Death of the Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Statement by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs
Paris - October 27, 2019
The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has dealt a new blow to Daesh [so-called ISIL], following the fall of the terrorist group’s last territorial strongholds in March.
I welcome the operation led by our American allies.
The fight against Daesh is not over and we must continue it together, within the framework of the [Global] Coalition against Daesh, taking into account the latest regional developments.
This will be the subject of the forthcoming discussions that France has proposed to its coalition partners.
Interview given by Ms. Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces, to the daily newspaper "Le Parisien"
Paris - October 28, 2019
What’s your reaction to the news of Baghdadi’s death?
THE MINISTER – Anything that can help weaken Islamic State [Daesh] is bound to be good news. However, everyone is well aware that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s neutralization following the long hunt for him doesn’t mean the end of the fight against Daesh or against terrorism. Even the end, in February 2019, of the territorial caliphate created by Baghdadi in 2014 in no way signalled the end of Daesh, because since then Daesh has been rebuilding in different, clandestine forms. Baghdadi’s death is a step, not a conclusion.
It’s the death of a terrorist but not of the organization?
Islamic State is transforming but also rebuilding, and it’s ready to take action at any moment. We saw this a few days ago during Turkey’s attack in Syria, because, at the same moment, Islamic State claimed responsibility for one attack in Raqqa in Syria and several others afterwards. It’s clear proof that Daesh hasn’t been defeated and that we must continue the battle.
Continue the battle in Asia and Africa too?
The Islamic State organization has indeed proliferated, in South-East Asia for example. Many terrorist movements want to appropriate the Islamic State “brand”. It’s a battle France is waging, among other places, in the Sahel – a battle against a terrorism with links to Daesh or al-Qaeda.
Is it also a battle against an ideology that is spreading?
Baghdadi was actually behind an effective Islamist ideological propaganda machine that has driven some Europeans and French people to join the organization in the Levant. Yes, propaganda has been a very strong method of recruitment and influence. And of course, Baghdadi’s death doesn’t signal a halt to that propaganda.
Can France nonetheless feel a bit safer today after Baghdadi’s death?
Our number one priority is still to combat terrorism and Daesh. That’s been the case for years. And we want to ensure that Daesh is permanently defeated and prevent its resurgence. That’s why we firmly condemned the Turkish offensive in Syria. As well as the tragic humanitarian consequences, as well as the fact that the attack serves as a stepping stone for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, above all it’s doing the work of Islamic State. France has always been very active vis-à-vis this crisis in the Levant. It is, and will remain, in the vanguard in the fight against Daesh.
What future might there be for the international coalition, in which the United States is playing an essential but not very transparent role?
France is shouldering all its responsibilities and asking its partners to remain fully engaged in fighting Daesh. We’re also doing our utmost to get the matter prioritized at the UN and the Security Council. But we need to reconfigure the coalition. This was the purpose of NATO’s ministerial meeting on Thursday and Friday and the many [other] meetings on that occasion, with my American, British, German and Turkish counterparts in particular. The coalition will meet soon, because it’s a matter of urgency. The role of the United States, which is the leading contributor, is crucial, but it absolutely must be clarified.
Is France still influential within the coalition?
France remains very much involved. Particularly in Iraq, where the French are training the Iraqi forces. This presence is all the more justified today in that terrorists are moving from Syria to Iraq and there’s no doubt that terrorist action is going to be stepped up in the Levant.
Donald Trump didn’t make any mention of France in welcoming Baghdadi’s death. Is this an affront?
France didn’t take part in the operation to neutralize Baghdadi. So your question doesn’t apply.