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Carter Pledges Support to French Defense Minister after Terror Attacks

In this June 17, 2015 file photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In this June 17, 2015 file photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Saturday spoke to French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to offer support in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, an official said.

"Secretary Carter spoke by phone this morning with French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to convey his condolences for those killed during last night's terrorist attacks in Paris," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

"Secretary Carter told Minister Le Drian that the men and women of the Department of Defense stand with France entirely and are committed to helping France in any way that we can," he added. "The U.S. and France maintain a close relationship in countering terrorism around in the world including direct action in North Africa, Syria, and Iraq.

"Secretary Carter reiterated the United States commitment to stand by our oldest ally in taking additional steps respond to these barbaric attacks," Cook said. "The two agreed to remain in close contact in the coming days."

At least 128 people were confirmed dead in multiple terrorist attacks on Friday in the French capital – the worst violence seen in the country since World War II. The al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Pentagon isn't aware of any American military or civilian personnel impacted by the incident.

The U.S. as of June had 114 total military personnel and dependents in France -- a small fraction of the 80,000 American military men and women and their families who live and work in Europe, according to personnel statistics. Most U.S. troops are based in Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy.

In a separate statement on Friday, Carter said the attacks will embolden the U.S. and its allies to fight terrorists around the globe.

"This evening's horrific and barbaric attacks in Paris were more than an attack on the nation or people of France - they were an assault on our common human dignity," he said. "As NATO allies, as leaders of the counter-ISIL coalition, as nations working shoulder to shoulder from West Africa to the Indian Ocean, the United States and France will only strengthen our resolve.

"As the president said tonight, in this moment of tragedy the United States stands with the people of France and its vibrant, multi-cultural democracy," Carter said. "For more than 200 years the United States and France have stood together in friendship. We have stood for the common good and security of all nations. We have never stood closer than we do now. Vive la France."

The Pentagon on Friday said it was "reasonably certain" that an MQ-9 Reaper drone firing an AGM-114 Hellfire missile killed the London-raised ISIS executioner and propagandist known as "Jihadi John." The U.S. military on Saturday said it conducted an airstrike in Libya and killed Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi national who was a longtime al-Qaeda operative and the senior ISIL leader in Libya.

Jim Carafano, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., said the Paris attacks will likely spur U.S. European Command to tighten security around American military installations across the continent, he said.

"You're going to see force protection across EUCOM go up," he said in a telephone interview with Military.com.

The Paris attacks appeared to sum up the worst fears of U.S. counter-terror officials -- attacks on so-called "soft" targets in Western countries by ISIS-inspired radicals recycling back into states where they hold citizenship from Syria.

The carnage in Paris came a day after the Justice Department warned of the potential for random ISIS-inspired attacks on service members in the U.S.

Assistant Attorney General John Carlin warned Thursday after the arrest of an Ohio man that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was seeking to use Internet propaganda to goad sympathizers into attacking members of the military in the U.S.

"ISIL and its followers continue to use social media in an attempt to incite violence around the world, including in the United States," Carlin said in a statement, using another term for ISIS.

A group of Americans, including U.S. military members, in August helped foil a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris.

The three childhood friends were on vacation when they subdued a gunman wielding an AK-47 assault rifle, pistol and box cutter. Spencer Stone, now a staff sergeant in the Air Force, Alek Skarlatos, a specialist in the Oregon Army National Guard, and civilian Anthony Sadler were awarded the French Legion of Honor, the country's highest award, for their heroics.

--Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com.

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