WASHINGTON — The Islamic State militant group is no longer a terrorist group, but rather has morphed into a "terrorist army," the French minister of defense said Monday.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking at the Pentagon, said that change means that ISIL, as the Islamic State group is often called, has to be fought on multiple fronts.

"It is no longer a terrorist group. It has become a terrorist army, which has the capability to act as a classical army — they have demonstrated it — but also to have operations in urban areas and terroristic operations," he said. "They can do all three at the same time."

Le Drian also defended the coalition strategy against ISIL from critics who say challenges that airstrikes are not sufficient to curb the group's spread through Syria and Iraq.

"The repetition of strikes in Iraq allowed us to stabilize — not to win, but to stabilize — the situation," he said. "The coalition intervened at a time when we thought ISIL was about to seize Baghdad."

But, he noted, "It is a long-term job."

Le Drian was in Washington to meet with his counterpart, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The two nations have strengthened their ties in recent years, something Carter acknowledged in his opening statement.

"This is the best our defense relationship has been in a very long time, probably ever," Carter said. "And we are committed to strengthening it still."

In particular, France has taken the lead in operations in Africa, with the US providing air refueling and cargo transport support, something Carter said will continue.

Carter also indicated the two nations are increasing their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-sharing capabilities.

"Our cooperation overall with France and the security sector has never been stronger, [and] that is true about the sharing of military information and intelligence information," Carter said. "We took some efforts this morning to increase that yet further. [The] minister mentioned remotely piloted aircraft as one example of that in his statement, so that was one of the things we discussed today that is applicable."

Asked for further details, a Pentagon spokeswoman said: "The two leaders discussed how to further enhance intelligence sharing between our military forces; specifically ways to streamline US-France operational planning and information sharing for counterterrorism operations."

Email: amehta@defensenews.com

Twitter: @AaronMehta

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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