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France President Hollande pledges airstrikes against IS

September 18, 2014

France has said it will provide air support in response to an Iraqi request to assist in the batttle against "Islamic State" militants. President Francois Hollande stressed that France would not put boots on the ground.

French Rafale fighter plane takes off from Istres military base, eastern France on March 19, 2011 on a mission to overfly Libya following UN Security Council resolution. Photo by ECPAD/ABACAPRESS.COM
Image: picture-alliance/abaca

On Thursday, the president said he had agreed to provide air support in Iraq at a meeting of defense and security advisers earlier in the day.

Hollande stressed that the action would be limited strictly to the air and that it would not include Syria, where "Islamic State" (IS) militants are involved in a bloody civil war.

"This morning I decided to respond to the request of Iraqi authorities to provide air support," Hollande said. "We won't go beyond this. There won't be troops on the ground. And we will act only in Iraq."

The French president said the airstrikes would begin "as soon as we have identified targets - that means in a short time frame."

"It will be air support to protect Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga forces to reduce and weaken this terrorist group," Hollande said.

France began to conduct reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday, coinciding with its hosting of a major international conference on the conflict in which some 30 countries and international organizations said they would to support Iraq "by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance."

Paris also sent weapons for Kurdish forces fighting IS, with Hollande also being the most high-profile leader to visit Iraq since the jihadists overran much of the northern part of Iraq.

Pressekonferenz von Francois Hollande
Hollande made the announcement at a twice-yearly press conferenceImage: Reuters

Though US officials have said they have no qualms about conducting airstrikes in Syria, other members of the coalition are more cautious about intervening in a way that could bolster the position of President Bashar al-Assad at a time of civil war. The US has announced that it has no plans to use ground troops.

US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the announcement as he attended a meeting with lawmakers.

"President Hollande has announced that he has authorized for France to provide airstrikes in Iraq, in response to a request from the government of Iraq. And we obviously welcome that public announcement," Kerry said.

On Thursday, US aircraft targeted an IS training camp for the first time, bombing buildings, troops and vehicles at the facility southeast of Mosul. According to local sources, at least 25 people died and a roughly similar number were injured.

rc/mkg (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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