US military chief to visit French carrier in Gulf
The top-ranking US military officer will pay an extraordinary visit to a French aircraft carrier in the Gulf in coming days as part of a tour of the region, officials said Friday.
General Martin Dempsey was invited by his French counterparts to get a first-hand look at the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier, where French warplanes are taking part in the air war against the Islamic State group.
"I think it's encouraging that the French would commit a resource as scarce and as valuable to them into this fight," Dempsey told reporters en route to the Gulf.
"It's a reflection of how important it is" to them," the general said.
The De Gaulle set off from its base in Toulon on January 13 for a five-month mission that includes an eight-week stint in the Gulf, where it is working alongside an American carrier, the USS Carl Vinson.
The French ship, which arrived in the Gulf last month, carries 12 Rafale and nine Super Etendard fighter jets. France also has fighter jets based at airfields in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan flying strike missions over Iraq.
Dempsey said the aircraft carrier's deployment was ground-breaking as the warship was operating under US military commanders running a joint air campaign in Iraq.
"Tactically, it's the first time the French have placed an aircraft carrier in what we call the ATO, the air tasking order. They are within our air campaign," he said.
Dempsey said he wanted to convey his appreciation for France's contribution to the war effort, which he said highlighted the breadth and depth of the global coalition confronting the IS group.
The IS jihadists had no allies and could only cling to an extremist vision, he said.
"The fact that we have a coalition and they (the IS group) have this radical ideology, that's eventually going to be their undoing," Dempsey said.
As part of his trip to the Middle East, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff was due to hold talks in Bahrain and Iraq.
France is one of the main contributors to the 32-member coalition campaign aside from the United States, which is carrying out the bulk of the bombing raids.
France and other Western countries are conducting strikes over Iraq while several Arab nations are taking part in raids over Syria.
© 2015 AFP