PARIS — France is revising the domestic deployment of 7,000 troops associated with the Sentinel anti-terrorism mission, and a new operational plan will be presented in September, according to Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.
Under Sentinel, half the troops patrol the streets of Paris in soft berets with assault rifles, and the other half is deployed in cities around the country in a deliberately highly visible manner to deter attacks by militants.
A further 3,000 soldiers are on reserve for rapid deployment.
Parly visited on Monday a street patrol of soldiers by the canal at Villette, north of the capital, and told the press that Sentinel would be reviewed to “stay in place as long as it is useful to protect the French.”
The aim is to continually adapt the mission to the threat, she said. The Armed Forces Ministry is working with the Interior Ministry to review Sentinel and present a plan to President Emmanuel Macron in September.
The Sentinel mission has come under criticism, with Vincent Desportes, professor at Sciences Po university and former head of the War College, pointing out that the troops lose valuable training and preparation time for combat missions, mainly for Operation Barkhane in Africa.
Conservative lawmaker Georges Fenech has previously called for an extra 2,000 police rather than rely on troops to patrol the streets.
Gen. Pierre de Villiers, the former chief of staff, told a parliamentary committee on July 12, a week before his resignation, that steps were planned to boost the effectiveness of Sentinel.
A greater “decentralization” was planned, with dialog between regional governors and Army officers in the region to deliver greater security.
There is also a planned, closer exchange of information and intelligence “at all levels” and in both directions — up and down, he said. The creation of a national counterterrorism center would be a “new favorable” step, he added.
The operational review follows Macron’s announcement on July 14 that Sentinel would be thoroughly revised to deliver a “greater effectiveness and to take into account the change in the threat.”
There have been several attacks in the capital, with the most recent on Saturday, when a young man armed with a knife tried to attack soldiers on patrol at the Eiffel Tower. Other attacks were recently made at the Louvre museum and Paris Orly airport.
The authorities stepped up Sentinel in strength after Nov. 13, 2015, which saw deadly attacks that left 130 civilians dead. A parliamentary inquiry led by Fenech criticized the lack of help from soldiers at the attack in the Bataclan concert hall. That specific attack left 90 dead.
The rules of engagement forbade the eight soldiers on Sentinel duty to use their Famas assault rifles on the attackers at the Bataclan, despite an urgent request from police on the scene for help against the assailants.