France is set to triple its aerial capabilities in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State (Isis) with its latest deployment being the nuclear aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle. The only aircraft carrier of the French naval fleet will leave for the Persian Gulf on Thursday, 19 November.
The nuclear-powered vessel, the biggest European aircraft carrier, will have 26 fighters on board, which will significantly boost the French aerial campaign against the IS. This is in addition to the 12 French warplanes, which are pounding IS targets in the conflict zones, stationed in the UAE and Jordan.
"This is going to triple our military power [as part of the operation against the Islamic State]. I am not talking about deterring the IS but about eliminating it totally," French President Francois Hollande told the lawmakers in Versailles. "[Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of the solution in Syria. But the Islamic State is our main enemy in Syria today."
The French navy's flagship vessel was not set to reach the Persian Gulf until December and its deployment has been accelerated following the Paris terror attacks. The IS-led high-profile onslaught killed 129 people and left hundreds of others injured in the French capital.
When Charles de Gaulle was stationed in the Persian Gulf last time in the wake of similar terrorist attacks in Paris, more than 200 airstrikes were thought to have been launched from the vessel.
France has already intensified its aerial bombardment in Syria shortly after the Paris incident. "We will continue the strikes in the weeks to come ... There will be no respite and no truce. France is at war ... We are in a war against jihadist terrorism that threatens the entire world," pledged Hollande.
The US-led coalition forces did not have any aircraft carrier in the region since the USS Theodore Roosevelt left the area in October. The replacement vessel, USS Harry Truman is also yet to arrive as part of the anti-IS operations.
"It was normal to take the initiative and action and France had the legitimacy to do so. We did it already in the past, we have conducted new airstrikes in Raqqa, [Syria] today. One cannot be attacked harshly, and you know the drama that is happening in Paris, without being present and active," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.