Australia, France make new steps in the struggle against jihadists, 15-16 September 2015

On 16 September 2015 Australia expanded its air campaign against Islamic State to include Syria, besides Iraq. Considering preparations by Britain and France to do the same in the near future, Australia’s step is an indication of the concerted effort by the Western powers to strengthen their effort in Syria, where possible collapse of the Assad regime could open the gates for expansion of the IS-controlled territory.

While the Syrian Kurds have managed to keep IS at bay (with Western support), they are virtually incapable of projecting their power beyond Kurdish-populated territory, which is limited to relatively small parts of northern Syria. Combined with the current weakness of the non-jihadist Syrian rebels, this means that increased effort to weaken IS in Syria is of cardinal importance. Thus, inclusion of the Syrian territory in the Western allies’ air campaign is a logical development.

Meanwhile, on 15 September 2015 France pledged to provide equipment, intelligence and financial support to Nigeria for its fight against Boko Haram.

France is the leading power in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel region. The French are currently engaged in military operations against jihadist rebels that involve Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauretania. Boko Haram, which is active in the northern parts of Nigeria and Cameroon, represents an additional complication. If it managed to establish firm territorial control over the northern parts of these two states, France would have another threat for the Sahel countries to cope with. Hence the effort to help Nigeria contain Boko Haram insurgency.

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