France approves creation of National Guard to combat terrorism threat

© AFP
France has approved legislation to create a National Guard as the government struggles to battle the terrorist threat. The guard is expected to include up to 85,000 service personnel by 2018.

The law was approved by the Council of Ministers, a powerful executive body composed of senior officials, on Wednesday.

“The National Guard, these volunteers, both men and women, have decided, in parallel to their civilian lives, to join the military service for the protection of the French people,”said a statement on the government website.

Those who apply for the National Guard will be able to choose between army activities, serving in the gendarmerie (the police force that is part of the French Army), or working in the French police.

The volunteers can engage in military operations abroad, surveillance patrols and public security missions, and can combat crime or work in the spheres of health and cyber issues.

READ MORE: France to form National Guard amid calls to step up security

The operational reserve of the National Guard now contains some 63,000 people (from 17 to 35 years-old). The numbers are expected to reach 72,000 in 2017 and 85,000 in 2018, according to French media.

The budget of the National Guard will reach €311 million (US$343 million) in 2017.

The number of employees in French gendarmeries is some 100,000 people (including 25,000 reserves). The national police force has some 144,000 personnel, according to various estimates.

The creation of France’s National Guard was announced by President Francois Hollande in July. Hollande’s statement came following the deadly attacks in the resort city of Nice. At least 84 people were killed when a truck driven by an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) sympathizer plowed through crowds during Bastille Day celebrations.

In November 2015, at least 130 people were killed in attacks in Paris by Islamic State sympathizers.

Earlier this year, IS called upon its followers to carry out attacks in the US and Europe during Muslim Ramadan celebrations, which began in early June. The group called for assaults on both civilian and military targets. Numerous reports, which emerged from EU intelligence services, said that the group is planning its attacks in hospitals, schools, and luxury resorts in France, Italy and Spain.