PARIS — French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is due to hold two private meetings with Ash Carter on Wednesday when the US defense secretary comes to France for a conference about the campaign against the Islamic State, the official agenda shows.
Carter will join defense ministers from Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands at the three-hour conference held by Le Drian, as France seeks to intensify the military campaign against the Islamic State, said a Defense Ministry official who declined to be identified.
Le Drian and Carter are due to hold a morning bilateral meeting at the private office at rue Saint Dominique and in the afternoon at the planning and command center at the Balard Defense Ministry on the edge of the capital.
The seven ministers, meeting over a three-hour working lunch, will consider military and political options aimed at an “acceleration and intensification” of the campaign against the Islamic State, the official said. Those seven countries contribute the most in airpower and training for local fighters, with some 60 nations in the coalition against the extremist group.
France has asked for help from allies, particularly from the 27 fellow European Union member states, in the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks here, which sparked heightened domestic security needs.
Any EU bilateral assistance, evoked under article 42.7 of the Lisbon treaty, would allow France to lighten its military load, as some 3,500 troops and equipment are deployed in the Barkhane mission in Sahel sub-Saharan Africa.
EU nations have responded with “solidarity,” the official said. Germany is ready to send some 600 troops to Mali, where the Netherlands is assisting the military effort and other EU countries have offered help. The UN maintains the 10,000-strong MINUSMA force in Mali, a peacekeeping force that comes under attack from jihadist insurgents. France is also deployed in the troubled Central African Republic.
Britain, after an intense parliamentary debate last month, joined France and the US in conducting airstrikes in Syria, while Germany will fly Tornado reconnaissance missions. Berlin also sends troops to train Kurdish Peshmerga fighters against the Islamic State forces in Iraq.
Discussion among the seven ministers and their military advisers could yield further cooperation in the campaign against the jihadist insurgents in Iraq and Syria.
The coalition seeks to slash enemy finances by striking oil facilities, hitting the Islamic State land routes across Iraq and Syria, and supporting the Iraqi forces and local resistance such as the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Russian airstrikes relied on briefings by Syrian forces for targets in Syria, but this led to hitting mainly insurgents fighting President Bashar al-Assad rather than Islamic State forces, said a defense source who declined to be identified.
The Western coalition criticized the Russian air missions. France increased airstrikes to jihadist forces in Syria after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and left hundreds wounded.