ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – French President Emmanuel Macron says his country will keep its troops in Syria and Iraq in 2019 to continue their fight against the so-called Islamic State.
“We will remain militarily engaged in the Levant in the international coalition…over the coming year,” he said during a speech to armed forces in the French city of Toulouse.
Macron’s comments came a day after a deadly explosion in the Syrian city of Manbij which left at least 19 people dead, four of them Americans.
Army Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition, told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday that “US service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria.”
Shortly after the bombing, the Islamic State’s unofficial news agency, Amaq, claimed responsibility for the attack at a popular restaurant in Manbij which American and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) troops frequented.
During his speech in Toulouse, Macron reminded that the US withdrawal from Syria “should not deflect us from our strategic objective to eradicate” the Islamic State, adding that the death of Americans shows that the battle against the extremist group is not over.
US President Donald Trump’s surprise decision in December to withdraw US forces from Syria has raised criticism from America’s allies, including France.
Macron notably slammed Trump’s decision and affirmed that allies should not be abandoned, referring to the Syrian Kurds which the US-led coalition has supported in the years-long war against the Islamic State.
“I very deeply regret the decision made on Syria,” Macron said while at a press conference in Chad on Dec. 24, 2018.
“To be allies is to fight shoulder to shoulder. It’s the most important thing for a head of state and head of the military. An ally should be dependable.”
France, a key member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, has roughly 1,100 troops operating in Iraq and Syria who provide logistics, training, and heavy artillery support as well as fighter jets to strike Islamic State targets.
Its presence in Syria also includes dozens of special forces, military advisers, and some foreign office personnel.