Macron says France seeks to remain in Syria, 'militarily engaged' in Mideast
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Macron says France seeks to remain in Syria, 'militarily engaged' in Mideast

Addressing military officials at an army base near the city of Toulouse, Macron said "the fight [in Syria] is not over" and that “any rush to withdraw would be a mistake.” He also criticized US President Donald Trump's call for an alleged troop withdrawal from the war-torn country. "The retreat from Syria announced by our American friends cannot make us deviate from our strategic objective – eradicating Daesh," the French president claimed. Macron also hinted at an extended regional agenda beyond fighting Daesh, claiming that while France seeks to revise its "global military deployment", it shall "remain committed to participating in the stabilization" of the Middle East. Amid waning US influence in the Middle East, France is seeking to expand its military ambitions in the region. A 2017 report showed France had doubled arms sales to the Middle East, bolstering its allies, including Saudi Arabia and Israel. Since 2014, France has also engaged in aerial bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq and has deployed hundreds of troops on the pretext of fighting the Daesh terrorist group. Some 1,200 French troops remain deployed in the region, seeking to prop up the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus alliance of mainly Kurdish militants in northern Syria. Also in December, France pledged backing for the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces. The war against Daesh has become an excuse for the Western countries to intervene in Syria and deploy troops without an authorization from Damascus or the UN. A senior Syrian official said late last year that the US and France were carrying out illegal excavations in ancient sites in northern Syria with the help of Kurdish militants.  Much of the digging work was conducted on the Um al-Sarj mountain near Manbij, head of Syria's Directorate-General for Museums and Antiquities Mahmoud Hammoud said in December.  As recently as last month, Manbij was controlled by Kurdish militants who were heavily armed and supported by US and French troops illegally deployed to northern Syria. Paris has also backed Israeli airstrikes against alleged "Iranian interests" in Syria.  Last year, France stressed its “unwavering commitment to Israel's security" and condemned "any attempt to undermine it,” after Israeli launched deadly airstrikes against Syria. Macron's comments came after Trump initially called for a "swift" troop withdrawal from the country, drawing criticism from many in Washington and its international allies.  Trump has, however, backtracked on his statements, saying that the pullout would be "slow and coordinated" with regional allies. Visiting Israel earlier this month, US National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested that American troops may remain at a US military base at the Syrian al-Tanf border crossing with Jordan to protect Israel from "Iranian expansion." Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that American troops would not withdraw from al-Tanf.

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