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France to continue military operation in Iraq, Syria in 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron reviews French army soldiers during a ceremony - LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday announced France will retain its troops in Syria and Iraq in 2019.

Speaking at an air base located in Toulouse, southwestern France, Macron stressed that their military engagement will continue throughout 2019 in the Levant region.

“The retreat from Syria announced by our American friend cannot make us deviate from our strategic objective: eradicating ISIS,” AFP reported Macron as saying in a speech at an army base in southern France, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“We will remain militarily engaged in the Levant in the international coalition … over the coming year,” he said.

France has 1,200 military personnel deployed in the region including special forces in Syria, and they undertake air operations, artillery missions, and train the Iraqi army.

“The fight is not over,” Macron said.

He added that in the coming months France will “revise our global military deployment” but “we shall remain committed to participating in stabilization” in the Middle East region.

“Any rush to withdraw would be a mistake,” he added.

Former US intelligence officer Michael Pregent, now an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, told the press that ISIS remains a threat in the region despite Washington's repeated insistence that the group has been destroyed.

"The international coalition along with the United States has to recognize that ISIS isn't defeated," Pregent said.

He also noted that al Qaeda was beaten back in Iraq after the creation of a Sunni Arab force to counter the Sunni extremists of al Qaeda, something that came to be known as the "Sunni Awakening".