French forces continue fight against ISIS in the region

By Mohammed Mahmoud in Cairo


The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on its last crossing of the Suez Canal on March 3rd, 2016. The carrier is expected to cross the canal again in mid-April as part of a new deployment in the region in the fight against ISIS. [Photo courtesy of the Suez Canal Authority]

French forces continue to play a significant role in the military campaign against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) with the latest deployment of the French navy's Carrier Strike Group to the region last month.

The Carrier Strike Group, with nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle as its centerpiece, set sails on March 5th from the Toulon Naval Base for a deployment of several months dubbed "Clemenceau".

This is Charles de Gaulle’s first deployment following an 18-month mid-life refit, prior to which the French aircraft carrier took part in international coalition operations in the Middle East.

The French Defense Ministry announced that the Carrier Strike Group arrived on March 13th off-shore Syria to support Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve.

The group, which has already contributed to the fight against ISIS in three previous deployments since January 2015, will reinforce the French military in the area and assist the coalition with air surveillance, intervention and situational assessment.

Exchanges and combined exercises will be conducted throughout the deployment, including the Ramses joint French-Egyptian military and naval exercises which will take place in July.

War on ISIS continues

"The war on ISIS is ongoing and concerted international efforts must be made on all fronts to defeat this group and all its ideological extensions," security affairs expert Brig. Gen. Khaled Okasha told Al-Mashareq.

ISIS still has many elements operating as sleeper cells who are tasked with carrying out assassinations targeting those who supported coalition forces against the group, he said.

The presence of sleeper cells will perhaps remain "the most worrying cause for concern and a reason for the war on ISIS to continue", he added.

The passage of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle through the Suez Canal is a result of "Egyptian and international co-ordination", said strategic expert Ibrahim al-Shihabi.

"These moves are part of international and regional efforts to combat the ISIS terrorist group," he told Al-Mashareq, and to ensure ISIS elements are not allowed to regain a foothold elsewhere.

Egypt has always been keen to exchange its expertise in the fight against terrorism with many countries, he said, noting that the Ramses exercise with the French navy comes within this framework.

"There is no question that the war on ISIS is still ongoing because the group still exists and its existence is boosted by the spread of chaos," al-Shihabi said.

"We do not want to be surprised by the group reproducing itself in other forms," he said, stressing that international efforts should focus, in addition to military support, on enhancing security and rebuilding the institutions of countries that have collapsed because of terrorism.

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