Paris (CNSNews.com) – French President Emmanuel Macron has unveiled a special taskforce to enhance the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) in a country that has been in the terrorist group’s crosshairs.
The task force, the National Center for Counter-Terrorism, will include 20 people, mostly analysts, and report directly to the president. It will be directed by Pierre Bousquet de Florian, a former head of French secret service.
Presidential spokesman Christophe Castaner said the center would be responsible for the strategic steering and coordination of the intelligence services.
It would also propose action plans to the president, and would report weekly to the defense council, which draws up counter-terrorism strategy, Castaner said, but added that it would not be a decision-making entity.
The task force will be a service within the existing National Intelligence Council, a coordinating body for the French intelligence services created in 2008. De Florian will be appointed by Macron’s cabinet next Wednesday to head both bodies.
During the election campaign Macron promised to fight more efficiently against terrorism and pledged to create a special taskforce.
“To better concentrate our efforts in the fight against [ISIS] and al-Qaeda, I will also set up a permanent 24-hour task force involving the main intelligence services,” he said while campaigning.
Gérard Collomb, Macron's new minister of interior who was present at the launch announcement, said the center “will be active 24/7 as the president wants to be informed in real time should something linked to terror happen.”
He said the entity would react very quickly, and that “actions that follow their founding or warning or conclusion on a specific group or person should be taken within 30 minutes.”
The announcement comes just four days before voters go to the polls again, this time to choose parliamentary representatives.
It also comes amid ongoing incidents of terrorism, including two in Britain in recent weeks and one in central Paris on Tuesday, when a 40-year-old Algerian journalist, Farid Ikken, attacked three police officers with a hammer before being shot and wounded.
No-one was seriously injured and the attacker is at the hospital under interrogation. Police said they found a video pledging allegiance to ISIS in his apartment.
With the election looming, National Front spokesman Jerome Rivière said the party would wait and see what the taskforce accomplishes before giving an opinion.
“Now it is important for the government to show that it has a short and long term plan to fight terrorism,” he said. “For the moment those are only words.”
Other politicians noted that Macron has kept an election pledge, but indicated they would wait and see how the taskforce initiative works before commenting.
Viviane Seigneur, a researcher and consultant for the ministry of defense, warned in a column in Le Monde newspaper that “without the sharing of truly relevant information and considering the multiple realities of jihad, the scheme envisaged by Macron could be unproductive.”
She added that all the actors in the fight against terrorism must share all information and work closely together, to be successful.
Although terrorism is a real concern, a majority of French people appear to be more interested in what Macron is planning to tackle the economy and to modernize labor laws. Ministers are preparing a number of new laws in these areas and the government publishes daily press releases to notify the public on progress.
Opinion surveys ahead of Sunday’s election give Macron’s En Marche party a large majority – some 400 seats in the 577-member lower legislature.
Tuesday’s terrorist attack in front of Notre Dame Cathedral does not appear to make had a big impact on the polls so far.