France’s Vigorous Approach to Countering Terrorism: A Crucial Global Partner

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France is a crucial partner of the US in the global fight against terrorism. Bilateral U.S.-France counterterrorism cooperation is essential. France is a longstanding and vital Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS members.

The terrorist threat in France remained heightened. Security services are worried by lone-actor attacks performed by individuals already in France, including those motivated by or affiliated with ISIS. French officials were also concerned by right-wing extremists capable of forming cells and organizing attacks. The government assumed new laws to enhance the government’s ability to contain what it described as Islamist separatism and to create some of the security measures temporarily charged under the State of Emergency following the 2015 terrorist attacks. French law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted dozens of attacks in the last decade.

France has vigorous law enforcement and intelligence services that detect, deter, and prevent terrorism actions on its territory.  The Internal Security General Directorate is the prime agency for the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, corresponding with all other relevant intelligence and law enforcement services.

The French armed forces persisted in Operation Sentinel, a domestic deployment of up to 7,000 soldiers who enhanced security at sensitive sites and significant events throughout the country. France has an entirely operational interministerial API/PNR capability to screen arriving and leaving passenger data against other police and administrative databases.

France also carried its longstanding policy against the repatriation of French FTFs, repatriating minor children of FTFs on a case-by-case basis. France had repatriated 35 minors — with the last operation conducted in January 2021. An evaluated 300 French FTFs and their family members have returned to France under a 2014 French-Turkish agreement whereby Türkiye corresponds with France to deport French nationals believed to have documented Türkiye from Syria. All adult FTFs replaced in France have been systematically charged since 2016. Depending on their age, Minors may face lawful action if they are supposed to have participated in terrorist activities.  

Moreover, In 2022, France adopted the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Law that extended the CT tools available to security agencies and made some of the temporary measures levied by the 2015 state of emergency permanent. According to statistics released by the Ministry of the Armed Forces in March 2021, the administration continued to deploy 3,000 troops throughout the country to patrol weak sites under Operation Sentinelle.

In 2022, France launched a new interministerial Passenger Information Unit that utilizes Advanced Passenger Information/Passenger Name Record data from the Agence Nationale des Données de Voyage to screen incoming and departing passenger data against other police and organizational databases.

France also revised its longstanding policy against the repatriation of French foreign terrorist fighters’ associated family members, repatriating since January more than 100 women and children from northern Syrian expelled person camps. Minors not believed to have experienced terrorist activities are placed into child protective services or with family members who do not pose a danger of radicalization or violence and are enrolled in an extensive rehabilitation and reintegration program.

Recently, The Government of France specified and labeled 1,300 “ultraright radicalized individuals” as Fiche S, suggesting inclusion on France’s national security watchlist.  On May 17, the General Directorate for Internal Security (FBI equivalent) charged 11 activists linked to the ultranationalist movement “Patriotic Vengeance.”  The mob reportedly aspired to seize power after the “collapse of the republic” following the start of a predicted race war.  Further, a group of 47 armed individuals close to the “far right” were captured as they prepared to move toward the Champs-Elysées after a French soccer victory.

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