Reliable sources from within the French government have confirmed that over a dozen former French military officers have joined ISIL. The ex-soldiers who defected include former paratroopers, French foreign legionnaires and elite commandos.
Intelligence agencies have reported that a former military officer in the First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment has switched allegiances and swore fidelity to the Islamic State. The First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment is a well-trained and experienced Special Forces unit, and military experts have deemed it the “SAS (Britain’s Special Air Service) equivalent in France”. The unnamed officer is of North African extraction and had successfully completed commando training in specialized combat, survival techniques and precision shooting. He served in the parachute regiment for 5 years before he was employed by a private security firm which deployed him to the Arabian Peninsula. It is believed that it is here that he was indoctrinated by takfiri ideologues and consequently radicalized. Shortly thereafter, he left for Syria so as to join ISIL.
Another defector became the leader of an ISIL combat unit made up exclusively of French-speaking jihadists. The unit has set up its operation base at Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. French media report that all combatants in this unit have received combat training in Europe.
The other defectors, all of them in their twenties, are explosive experts. Most of these defectors are converts to Islam while the rest were nominal Muslims who became radicalized in the Arab-Muslim suburbs of French cities. Western intelligence agencies estimate that more than 1400 French citizens are currently fighting for ISIL.
France’s Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Drian, attempted to downplay the significance of the defections by characterizing such a phenomenon as “extremely rare”. Drian sought to assuage the reservations of French citizens concerning the nation’s counter-terrorism posture by stating that the DPSD (Direction de la Protection et de la Sécurité de la Défense – French’s military security agency) will reinforce its vigilance against radicalization within the French military forces.
France has recently experienced a spate of terror attacks conducted by radicalized jihadists living in the nation, and the revelation that former French soldiers have voluntarily joined ISIL just serves to increase fear that France may experience a sustained spate of brutal terror attacks. To avert, contain and mitigate terrorism within the nation, the French government has allocated $600 million in support of the recently approved anti-terrorism measures. Moreover, the premiership has promised to increase the number of intelligence officers and also strengthen the capacity of both the internal and external intelligence agencies to combat terrorism, violent radicalism and transnational crime.