France will retain its military contingent in war-torn Iraq, even if the United States completely withdraws from the country. This was announced on Sunday by French President Emmanuel Macron.
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“We will stay there as long as terrorists are there, as long as the Iraqis ask us to,” the French President said in an interview with TF1 TV channel.
“We are not dependent on the presence of American troops.” “If the US decides to withdraw completely, we will not depend on their decision, and we will remain on the side of the Iraqis,” he emphasized.
According to Macron, it is still “too early to say what the US is going to do.”
“Perhaps they will change the nature of their presence, but I do not think that they are going to leave,” the French head of state said. The president added that “the French army has been represented by special forces from the very beginning” of the operation in Iraq.
Macron also recalled that France “lost its soldiers in the battles in Iraq.”
Earlier, Macron visited ISIS’s former Iraqi stronghold Mosul, a day after vowing to keep troops in the country.
In a speech at the devastated city’s Church of Our Lady of the Hour, which UNESCO is restoring, the French President urged Iraq’s religious communities to “work together” to rebuild the country.
“We will bring back a (French) consulate and schools,” Macron vowed while criticizing the pace of reconstruction in Mosul as “too slow”.
Macron made the promise (for the French military to stay in Iraq) during a summit in Baghdad largely devoted to the fight against terrorism and the influence of the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan.
France, which funds French-speaking Christian schools in the region, is working to highlight the plight of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, French Defense Minister Florence Parly recently confirmed that the country’s operation on the evacuation of people from Afghanistan had been completed.
“The Operation Apagan, which started on August 15 by the order of the president of the Republic, has been completed today in the evening. Within less than two weeks, the French military have evacuated around 3,000 people, including over 2,600 Afghan citizens, who were sheltered by France,” Parly wrote on her Twitter page on late Friday.
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The General Staff of France said that the last group of French military had left Kabul on late Friday.
The Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, ending a weeks-long offensive and resulting in the collapse of the US-backed government. Internationally recognized Afghan President Ashraf Ghani resigned and left the country for the UAE. The seizure of power has forced thousands of Afghans to seek escape from the country for fear of reprisals from the militants.