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MILITARY

France vows to stay in Syria even after US leaves

France will maintain its participation in the coalition fighting Islamic State forces in Syria, government officials said Thursday after President Donald Trump surprised Washington's allies by ordering US troops home.

France vows to stay in Syria even after US leaves
Photo: AFP
“For now of course we remain in Syria,” France's European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau said on CNews television, adding “the fight against terrorism is not over.”
   
“It's true that the coalition has made significant progress in Syria, but this fight continues, and we will continue it,” she said.
   
France has stationed fighter jets in Jordan and artillery along the Syrian border in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition, as well as an undisclosed number of special forces on the ground.
 
On Wednesday Trump said in a Twitter video that “We've won against ISIS,” another acronym for the Islamic State group, and that it was time to bring the roughly 2,000 US soldiers fighting the jihadists home.
   
It was a stunning reversal of a US policy which had vowed its support for Kurdish allies who have been key fighters against IS forces in Syria.
 
Its allies have warned that despite losing most of the territory it once controlled during the bloody Syrian civil war, the IS threat has not been totally eradicated.
   
French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Twitter Thursday that the group “has not been wiped of the map, nor have its roots.”
 
“We must definitively defeat the last pockets of this terrorist organisation,” she said.

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MILITARY

France plans to spend €37 billion on revamp of its nuclear arsenal

France is planning a 37-billion-euro revamp of its nuclear arsenal over the next seven years, part of a sharp increase in defence spending aimed at allowing France to "hold its own" as a key power in Europe, the country's defence chief said Thursday.

France plans to spend €37 billion on revamp of its nuclear arsenal
View of submarine "Le Terrible". Photo: AFP

The upgrades to France's land- and sea-based nuclear deterrent will be part of the nearly 300 billion euros ($370 billion) to be spent by 2025.

That would take the defence budget to the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP, compared with about 1.8 percent currently.

“We are going to make up for past shortfalls and build a modern, sustainable, protective army” that would allow France to hold its own, defence minister Florence Parly said Thursday.

The spending hike under President Emmanuel Macron marks a reversal of years of belt-tightening in defence, which caused tension in the ranks while drawing criticism from the United States that France and other NATO members were not pulling their weight.

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Photo: AFP

Nuclear-armed France and Britain are the biggest military powers in the European Union.

The defence ministry plans to raise overall spending by 1.7 billion euros a year from 2019 to 2022, increasing to 3 billion a year between 2023 and 2025.

“The government's goal is twofold: reach the target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence by 2025, while also ensuring we manage our public finances,” Parly said.

French forces and equipment have been strained by operations against jihadists in West Africa as well as the country's participation in the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Thousands of soldiers have also been deployed across France as part of the anti-terror patrols implemented after a string of attacks claimed or inspired by IS.

France will also begin studying a replacement for its sole aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, which is slated for retirement around 2040, while financing research into next-generation combat jets and tanks.

Drones, satellites and surveillance craft will also be developed in order to increase strategic autonomy for both France and Europe, according to the defence proposals released Wednesday.