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Fight against terrorism/domestic security/Middle East/Africa

Published on March 23, 2016
Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, to the daily newspaper Le Figaro (excerpts)

Paris, March 15, 2016

Q. – Four months after the 13 November attacks, what’s your assessment of domestic security?

THE MINISTER – We have short memories, as if the festive season had swept away the shock and the magnitude of what French people experienced. Since 13 November, we’ve foiled several planned attacks that could have been tragic. And the trauma of the attacks is still tangible. Twenty-three people wounded on 13 November are still in our military hospitals alone.

Q. – Some people doubt that the armed forces are really effective in combating terrorism on national territory…

THE MINISTER – Today there are more service personnel engaged on national territory than in external operations. That’s a significant fact because of the presence of those 10,000 troops in France. The threat we face has two new characteristics. Firstly, it’s become militarized. Secondly, it turns out that this militarized threat is the same inside and outside our borders. To fulfil their missions on these two fronts, the armed forces have specific and consubstantial strengths: their skills in combat, observation, deterrence and surprise.

We noted this at the time of the incident outside the mosque in Valence at the beginning of the year. The three soldiers from the 93rd Mountain Artillery Regiment of Varces (Isère) who were attacked opened fire. The rules are clear. When they act on national territory, the armed forces are under the Interior Minister’s leadership. The Defence Minister’s role is to ensure those forces are ready to fulfil their missions. Although there may have been a few misunderstandings initially, the situation is currently very clear. My relations with Bernard Cazeneuve are trustful and very professional.

Q. – Are the living conditions for service personnel in Operation Sentinelle now satisfactory?

THE MINISTER – Ninety per cent of the 6,500 service personnel deployed in Paris have been properly accommodated. It’s true we initially lacked sites for barracks. Specific benefits were created, roughly reflecting those enjoyed by staff on external operations. It also proved necessary to clarify the missions. Previously, the armed forces had two domestic security “postures”: one for air security and the other for maritime security. Four “postures” are going to be added: they relate to ground forces, cyberspace – this dimension has been greatly strengthened –, health and energy, the last of these enabling our armed forces to be supplied with fuel under all circumstances.

Q. – Since January 2015, 10,000 service personnel have been deployed in France. Is that sufficient?

THE MINISTER – As things currently stand, yes. The difficulty lies in the fact that Sentinelle is conducting its missions with personnel numbers as they were before the military estimates act was updated in July 2015. The President decided that the size of the operational ground force [with personnel capable of being effectively deployed on land] would increase from 66,000 to 77,000. In 2015, an additional 5,600 troops were recruited, and the same number will be recruited in 2016. But they have to be trained. Before they’re actually deployed on the ground, the troops [currently on the ground] are under some pressure. We’ll be more flexible from the summer onwards. Moreover, the number of reservists will increase from the current 28,000 to 40,000 in 2018. The aim is to have 1,000 reservists permanently present in Sentinelle. (…)./.

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