Does the West recognize the problem yet?
Since the Islamist terror attacks in Paris last November, the streets of major French cities have been guarded by soldiers in full military fatigues. That permanent presence of the French army represents half of all its soldiers now deployed on military operations, but has been dismissed by critics as a political “anti-anxiety” measure.
Following the killing of 132 people in coordinated Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis, last November, President François Hollande, declared the attacks on France an “act of war”. In response the French army was sent to the streets of main cities to offer people a sense of security, beefing up operations already begun following the Charlie Hebdo office and Hypercacher supermarket attacks earlier in 2015.
Representing France’s first wide-scale peacetime military operation on the mainland, Operation Sentinelle deploys fully-armed and uniformed combat troops to patrol public areas and protect key sites such as synagogues, art galleries, nursery schools, Métro stations and mosques.
With 10,000 troops across the nation, about 6,500 of which are in the Paris area, the Guardian reports that scale of Operation Sentinelle is so huge it represents the single biggest military operation in volume of any such French operation anywhere in the world.
Representing a fundamental change to how France polices itself and how the army is used, of all the French soldiers now on active military operations, half of them are deployed patrolling streets at home protecting them from further Islamist terror attacks.
The deployment is not uncontroversial, with critics on both the left and right of French politics taking shots at the operation which is said to cost €1 million a day.