Middle East

French army chief sees no fast victory against Islamic State

France's army chief of staff said on Sunday he sees no short term military victory in the fight against Islamic State as Paris intensifies its strikes on targets in Syria following the deadly attacks in the French capital.
President Francois Hollande has called for a grand coalition, including the United States and Russia, to eradicate Islamic State in Syria, and is due to meet with Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin next week.
Islamic State, also known as Daesh, claimed responsibility for the worst violence in France since World War Two, in which 130 people were killed in bombings and shootings. The group said the assaults were in retaliation for Paris' involvement in US-backed air strikes in Iraq and Syria.
"There will be no military victory against Daesh in the short term," Pierre de Villiers, chief of staff of armed forces, told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview published on Sunday.
"In the military, we are used to the long term but people … want fast results. In Syria and Iraq, we are in the heart of that paradox. Everybody knows that in the end this conflict will be resolved through diplomatic and political channels."
Hollande will travel to Washington to speak with Obama on Tuesday and then head to Moscow to meet with Putin to discuss how their countries' militaries might work together.
Russia and Western countries are divided over Syria. Moscow is supporting President Bashar al-Assad while the West says he should leave power to end Syria's civil war.
De Villiers said he had spoken to his Russian counterpart by phone to discuss their countries' ships with regard to Syria but added that France had not "at this stage any coordination of strikes or identification of targets in consultation with the Russians, even if we have the same enemy Daesh."
Since the November 13 Paris bombings and shootings, French war planes have launched their biggest raids in Syria to date, including hitting Islamic State's stronghold in Raqqa.
In the space of three days, some 60 bombs were dropped as training camps or command centres were targeted last week, de Villiers said.
"I honestly think that we seriously hurt them," he said.
De Villiers added that France currently has some 34,000 soldiers deployed in France and abroad. On Monday, Hollande said he would avoid cuts to defense spending before 2019.

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