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France: new NH90 for Operation Barkhane

Defence/Innovation/Politics di

The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), the French defence procurement agency, confirms the acquisition of six additional tactic transport helicopters (Caiman model) from NH Industries, the Italian-French-Dutch industrial group owned by Finmeccanica, Airbus and Fokker. The delivery has been scheduled between 2017 and 2019.


These new acquisitions are part of a more comprehensive renewal program to increase the helicopter fleet up to 74 Caiman units (44 of these to be delivered by 2019). The target is to reach, by the end of 2025, a fleet of 115 tactical NH90 helicopters, goal set in the Defence and Security White Paper in September 2013. As Guillaume Faury, President and CEO of Airbus Helicopters, highlights, “French armed forces have deployed the NH90 operationally in Mali, where its outstanding endurance, versatility and manoeuvrability have been greatly appreciated”.

The decision follows the request from the Army Air Corps to strengthen the capabilities of Operation Barkhane, in Africa. Last January, Gen. Oliver Gourlez de la Motte, chief of the Army Air Corps, announced the service goal to strengthen its forces, by providing 10 additional helicopters to the fleet, to be chosen between both attack and transport models. Last month, indeed, the DGA has ordered from Airbus Helicopters 7 Tiger attack helicopters, which will be delivered between 2017 and 2018.

The aim is to improve the capacity of French armed forces to conduct air-land operations in the Sahel region, in Sub-Saharan Africa. The NH90 has already been deployed in several operational theatres, showing capabilities and characteristics that make it an important resource for French forces engaged in Operation Barkhane. First of all, as already mentioned, its versatility. The NH90 can be employed in response to different tactical needs:

  • Troop and light armament transport, as it can carry up to 20 soldiers or 2.5 tonnes armaments;
  • Casualty evacuation with 12 stretchers;
  • Cargo airlift;
  • Combat, search and rescue operations.

Moreover, the additional equipment allows it to fit various needs that might arise in the operational theatre. The NH90 is provided with an automatic pilot and fly-by-wire (FBW) controls, a system that replaces traditional manual controls with an electronic interface. This reduces the workload for pilots, and makes the NH90 easier to manage. In addition, night vision sights, armor protection and electronic counter-measures make it suitable for combat operations.

These characteristics show how this vehicle becomes essential in an environment such as Sub-Saharan Africa. As we know, Operation Barkhane is a counter-terrorism operation, led by France in the Sahel region since August 2014, with Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad as participating countries. The aim is to contrast the presence of jihadist militants in the region, supporting the efforts of partner countries and to prevent the creation of terrorist sanctuaries. The 3000 soldiers engaged in the mission are based in two permanent fields, one in Gao (Mali) and the other in N’Djamena (Chad). Detachments are sent to temporary bases, located in the mission’s participating countries, from where missions to support their soldiers are launched. Therefore, it is clear how troop and armament transport is necessary to conduct the operation. Moreover, the particular environment –temperature, geographical and territorial conformation, etc.- is a key factor in elaborating interventions. The NH90 proves to be suitable for the African environment, given its endurance and versatility, which is essential in areas where difficulties and resource scarcity might undermine the aim of the mission and the lives of the soldiers involved. “The additional order of six NH90- says Guillaume Faury-…confirms the essential role that new-generation multi-role helicopters play in modern operations”.

It seem that attacks and threats to French nation and security have not changed its commitment towards foreign operations, in particular in missions targeting Islamic terrorism. By contrast, those elements, which proved to be effective, have been strengthen and pressure is made to the Government in order to reinforce French military capabilities. It is not just a matter of number of forces available but also – and most of all- of quality and technology, which have to be suitable for the type of environment and threat that soldiers are facing.


Paola Fratantoni




Libya: waiting for UN approval

Miscellaneous di

As announced following the International Conference in Rome, the Libyan factions, all of Tripoli and Tobruk, signed deal for unitt government in Skhirat (Morocco).The Presidential Council, composed of president Sarraj Fayez, three vicepresidents on behalf of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan and other five representatives, have to form new government within 40 days. Moreover, the UN Security Council will vote terms of military operation in the next days, to make safe Tripoli and train local forces. This international coalition will be led by Italy, while Great Britain will send 1000 troops.

December 17 the 90 representatives of the Assembly of Tobruk and 27 of the GNC Tripoli signed the agreement. The new Presidential Council, in addition to choose new government, will have to convince the presidents of two parliaments to accept the deal. Among the problems which should be solved, there is also the military intervention because several factions prefer the training of Libyan army, rather than a foreign operation.

