Hollande calls for action against Syrian Qaeda affiliate

Hollande calls for action against Syrian Qaeda affiliate

As Islamic State is pushed back, concern grows that competing jihadist groups may step into the void

French President Francois Hollande. (AFP/Dominique Faget)
French President Francois Hollande. (AFP/Dominique Faget)

WARSAW, Poland – French President Francois Hollande called Saturday for international action against an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, warning that the recent losses sustained by the Islamic State group could embolden other jihadist groups.

“Daesh (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State) is in retreat, that is beyond dispute,” Hollande said after a meeting with the leaders of the United States, Germany, Britain, Italy and Ukraine on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Warsaw.

But, Hollande added, “we must also avoid a situation whereby as Daesh becomes weaker, other groups become stronger.”

Hollande singled out Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front as particularly standing to benefit from the US-led military campaign against its arch-rival the Islamic State group.

Faced with a barrage of airstrikes and ground offensives by local forces, IS has lost territory in both Syria and Iraq in recent months.

“We must coordinate among ourselves to continue actions against Daesh but also… take effective action against Al-Nusra,” Hollande said, directing his appeal at Russia and the US.

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone call to “intensify” military coordination between their two countries in Syria.

Russia had in May proposed joint air strikes with the US against jihadist targets in Syria — a suggestion that was rebuffed by Washington.

The White House reported that the two leaders, in their call this week, “confirmed their commitment to defeating ISIL (IS) and the Al-Nusra Front.”

The two groups are excluded from a broader truce brokered by Moscow and Washington in February.

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