French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told forces on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf Thursday that the war against the Islamic State group was starting to bear its fruit.
“The war (against IS) is being played out here,” he said aboard the Charles de Gaulle, which is participating in the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes on IS in Syria and Iraq.
“The strategy is starting to pay off. Everywhere our sensors show that Daesh is going on the defensive… as shown in the loss of Ramadi,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
Earlier this week, Iraqi forces pushed IS fighters out of the city west of Baghdad with air support from the coalition in an important setback for the group.
“Several weeks ago, France was hit at its heart,” Le Drian told 250 French troops gathered in the carrier’s aircraft hangar among Rafale and Super Etendard jets.
The Charles de Gaulle set off for the eastern Mediterranean shortly after IS claimed November 13 bombing and shootings in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded many more.
“The aggression on our soil calls for a retaliation where Daesh is organising to hit us,” he said, referring to IS training camps in Syria.
The aircraft carrier has been stationed in the Gulf since December 20.
“Our aim is this terrorist organisation’s destruction, pure and simple,” he said.
“To destroy an enemy, you have to degrade its capacities, contain it,” he said, referring to the airstrikes against the group’s positions since summer 2014.
“You then must reduce it. For that, you need to act on the ground and that’s what our local partners are doing with our support.”
Earlier this week, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces in Syria rolled the jihadists back across the Euphrates River.
Marines from accompanying German and Belgian frigates were also aboard the aircraft carrier.
Le Drian is to visit French pilots in Jordan on Friday and, the following day, legionnaires training Iraqi army units in the United Arab Emirates.