals are present in the ranks of Daesh in the Levant, 187 are presumed to have died there and about 200 have returned to France: these figures are now relatively stable, according to the minister.
These results are partly thanks to the synergy between US and French forces. The ties between the two sides of the Atlantic “have enabled our military relationship to reach an unprecedented level in our recent history,” Le Drian noted. This is because “the United States and France are the two principal targets designated by the Jihadist propaganda groups,” he explained. The massacres in Nice and Orlando are a reminder of how similar the threat is in both countries and thus one of the essential conditions for military success is the establishment of a joint strategy.
Both in the Middle East and in Africa, France benefits from the “help of the United States, notably where intelligence, transport and refuelling are concerned,” the French defence minister remarked. French operations also get precious financial support thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act which allows US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to give military aid (limited to US$ 100M a year) to any allied country involved in a counter-terrorism mission in Africa. This narrow cooperation is also seen between the various intelligence agencies and by France’s posture within NATO.
Wanting to “guarantee the security of the most fragile members of the Alliance”, France will deploy troops in Estonia from 2017 [see our article dated 21 July].