Secretary of Defense Carter: US-French Security Partnership Stronger than Ever

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, July 6, 2015Carter:  France is America’s oldest ally. And today, our security partnership is the strongest it’s ever been.

We just finished a productive discussion on shared concerns, ongoing operations, and opportunities to strengthen yet further our security cooperation. One area we discussed was ISIL. I commended Minister Le Drian and France’s commitment to the fight to deliver a lasting defeat to ISIL, a campaign that we agreed requires a sustained and long-term effort.

Earlier this year, France deployed its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the Gulf to support counter-ISIL strikes, integrating seamlessly with U.S. forces. The French Air Force, being the first to join us in striking ISIL targets in Iraq, continues to play a critical role there.

These are some of the reasons why France continues to be one of our strongest allies when it comes to the challenges in the Middle East.

We also discussed France’s persistent leadership in Africa, particularly the Sahel. French operations there are preventing spillover of terrorism, trafficking and extremism, disrupting Al Qaeda affiliates, Boko Haram and other extremists in North and West African nations, like Mali, Niger and Chad, and the U.S. military will continue to support France in these efforts with our lift and aerial refueling capabilities.

Also, given new security challenges to Europe’s south and to its east, we agreed that U.S.-French cooperation is and must remain an anchor for European security.

Following Russia’s initial acts of aggression in Ukraine, France helped NATO reassure our allies along Europe’s eastern borders, and we will continue to work together….

I think Minister Le Drian would agree this is the best our defense relationship has been in a very long time, probably ever, and we’re committed to strengthening it still, because we’re reminded by celebrating America’s independence or by commemorating our shared victory in World War II, the partnership between France and the United States has long been instrumental to building peace and prosperity for people here and around the world. We must ensure it will always be.

Le Drian (through translator):  We have mentioned our bilateral cooperation, which is excellent. France and the United States are acting together on many theaters — in the Sahel, where we’re in the front lines, in the Levant, where France participates in the coalition led by the United States.

The deployment of the French aircraft carrier in the spring for this coalition, as you mentioned yourself, was testimony of this French commitment. We are also fully committed in reassurance measures for our allies in Central and Eastern Europe, both with air force, navy and land forces.

The multiplication of crises and the tension will impose on us to get closer and closer. We mentioned Libya and our support to the mediation of — (inaudible). We have mentioned the support to the Tunisian government. We have also mentioned the cooperation of the training for drones, for instance, or the perspective of the strengthening of our spacial cooperation.

In summary, I consider that our partnership, our mutual trust is essential if we want to face the security challenges of our time, according to the tradition of the alliance between our two countries, that is, you know, very close and very frank at the same time….

There’s a sharing of tasks. It’s the will of France to intervene in the coalition, and we do it on a very large way and a regular way. But to block, what I call myself, the terrorist army that ISIL has become — it is no longer a terrorist group; it has become a terrorist army, which both has the capacity to act as a classical army, demonstrated it, but also to have operations in urban areas, which they also demonstrated, and terroristic operations, which they also demonstrated. They can do all three at the same time.

Excerpts from joint press briefing by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, July 6, 2015.

Image: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, July 6, 2015 (photo: Department of Defense)