LIMASSOL, Cyprus (AP) — The Islamic State group remains active in Syria and Iraq despite major territorial losses, necessitating French air support for troops mainly in Iraq, the commander of a French aircraft carrier strike group said Friday.
Rear Admiral Marc Aussedat said Rafale warplanes from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier have been mainly used to gather information on the whereabouts of IS fighters as well as on the group’s patterns of activity.
That intelligence is conveyed to commanders of a US-led coalition who coordinate on-the-ground operations against IS targets.
“The area of operations is mainly Iraq and it’s where the coalition needs us to be,” Aussedat said aboard the Charles de Gaulle, which is currently docked at Cyprus’ main port of Limassol.
The Rafales carry 500-pound bombs to strike IS positions, but haven’t dropped any in the month since the Charles de Gaulle has been deployed in the east Mediterranean as part of the coalition.
“We didn’t have any strike so far,” Aussedat said. “But it doesn’t mean that we are not working against (IS) … I’m doing what the coalition needs me to do. And so far I had to gather intelligence and to be present.”
IS remnants have been gradually building up a guerrilla campaign over the past year as tensions between the U.S. and Iran provide a comeback opportunity for the extremist group, experts say.
Some 20 Rafales are stationed on the Charles de Gaulle, along with a pair of E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and two helicopters.
The carrier is escorted by two French frigates, a Greek frigate, a nuclear attack submarine and a supply ship.
During its deployment, the Charles de Gaulle and its aircraft conducted a number of air and naval maneuvers with Cyprus’ National Guard.