WASHINGTON — Proper-wing extremist teams in the USA have been influencing French teams, spreading antigovernment conspiracy theories in Europe, the highest French intelligence official mentioned on Wednesday.
The official, Laurent Nuñez, France’s nationwide intelligence and counterterrorism coordinator, has been in Washington this week for conferences with American officers comparable to his U.S. counterpart, Avril D. Haines, the director of nationwide intelligence.
Relations between Paris and Washington have been strained after a U.S. deal last month to sell Australia nuclear submarines, which put an finish to a French contract.
Mr. Nuñez didn’t mince phrases, saying “the intense bilateral disaster” remained. Nonetheless, President Emmanuel Macron of France approved Mr. Nuñez’s go to as a part of efforts to ease the diplomatic feud and restore high-level communications between the 2 governments.
Cooperation amongst intelligence companies, typically stripped of politics, is often far steadier than relations between heads of state, and that has been the case with France, in response to U.S. officers. French officers mentioned they had been persevering with to work collectively on a wide selection of counterterrorism points in Syria, Africa and Afghanistan and threats from home extremist teams.
“So far as the threats from the intense proper, the developments we’re observing in France are fairly comparable to what’s taking place in the USA,” Mr. Nuñez mentioned.
In earlier years, excessive right-wing teams in France had been open about their actions, much less violent and had completely different motivations, he mentioned. However right-wing extremists had been now older, Mr. Nuñez added, and they’re typically folks whose actions the French authorities have no idea about.
“They wish to set up themselves into clandestine networks,” he mentioned. “There is no such thing as a extra visibility. They’re keen to commit violent actions, which may be in comparison with terrorists.”
The teams’ targets have expanded from mosques and Islamic teams to establishments of the French state, he mentioned. Like American teams, many extremist teams have adopted conspiracy theories concerning the authorities’s actions.
Over the previous 5 years, Mr. Nuñez mentioned, the French authorities had dismantled six extremist cells that had collected weapons or explosives and had been plotting assaults.
The French authorities haven’t discovered “operational hyperlinks” between home extremist teams and the USA. However French teams have drawn inspiration from different actions outdoors the nation, together with QAnon, Mr. Nuñez mentioned.
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory amongst some supporters of former President Donald J. Trump who imagine a cabal of Devil-worshiping pedophiles runs the world.
American and European officers have tracked the unfold of QAnon to Europe, which intensified at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Some far-right groups in Germany, for example, began adopting QAnon theories. Mr. Nuñez mentioned the same phenomenon was occurring in France.
“Some people have been adopting the logic of QAnon,” he mentioned. “They’re pondering that the federal government has a hidden agenda and is working in opposition to its personal inhabitants.”
French officers have been following the developments of extremist teams in the USA, significantly after Capitol assault on Jan. 6.
“We are able to see their motivation is identical,” Mr. Nuñez mentioned. “They’re combating in opposition to democracy.”
The French, like the remainder of the world, are waiting for indicators of Al Qaeda returning to Afghanistan or the Islamic State gathering energy beneath the brand new Taliban authorities.
Essentially the most devastating terrorist assault in France, the assaults in Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people, was partly deliberate in Syria. Mr. Nuñez mentioned it will be more durable for teams to make use of Afghanistan as a launching pad for assaults in Europe. The community that introduced fighters to France from Syria doesn’t exist for extremists in Afghanistan, he mentioned.
To date, the French haven’t noticed a movement of individuals to Afghanistan from Europe hoping to affix the Taliban. Nonetheless, Mr. Nuñez mentioned it will be necessary to intently vet Afghan refugees.
The failure of the Taliban to cease Islamic State assaults throughout the evacuation from the Kabul airport has additionally raised doubts in Paris concerning the new Afghan authorities’s means to cease terrorist threats from rising, Mr. Nuñez added.
“We have now to look at if Al Qaeda leaders are shifting to Afghanistan,” he mentioned. “Will the Taliban be capable to management and dismantle these cells?”