France maintains its military presence in Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron again on Thursday opposed the US decision to withdraw from Syria, saying that French troops would remain engaged in the Middle East in 2019.

The French president announced that the terrorist group Daesh was not yet completely defeated in Syria and that the French troops would remain in the northern part of the country.

On Thursday, January 17, the president delivered a speech to 1,600 Francazal army base soldiers and civilians gathered in Toulouse.

“The announced withdrawal of Syria from our American ally should not deflect us from our strategic objective: to eradicate Daesh by depriving this terrorist group of any territorial footprint and preventing its resurgence,” he insisted.

France deployed 1,200 military forces in Syria and Iraq as part of the US-led anti-Daesh coalition formed in 2014.

“The battle is not over,” said Macron in reaction to speculation about the possibility of a French withdrawal from Syria. “We need to examine the state of our military deployment around the world, but … we must remain committed to contributing to the restoration of stability [in the Middle East],” he said.

Macron regretted the decision made hastily on December 19 by the Trump administration, calling it a mistake.

“Daesh is completely defeated in Syria,” the US president said, adding that Syria’s neighbors must now continue the fight against Daesh’s remains.

Western allies in the United States have welcomed this decision with skepticism. France was among the first countries to have criticized it.

“Some 1,100 French soldiers served in the Middle East,” said the French army chief of staff, confirming that about 200 French soldiers had joined the Kurds in northern Syria.

This acknowledgment comes as France has thus far maintained its military presence in Syria secret. Paris has even constantly denied reports that French forces have repeatedly fallen in the net of Syrian soldiers.

Since France became military involved in Syria, sending troops to the northeast and eastern parts of the country on US orders, Syrian forces have arrested French soldiers. The first announcement of their capture dates back to the end of 2012. Yet, neither Syrian sources nor French sources have explicitly addressed the subject. In addition, Damascus has never released images of French captives imprisoned on its territory.

In France, a total blackout is maintained on the subject, the media never evoking it and placing it under the label “secret defense”.

The government does not dare inform public opinion of the “fate of prisoners of war”, arrested in the context of a war waged without the knowledge of even French citizens.

However, it took the work of Syrian journalists, who managed to trace the nearly 300 French soldiers detained by Syrian intelligence.

France maintains its military presence in Syria without the green light of the Syrian state and behaves like a power of occupation. Last September, it participated, alongside Great Britain and Israel, in strikes against Russian targets in Latakia, an offensive that resulted in the destruction of an Il-20 in flight, although Paris refused to acknowledge it.

The United States and its allies have been bombing since September 2014 what they call Daesh positions inside Syria without the authorization of the Damascus government or the UN mandate.

It should be noted that five members of the US Army were killed in an explosion that occurred on Wednesday January 16 in Manbij, Syria.