The most important perspective is about the presence of a unique executive to allow, after Syria, to open another front to fight the Islamic State in Libya, where Sirte became the Caliphate stronghold.

Some US troops are already present, as reported by many international media. As well as France and Great Britain, which reached Libya through southern borders.

And Italy? As leaked out by Italian Defence, the non-intervention in Syria, the contribution to the NATO mission in Iraq (450 soldiers will defende the strategic Mosul Dam), clearly show Italian line: optimize the best efforts, humanly and logistically, to the nearest, and therefore more crucial, Libya.
Giacomo Pratali


Tornado Le Pen: towards the end of Europe?

Politics di

France finally heaves a sigh of relief. Indeed, the second ballot of the administrative elections has knocked Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) out, the same that won the first round. French far-right fails to win a single region, while seven go to Republicans and five to Socialists. But there’s another side of the coin: in the first round FN gets 6 million votes; in second ballot the number reaches the peak of 6.7 million, almost 11.6% more. These figures show that something is changing in French electorate and Republicans and Socialists now have a real adversary to beat. As French far-right leader Marine Le Pen already mentioned, this defeat will not stop their run and the dream of 2017 presidential elections is still alive.


So, what is FN standing for and why is France so afraid?

French people and France come first. In such a multi-ethnic and multicultural society as the French one, far-right party wants to protect first the interests of France and French citizens. This inevitably clashes with immigration issues, about which France has usually adopted a less strict approach, compared to other European countries. Mrs Le Pen proposes changes. Reviewing Schengen and increasing controls, reducing illegal immigration, but also limiting legal immigration and free assistance to “sans papiers”.

On one hand, a greater closure toward outside; on the other, improving nation’s position in the world. Avowedly Eurosceptic, Marine Le Pen highlights weaknesses and limits of institutions such as the European Union, whose technocracy clips nations’ wings. A centrifugal force that would like to push France outside the EU, but also outside NATO, thus freeing from all their ties and obligations and restoring nation’s diplomatic and military independence.

Immune to accusation of fascism or xenophobic and anti-European populism, Mrs Le Pen has enough energy and determination to stand as a thorny adversary. In addition, she has those 6 million and more votes. Those French people that chose a far-right party, which talks less about community and assistance and more about what is actually and practically needed to restore security and stability, dragged off by latest months’ terrorist attacks.

Strict positions, then, which scared French political class but also other European countries, where extremist and Eurosceptic parties have widely broaden in recent years. We’re talking about the British UKIP, which supports Brexit, or the Italian Lega Nord, which advocates the exit from Eurozone but also a review of EU structure. In Poland itself, traditionally involved in communitarian policies, Euro sceptics won, thus taking away one of the strongest EU supporters.

It is clear that French voice is not a single on in the European arena. And recent events didn’t help to change their minds. By contrast, what happened has just strengthened the believes of those disappointed by the Union, an Union that exists on paper but lacks of efficiency and rationality. A Union that is strongly driven by German decisions (and interests). A Union that failed in providing security to its members and whose strict economic policies have basically sharpened the economic crisis, thus turning EU in a less attractive institution.

Thus, that’s why politicians fear Mrs Le Pen. Because she has passion and willing to take a leading role and foster a knock-on effect across anti-European forces, creating a single front that could push for a substantial modification of EU structure. First steps have already been taken. Matteo Salvini, Lega Nord’s leader, announced a common plan with Marine Le Pen to review EU treaties, from Maastricht to Schengen. Waiting for Milan Summit in January, where all Eurosceptic parties will meet up and discuss an alternative solution to present Europe.

It seems that scepticism toward EU keeps on increasing, although it misses unity of action. Mrs Le Pen’s France might get the leadership and lead anti-European parties to play a stronger role both at national and international levels. Geopolitical context is evolving: threats and fear grow, along with disappointment and willing to do something more. The European Union has to give an answer to those changes and adapt to the new environment and members’ needs. Ad hoc alliances are not the solution. As Clausewitz teaches, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.


Daesh: from Paris to Maiduguri

Europe/Middle East - Africa di

Paris attacks, on November 13, pointed out again that the terror threat reached a historical high within European borders. Beyond Syria and Iraq, where Daesh is headquartered, Africa is the favorite ISIS’s target. As proved by the last 15 days.
More than 83 attacks all over the world from June 2014 to date, as reported by Le Monde. More than 1,600 victims. Raqqa (Syria) and Maiduguri (Nigeria) the most affected cities. Since March 2015, when the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram joined the Caliphate, terrorist actions in Africa have dramatically increased. As well as the several organizations that, from Mali to Egitto, hit in the name of ISIS.

