Hagel Praises Historic Bonds, Current Coalition Ties With France
By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to the Pentagon to reaffirm their mutual resolve to address a spectrum of issues, from terrorism to infectious disease control, the two leaders said in a joint news conference today.
The secretary lauded Le Drian for France’s leading role in the international coalition to degrade and destroy the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, noting that France was the first nation to join the United States in conducting airstrikes against the terrorist network. The coalition has since grown to include 40 nations.
The fight against ISIL
“American and French forces will continue to work side by side to support Iraqi forces on the ground as French aircraft patrol the skies over Iraq and provide valuable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on ISIL targets,” Hagel said.
These efforts, he added, enable Iraqi and Kurdish security forces to take the offensive against ISIL.
The two leaders also discussed ways to continue building and strengthening the coalition and supporting the new government of Iraq.
“The United States and France recognize the grave threat that ISIL poses to our shared regional interests and our citizens,” Hagel said.
He recounted the recent murder of a French hostage in Algeria, an incident he described as a “stark reminder of the deadly threats ISIL presents” to France and its allies.
Challenges in Africa
During their meeting today, the secretaries also focused on security challenges in North and West Africa, two regions Hagel said now face surges of violent extremism, instability and deadly infectious disease.
“France’s leadership in confronting extremist threats in the Sahel is particularly important as the United States continues to provide support to French operations in Mali, including airlift, refueling and intelligence cooperation,” he said.
Hagel also noted that the two nations will continue to coordinate efforts across the region in response to the Ebola crisis.
NATO a cornerstone of security
The defense secretary said that in discussions at the NATO summit in Wales last month, the two nations agreed on the importance of reinforcing NATO partnerships in Eastern Europe and strengthening the readiness and capabilities of the NATO alliance.
“A strong and united NATO will be critically important to assuring a Europe whole, free and at peace,” Hagel said. “That goal remains a cornerstone of America’s approach to global and transatlantic security.”