Rear Admiral Marc Aussedat, who heads a task force focused on the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, said 18 Rafale forward fighter jets were conducting reconnaissance flights in Syrian and Iraqi airspace to assess IS actions and bring their weapons to carry if necessary.
“Why are we doing this mission? … First of all, it is to give these forces, the coalition and the Iraqi security forces, the means to fight against the regeneration of Daesh on the ground. Daesh is hiding, Daesh is developing its capabilities underground, ”Aussedat told reporters, referring to the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
France’s regional military musculature manifested itself in Task Force 473, a naval force of several warships, including anti-submarine frigates and an air defense destroyer centered around the De Gaulle. The country already has a frigate deployed in the eastern Mediterranean on a permanent basis.
The primary mission of the task force’s five-month deployment to the eastern Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean is to assist Operation Inherent Resolve, a United States-led mission of forces from several country responsible for eradicating the remnants of ISIS after its three years. occupation of large swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory.
Aussedat said the French task force also contributed to the fight against piracy and international trafficking in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean where it temporarily took command of Task Force 50, a US naval force led by the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, to help build trust and cooperation between the two navies.
According to Aussedat, the deployment was also aimed at projecting French power and “showing the French flag” in regions where the country has “strategic interests”, including the eastern Mediterranean. The French energy company Total, with its Italian partner Eni, is authorized to drill for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus.
“The presence in these areas is made to prevent and fight for stability, for the freedom of navigation, for our freedom of action and of course the interests of France but also of the partners who are linked to us”, declared Aussedat.
These partners include a Belgian and Greek frigate, as well as an American destroyer which had previously joined the task force. The French task force will end its deployment with a joint exercise in the Western Mediterranean with the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The Charles de Gaulle made a similar stopover in Limassol just over a year ago when journalists were allowed to board the ship, but this year COVID-19 restrictions prevented it.
The Cypriot defense ministry said it would conduct joint maneuvers with the French task force as part of a bilateral defense cooperation agreement.