After 129 killed in Paris, others were added from November to today:

Mali: More than 20 people were killed after a raid against Radisson Hotel last November 20. Thanks to military action by French and US special forces, 150 hostages were freed. After the arrest of two suspects, the local terrorist cells attacked on UN base at Kidal, killing 3 people.

Egypt: Two terrorist attacks. The first one, on November 24, was a double suicide attack which killed 4 people on a hotel in North Sinai. The second one, on November 28, when terrorists opened fire on checkpoint in Giza, killing 4 policemen.

Nigeria: Before a truck station, then a Shiite procession. These two places, near the capital Maiduguri, were the two targets of Boko Haram troops. Over 35 and 32 killed.

Camerun: Four different kamikaze actions of four girls killed at least 5 people in Fotokol on 21 November.

Tunisia: 13 killed following a suicide bomb attack against a bus carrying members of Tunisia’s presidential guard on 24 November in Tunis. As well as actions in the Bardo Museum and on Sousse beach last June, Daesh claimed responsibility.
Giacomo Pratali


Pope: an African high risk trip

High alert for Pope’s visit to Africa from November 25 to 30. The stages will be Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic, where terror attack risk is high, as confirmed since last two months by the French intelligence.

Despite the 148 dead in Kenyan university last April, Central African Republic causes the Holy See and the French Army, Head of the UN mission there, concern. High alert will be reached on November 29, at the opening of Jubilee of Mercy for Africa. Furthermore, Paris and, in particular, Mali hotel attacks further raise anxiety.

Obvious anxiety in Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin statement: “The Pope wants to go in Africa, even in its most critical stage, Central African Republic, where clashes resumed,” but “if there was ongoing conflicts, it would put Pope and population security at risk. ”

However, this anxiety does not deter the Pope, “ready – as said yesterday – to support interreligious dialogue to promote peaceful coexistence in your country.”

Central African Republic, as other African countries, lives an internal conflict because of civil war begun two and a half ago. Initially, it was not a religious but a political clash between rebels and regular army. After the deposition of President Bozize, this civil war became a religious conflict.

Analyzing the geography of the Central African Republic, the Center-South is more developed and mainly inhabited by Christians, who account for 80% of the total population. The North, however, is less developed and Muslims are in the majority. The lack of attention towards this territory from the capital city of Bangui favored rebels, who poured from aboard and the North of the country.

From 2003 to 2013, the protagonist of the Central African political scene was former President Bozize, twice elected and twice protected by the French army (in 2003 and 2006) during the two civil wars.

The first one (2003-2007) when the politician and soldier Michel Djotodia was his opponent. The second one, despite the cease-fire, in 2012, when presidential guards left him. After the resulting humanitarian crisis, Bozize fled to Cameroon. It was “Seleka”, a coalition of rebel group composed of Central Africans, Chadians and Sudaneses, to expel him.

In 2013, rebels become regular army. However, this new situation caused further clashes in the country, the third civil war since 2003. However, the UN resolution on December authorized France to a military intervention in Central African Republic.

In January 2014 it Catherine Samba-Panza, Christian but neutral, was elected president. She was the first woman to hold the post. Clashes between Muslims and Christians, however, continue to this day.
Giacomo Pratali


Migrants: phase 2 of EUNAVFOR MED is started

Defence di

The second phase of EUNAVFOR MED, “Sofia”, started in October. It takes name from a Somali child born during a critic journey in the Mediterranean and rescued by a German ship last August.

The project aims to stop the trafficking of human beings intercepting smugglers in the sea. The monitoring of international waters, aims to search, control and seize suspicious craft, and it is entrusted to military ships, helicopters and drones. All this, within the framework of the objectives set in July by the European Union to stem the crisis of migrants in the Mediterranean: identification, arrest and destruction of boats and means used by traffickers.

Currently, six European warships are engaged offshore Libya: an Italian one, an English one, a French one, a Spanish one and two German, but later this month three other means should be made available from England, Belgium and Slovenia. Four helicopters, many drones and 1300 military will be added to these.

