France calls on world to unite against terrorists
PARIS — Three days after declaring that France was at war with the Islamic State, French President Francois Hollande called Monday on the rest of the civilized world to join in turning up the heat on “these despicable cowards.”
Whether other nations would join his call was uncertain. In a speech delivered at the same time in Antalya, Turkey, President Obama said at the conclusion of the G-20 conference that the current American strategy against the Islamic State had been successful. He made clear he was not going to send ground troops to Syria.
“Every few months I go to Walter Reed,” he said, referring to the military hospital complex outside Washington. “And I see a 25-year-old kid that is paralyzed or has lost his limbs. And some of those are people I've ordered into battle.”
Despite four devastating bombings attributed to the Islamic State in the past five weeks — in Ankara, Turkey; Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt; Beirut; and now Paris — Obama seems wedded to the current strategy of airstrikes to weaken the Islamic State.
While he called the Paris attacks a “terrible and sickening setback,” he added that no one should lose sight that there is “progress being made.”
“They control less territory than they did last year,” he said. “And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking after the G-20 conference, said the world had to work together to stop the terrorist state, but he emphasized attacking its financing, not its military structure. “According to our information, 40 countries are involved in the funding, including some G-20 nations,” Putin said. He would not name them in public.
Hollande called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Speaking to a rare joint session of the French National Assembly at Versailles Palace, Hollande insisted France would not be bowed by the attacks that left 129 dead and more than 350 injured.
“Our democracy has triumphed over much more dangerous opponents,” he said. “We are not involved in a war of civilizations, because these murderers represent no civilization,” he said. “We are at war against jihadist terrorism, which is a threat to the whole world.”
The speech came on a day when Paris again mourned the dead, stopping for a minute of silence at noon.
French officials said that 168 homes in France and Belgium have been searched for evidence linked to the attacks and that 23 people are in custody.
Investigators identified the mastermind behind the attacks as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, from Molenbeek, Belgium, who is in Syria. The French newspaper Le Monde reported that Abaaoud had become friends with Salah Abdeslam when the two were in jail for armed robberies in 2010. French officials are seeking Abdeslam as the eighth attacker.
Abaaoud is thought to have planned several terror attacks in Europe, including the attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris that was foiled by three Americans from Sacramento, Calif. In Washington, CIA Director John Brennan rejected the idea that the attacks reflected an intelligence failure. He blamed leaks about surveillance capabilities for undermining spy agencies' ability to protect people.
“Clearly, there was an effort that was under way for quite some time,” Brennan said of the Paris plot. He said that European security services' “ability to monitor and surveil these individuals is under strain.”
The Pentagon pledged on Monday to coordinate in new ways with the French government on counterterrorism efforts.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper provided new instructions to their organizations that will enable American troops to more easily share operational planning information and intelligence with French troops “on a range of shared challenges to the fullest extent allowed by existing law and police,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
The potential for similar violence elsewhere in the West was highlighted Monday when a purported Islamic State subgroup released a video showing terrorists praising Friday's attacks and warning that Washington could be next.