French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday urged the US-led coalition backing the offensive against terrorists of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri groups in Mosul to prepare for the aftermath of the city’s fall, including returning gunmen.
“The recapture is not an end in itself. We must already anticipate the consequences of the fall of Mosul,” he told a meeting of coalition defence chiefs in Paris.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and ministers from 12 other countries attended the talks, which come a week after Iraqi forces backed by Kurdish fighters launched a major operation to retake Iraq’s second-biggest city.
“What is at stake is the political future of the city, the region and Iraq,” Hollande said, calling for “all ethnic and religious groups” to have a say in the future running of the predominantly Sunni city.
He also appealed for measures to shield civilians trapped in Mosul by the fighting and for “vigilance” faced with the prospect of return foreign militants returning home from the Iraqi battlefield.
Of the estimated 4,000-5,000 gunmen fighting in Mosul, around 300 are French, according to French officials.
Hollande reiterated French warnings about ISIL militants in Mosul fleeing across the border to Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in Syria.
“We must clearly identify them,” he said.
The French leader also called on the ministers to set out “the stages of the next operations” against ISIL, namely retaking Raqqa.
“If Mosul falls, Raqqa will be Daesh’s last bastion,” he said, using Arab acronym for ISIL.
“We must see to it that Daesh is destroyed and eradicated everywhere.”