"This is a very difficult decision. We have always believed — and [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron has repeatedly stressed it — that the fight [against terrorism] must be completed… If we do not finish the work [in Syria], there is a risk that the remaining groups will resume their activities and will be able to act outside of their 'caliphate,' on territories similar in size to Europe", the minister stated.
Parly also recalled that around 1,000 French troops had been operating in Western Asia, including Syria, since 2014 as part of the US-led international coalition.
"I want to remind you that we have been present in the Levant since 2014 as part of the US-led coalition. In this regard, a little more than 1,000 of our pilots and artillerymen operate in this zone and carry out strikes. In particular, they are now operating in… the last stronghold of the IS [Daesh*] on the Iraqi-Syrian border, which we want to completely destroy", she said.
At the same time, the defence minister refused to confirm or refute the statement made by French Economic Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau, who claimed on Friday that France would maintain its military presence in Syria despite the announced US withdrawal.
The US-led international coalition launched its counterterrorism campaign in Syria in 2014 and has been operating in the country ever since, without securing permission either from the United Nations Security Council or Damascus.
* Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia