Toulon (France), Jan 19- French President Emmanuel Macron said that the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq would be defeated militarily “in the coming weeks,” as he laid out plans for bolstering France’s defence capabilities.
“Today, thanks to the efforts of all the nations involved, the Daesh military organisation in the Levant is almost completely defeated,” Macron said in a speech on Friday aboard a helicopter carrier in the southern port of Toulon, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
“I’m confident that in the coming weeks we will achieve a military victory on the ground,” he said.
“I want us now to firmly commit with our partners to stabilisation, reconstruction and aide to populations” after years of conflict, he said.
With many of its leaders dead and its fighters on the run, IS has now lost almost all the land it once controlled in Syria and Iraq.
France, which recently pulled out two of the 12 Rafale fighter jets it had been operating in the region, currently has about 1,200 personnel in the international coalition fighting the militants.
Macron said that although combat operations would continue, the country would “adapt” its contribution this year to developments, without providing details.
The French government has increased the 2018 defence budget by 1.8 billion euros, bringing it to 34.2 billion euros (USD 42 billion).
Macron reiterated his pledge to lift French defence spending to two percent of the country’s GDP by 2025, in line with the target agreed to by NATO members in 2014.
The increased spending will include a “renewal” of France’s nuclear arsenal during his five-year term, Macron said, calling nuclear deterrence “the keystone of our defence strategy for the past 50 years.” (AFP)