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France To Seek Defense Help Under European Union Treaty

November 19, 2015 (Photo Credit: AFP)

PARIS — France will hold direct talks with fellow members of the European Union in a first-ever request for help in defense and security under the EU treaty, as the French counterattack against the Islamic State group will stretch its resources, a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

There is no list of requests, but French forces were already stretched by deployments in the Sahel sub-Saharan region and the Middle East before taking a heightened role in domestic security in response to the IS-ordered attacks last Friday, which killed 129 people in restaurants and a crowded concert hall in the capital. France is at war, President François Hollande has said.

There will be a “bilateral” approach with EU fellow members, Defence Ministry spokesman Pierre Bayle told journalists Thursday. France has invoked article 42.7 of the EU treaty, which calls for “aid and assistance” when a member state has been attacked in its own territory. 

Paris will also seek to win an EU agreement to exempt its defense spending from its budget deficit, as the adoption of new defense measures in response to the IS-declared threat will fuel the national debt.

One of the Royal Navy's new Type 45 destroyers, HMS Defender, will provide air cover for the French naval task force 473, dubbed Arromanche 2, led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the British Ministry of Defence confirmed Thursday.  

Belgium also has pledged a frigate to sail with the task force.

Ireland has offered to boost its troop numbers in a UN-led peacekeeping force in Mali to allow France to redeploy soldiers needed elsewhere, Bayle said.

“We have said that, within our conditions and our circumstances, we will assist in whatever way we can here, though probably the numbers will be small,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Tuesday, The Irish Times newspaper reported. That small deployment could be in Mali or Lebanon.

"We will do everything in our power to give France help and support," German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday, Reuters reported. Germany is due to take over an EU training mission in Mali and was the first to offer its support to France.

France also has asked for EU acceptance of breaching the stability and growth pact as defense spending will further rise, Bayle said.

Hollande has suspended planned cuts in defense personnel, committed to recruit 5,000 police and paramilitary gendarmes and 1,000 more customs officers.

"France cannot do everything, in the Sahel, in the Central African Republic, in the Levant, and then secure its national territory," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a Tuesday news conference during a meeting of EU defense ministers in Brussels, Reuters reported.

Some 13,000 troops are committed to domestic security, with 10,000 deployed overseas and boosted to 3,500 in the Chammal mission against IS in Iraq and Syria, said Army Col. Gilles Jaron, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A carrier task force will triple the number of fighters deployed against the jihadist forces. The Charles de Gaulle carrier left Toulon naval base Wednesday and is sailing to the eastern Mediterranean to strike IS targets. The nuclear-powered capital ship carries 18 Rafale and eight upgraded Super Etendard fighters, with the latter flying their last missions after 42 years of service, said Navy spokesman Capt. Didier Piaton.

There will also be two Hawkeye spy planes, as well as two Dauphin and one Alouette III helicopters for search and rescue.   

The escort vessels will include an Aquitaine multimission frigate with a Caiman NH90 helicopter, the air defense frigate Chevalier Paul, anti-submarine frigate La Motte-Picquet and a nuclear-powered attack submarine. An Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft and the Marne fleet auxiliary supply ship will also support the task force.

The carrier is due to arrive on station in the next few days, allowing the French forces to strike IS targets in Iraq and Syria at closer range than flying six Mirage and six Rafale fighters, respectively, from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. That cuts the need for inflight refueling and reduces pilot fatigue.

The airpower of the allied coalition is intended to support Iraqi ground troops, Jaron said.

“This is a long-term strategy,” he said. The three phases are for the Iraqi soldiers to stop the IS advance, reconquer territory and re-establish security, but there is no timeline for that strategy.

Email: ptran@defensenews.com

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