By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 6, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met at the Pentagon today to discuss shared concerns, ongoing operations and opportunities to strengthen defense cooperation.
Joined by Le Drian at a news conference after their meeting, Carter said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was an area of discussion.
“I commended Minister Le Drian for his and France’s commitment in the fight to deliver a lasting defeat to ISIL, a campaign that we agreed requires a sustained long-term effort,” the secretary said.
Earlier this year, France deployed its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the Persian Gulf to support counter-ISIL airstrikes, Carter added, and the French air force continues to play a critical role after being first to join the United States in striking ISIL targets in Iraq.
Among Strongest U.S. Allies
“These are some of the reasons why France continues to be one of our strongest allies when it comes to challenges in the Middle East,” he said, noting France’s persistent leadership in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region. French operations there are preventing spillover of terrorism, trafficking and extremism, the secretary said, and are disrupting al-Qaida affiliates, Boko Haram and other extremists in North and West African nations such as Mali, Niger and Chad.
U.S. forces will continue to support France in such efforts with airlift and aerial-refueling capabilities, he added, and given new security challenges to Europe’s south and east, the leaders agreed that U.S.-France cooperation 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,” Carter said, “and we will continue to work together.”
During his recent trip to Europe, Carter said, he committed the United States to providing important capabilities to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which France has volunteered to lead in the future.
“I’ve been working on trans-Atlantic security for a long time, both in and outside of government,” Carter said, “and I think Minister Le Drian would agree [that] this is the best our defense relationship has been in a long time.”
The partnership between France and the United States has long been instrumental to building lasting peace and prosperity, he added, “[and] we must ensure it always will be.”