According to Admiral Enrico Credendino, head of mission, “the order is enforcing law by the use of force, to dislocate traffickers’ business. While the first phase aimed to find the necessary information about transnational criminal network, the second phase provides for the boarding of vessels, their inspection, the reception of migrants, the arrest of traffickers and the destruction of their boats. All this, however, within international waters, 12 nautical miles away from the Libyan coast. We need a United Nations decision and an invitation from Libyan government to operate directly in the territorial waters. The third next phase would allow the temporary landing on the ground for the destruction of smugglers’ structures “.

This last phase, which hasn’t yet received the green light of the EU, would actually be the most effective, since it is in Libyan waters that most of the smugglers operate, but – as the Italian Foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni says – ”UN Security Council can’t authorize this intervention without the express request of Libya “.

14 European countries are participating in EUNAVFOR MED: Italy, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Slovenia, Greece, Luxembourg, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden. The costs of military intervention – apart from an annually European contribution of 12 million Euros – are supported by the individual participating countries. Italy has contributed to the mission with a budget of 26 million euro and 1.020 soldiers.
Viviana Passalacqua


EU, quotas and hotspots: the forced go-ahead

Europe/Policy di

Western countries vote yes to the redistribution of 120,000 refugees arrived in Italy and Greece, which will make more efficient their identification centers by November. Obstructionism from Eastern States. Yes to raid the smugglers within October, too.

Go-ahead to the plan to share 120,000 refugees, the creation of hotspots by November, the raid against smugglers. Between 22 and 24 September, during the Eu ministers extraordinary meeting
and European Council, European Commission guidelines proposals on immigration were welcomed. As predictalbe, the deployment of Eastern Europe (“Visegrad”), consisting of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia over Romania, voted against the allocation of refugees.

Indeed, on the distribution of 120,000 refugees arrived in Italy and Greece, it’s necessary the qualifying majority. In return, the two Mediterranean states have to reorganize identification centers, which should be ready by November, as decided by European Council.

The aim is the streamlining for those who do not hold the right of asylum and to make easier the sorting of all those who have the necessary qualifications. It’s a measure of historical value because it deletes the Eu laws of the Treaty of Dublin which allowed to refugee to be located only in the State where he has asked for asylum.

Then, the European Council has said yes to the raid against the smugglers from Libya. This naval operation, active since October 7, is included among EUNAVFOR second phase and provides the boarding, the search and the seizure of boats.

Small step forward in relations with international organizations and neighboring countries, too. The EU has prepared a rescue plan of 1 billion euro in favor of the UN agencies for refugees. While, about trust funds, Europe has asked Member States for greater effort, given that those funds for countries in crisis, as Syria and Iraq, are not enough.

These choices are positively welcomed by a part of Europe. From the Eu institutions, until Italy, France and Germany. Indeed, Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked about a “decisive step forward”.

Statements which was followed by certainly not conciliatory replication of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has shouted with “moralism imperialist”. These words highlight climate among Eastern Europe leaders. As in the case of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who, representing the Visegrad Group, has announced a lawsuit against allocation of refugees regulations.

But Hungarian behavior is even more underlining this rift between West and East. After the anti-immigration laws and the building of the wall on the border with Serbia, the government has announced its intention to raise additional barrier on the border with Croatia. News that, adding to the thousands of refugees arrived in Serbia, are bringing ancient grievances between Belgrade and Zagreb to light.

On migration policies, as already demonstrated on the economic front, Europe is traveling at double speed. In this case, the gap between West and East is rooted in the modern and contemporary European history. More than Communism, the Eastern States, as evidenced by more international sources, are opposed to foreign people because their real independence has recently been achieved and spilled blood for their homeland is still present. This gap between the two areas of the European Union underlines how a real continental unity is still far.
Giacomo Pratali


Ukraine crisis: a crucial autumn

Europe di

The next UN and European summits will be crucial for Ukrainian context and for relationship between Washington and Moscow.

It’s standby in Ukrainian civil war. In September, the ceasefire between army and pro-Russian fighters has stood. While Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is visiting Kiev, where he has met President Petro Poroshenko, he has confirmed that “Russia is continuing to arm the separatists despite the truce”. However the mood looks relaxed because all are waiting the next summit of 2 October, when leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia will meet after Minsk2 of the last February.

And, with the General Assembly of United Nations on 24-30 September, one realizes the this autumn could be decisive for Ukrainian context, as well as other geopolitical contexts. Financial and systemic crisis have pushed the Ukrainian government to accelerate, in late August, the constitutional reforms which aim to give more autonomy to Donbass, in line with Minsk2, and to sign an agreement to the debt restructuring with creditors.

