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American Forces Press Service

Carter Visits French Aircraft Carrier Charles De Gaulle

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, December 19, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian yesterday before visiting the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, now stationed in the Arabian Gulf and launching strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Carter said that Le Drian, who was meeting at the time with French President Francois Hollande, couldn't join him on the de Gaulle.

The secretary is on a weeklong trip to the Middle East to meet with defense leaders and thank U.S. and coalition troops for their service and sacrifice, especially during the holiday season.

America's Oldest Ally

"Speaking as an American, it is magnificent for me to be out here on this strong ship with a strong ally like France. France is … America's oldest friend and ally. We're very proud to be your friend and your ally," Carter said.

France deployed the de Gaulle to the Arabian Gulf in November to support counter-ISIL strikes, and the French air force continues to play a critical role after being first to join the United States in striking ISIL targets in Iraq, Carter said after meeting with Le Drian in July at the Pentagon.

During his remarks to the crew of the French aircraft carrier, Carter commended the French for taking command of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Task Force 50, which plans and conducts strike operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Proud to be Friends

To U.S. forces on board, Carter said, "I'm so proud of you. I'm always proud of you. It's wonderful to see you here. And to other nations represented here, also part of the coalition, thank you as well. We Americans are exceptionally proud to have friends like you."

With Le Drian, Carter said he discussed accelerating the campaign to defeat ISIL, also called Daesh.

"This is an evil force that will be defeated, must be defeated … quickly, and my instructions from President [Barack] Obama, and I know your instructions from President Hollande, are to accelerate the defeat of Daesh. You have been doing that right here on board this ship," the secretary said.

Broader Mission

France not only has contributed to the efforts to defeat ISIL, Carter added, but being in the Arabian Gulf with the de Gaulle means that the nation is on a broader mission -- protecting the region's security.

"That's a reminder to us of the global reach, global strength and global reputation of France as a force for civilization," Carter added. "This is the civilized world defending itself and defending what we stand for."

As he concluded his remarks, Carter said that it is holiday time in France and the United States, and that Americans appreciate the noble sacrifice of all de Gaulle crew members who are in the Arabian Gulf rather than with their families.

"My wife is here with me," Carter said, "so from my family to your families, French, American, and others, we're all one family in this fight. And we're all one family in this holiday season. Please let your families know also how proud we are of you."

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