On the other hand, there is Russia, which has hardly been hit by oil prices collapse and, as a consequence, by more than 20% fall of Ruble value over the past four months. In this context, economic sanctions by United States and European Union are not the main cause of Russian financial crisis, but nevertheless important factors, especially in view of energy development.

Indeed, while the Kremlin is getting Europe number concerning gas supply, economical penalties are preventing oil and gas development projects in the Arctic. Proposal which the Russian economy needs to maintain its high level of current production.

Therefore, the Ukrainian crisis could be influenced by meetings of 24-30 September and 2 October. In the first one, it will be important the summit between the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, where they’ll talk about Russian military operation in Syria against Islamic State. In the second one, the summit with Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel and Francoise Hollande will be helpful to soften Germany and France. In both cases, the purpose is only one: the reduction of economic sanctions against Russia from the years 2016/17.

However, missteps on both sides are following. On the Ukrainian front, there is involvement increased of fighters in the far-right paramilitary brigades that fought alongside army. Besides National Security Council has drawn up a new blacklist where 34 foreign journalists, including 3 of the BBC, have been banned, over the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has taken part in visit to Crimea together with Putin.

On the Russian front, the Kremlin has been denied by an article, accidentally published (later removed) by Delovaia Zhizn and immediately recall by Forbes, in which was revealed the number of Russian soldiers died in Ukraine: 2000. But Moscow has always repudiated direct involvement.

So, the next UN and European summits, and the accentuation of the geopolitical crises in Syria and Libya, may induce the parties to reach a solution that will bring not only the end of the civil war in Ukraine, but the “warming” of the cold relations between the US and Russia.
Giacomo Pratali


Libya: action plan is ready

The governments of Italy, Germany, Britain, France, Spain and the United States have appealed against Isis attacks in Sirte. Waiting for Tripoli choice, new action plan, led by Italy and under the aegis of Un aegis, has come to light: infrastructure protection and building, UN peacekeepers, training of army.

Over 200 dead and at least 500 injured as a result of the clashes last week in Sirte. ISIS militants have left behind a trail of blood and horror. Crimes, like the crucifixion of 12 Salafist militants or 22 hospital patients died as a result of a fire set by jihadists, which branded as “genocide” by Tobruk government.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that speak of indiscriminate shelling of densely populated districts of the city and acts of violence in order to terrorize the people – governments of Italy, Germany, Britain, France, Spain and the United States in a unique statement said – . We appeal to all factions Libyan who want a unified country in peace and to join forces to combat the threat posed by transnational terrorist groups that exploit Libya for their own purposes, “.

The need for national unity government, called by the International Community, is extremely topical. The United Nations eagerly awaiting the decision of Tripoli, after agreement between the other factions. There is a plan to be implemented to halt the advance of the Isis in Libya.

There are rumors of a military intervention led by Italy and under the aegis of United Nations since a few months. An action plan already drawn up by Italian Foreign Ministry Paolo Gentiloni, to which ambassador Bernardino Leon is working hard, especially after the capture of Sirte, the massacres and the migration emergency.

As revealed in the last hour, this action plan concerns next stage after national unity government constitution. First, the executive should make an official request for international aid. So, it could lead to the financial and military support to stabilize Libya and fight the Islamic State.

As well as subsidies for infrastructures like roads and airports, and security of oil and gas installations, the topic would be Un peacekeepers intervention and the training of Libyan army.

Institutional, political and economical stabilization of Libya are necessary for immigration drop to Italy and Greece and defeat of Isis, as explained by Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gentiloni: “Agreement for a national government Libya, with International Community support, remains the only possibility to fight extremist violence and the deterioration of the humanitarian and economical situation in the country. “Tripoli must hurry. Time goes faster.

Giacomo Pratali


Premier Valls: “France faces more attacks”

BreakingNews @en/Europe di

Yassin Salhi, the guilty of attack on a factory near Lyon, was arrested. He had been already investigated in the past about his alleged links with Islamist militants.

“We have no doubt that the attack was to blow up the building. It bears the hallmarks of a terrorist attack”. This French President Hollande said the day after factory attack near Lyon, where the owner was beheaded. “We have to learn to live with terrorism”, Prime Minister Valls instead denounced.

Meanwhile, terrorist action’s guilty, the Moroccan Yassin Salhi, was arrested and confessed to killing his boss, Hervè Cornara. Even the man’s wife was banged-up. The other attacker, probably of Syrian nationality, has not already found.

Salhi has moved on Paris special terrorism. French police just knew him because he was close to a Salif movement in 2006.
Giacomo Pratali


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