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Accueil | Opérations | Opérations | Irak-Syrie | Actualités | Update on operations, 23 June 2016 Opérations ... Actualités | Update on operations, 23 June 2016

Update on operations, 23 June 2016

Update  : 29/06/2016

Chief of Defence Staff makes bilateral visit to Latvia and Estonia

On 21 and 22 June, 2016, General Pierre de Villiers travelled to Latvia and then Estonia on bilateral visits.

This trip, during which he was hosted by the highest political and military authorities, gave him an opportunity to present feedback on the French armed forces' deployment in the Levant and the Sahel-Saharan Strip. He also gave his assessment of the situation regarding the terrorist threat on Europe's southern flank and NATO's flanks

During his visit, the Chief of Defence Staff also thanked his hosts for their swift response to the French President's call following the attacks of November 2015. Latvia and Estonia were among the first countries to have stepped up support to French forces provided under the European Union's solidarity clause (Article 42.7). He also emphasised the importance of their involvement in international operations, under the EU or the UN mission, especially in Africa.

General de Villiers also expressed his wish to see further bilateral cooperation and said he was pleased at the cooperation developed on cyber defence through the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), based in Tallinn.

Discussions then moved on to cover the assurance measures in which France is engaged in addition to protecting Europe's southern flank, and the NATO summit to be held in July 2016 in Warsaw.

France's involvement in NATO actions

France is an important ally within NATO. It is the third largest financial contributor (joint funds) and holds key strategic positions. Given the changes in the strategic environment, French Armed Forces will continue to play their part in collective defence, contributing to NATO general strategy to deal with the common threats faced by the allied nations, be these from the East or the South flank.

France is involved in most NATO exercises and training and plays a leading role in certification processes for the NATO Response Force (NRF). Strongly committed to the Alliance's assurance strategy deployed to protect its Central and Eastern European allies, French forces are also present at the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (COE STRATCOM) based in Riga, and at the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence based in Tallinn.

Since the Newport Summit in September 2014, NATO has pursued a strategic plan called the Readiness Action Plan (RAP), which includes adaptation and assurance measures to ensure a swifter, more effective response by the forces.

RAP adaptation measures

The NATO Response Force (NRF) is reinforced by the Very high readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). This is a brigade-level force that can be deployed anywhere within NATO territory within a few days (5 days + some units within 48 hours). It also has sea and airborne components. France is one of the only NATO allies which now has such responsive forces at its disposal due to the state of emergency set out in the White Paper. In 2016, France takes part in VJTF maritime, with a frigate and minehunter on alert throughout the year. For the VJTF airborne component, it has 6 fighter aircraft ready to be deployed.

For the NRF, France also has French defence staffs accredited by the Alliance and made available to NATO: CRR-FR in Lille, COM-FR-MARFOR in Toulon, and FR-JFACC in Lyon.

RAP assurance measures

These measures are based around a series of NATO exercises and deployments. In spite of their intense operational engagements, French forces took part in nearly fifty NATO activities between 2014 and 2015, and engaged 8,800 men on the ground, at sea, under sea and in the air. All these activities are contributions to NATO general strategy.

In 2016, French air forces are conducting regular surveillance flights over the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, while the Navy regularly deploys its vessels in the zone to patrol maritime space and, in particular, undersea activities. Land forces are involved in expertise-sharing with the region's partner forces on the ground.

In spite of the fact that France and French troops are heavily engaged in operations, they were involved in the NRF annual certification exercise, Trident Juncture, in 2015.

This engagement is maintained in 2016, with participation in the Joint Warrior maritime exercise in the North Atlantic and in the Citadel Javelin exercise. One of the main objectives of this exercise is to prepare the CRR-FR to take command of a mainly ground-based joint forces operation, if necessary, as of 2017. This also contributes to NATO's assurance strategy.

In 2015, nearly 4,000 French military personnel, all forces combined, were mobilised on exercises under assurance measures; in 2016, this level of engagement is maintained, with around twenty exercises planned so far this year and over 4,300 soldiers mobilised for these activities.

Since 2007, France has been regularly involved in NATO Baltic Air Policy missions. At the end of the year (September-December 2016) French fighter aircraft will take over responsibility for this mission, making France the second leading contributor to the Baltic Air Policing mission.

Chammal: update on the situation in the Levant

ISIL's grip is weakening, as can be seen in a series of military defeats occurring more and more frequently over the past few months. Although its military arm has lost the initiative, it nonetheless remains aggressive. ISIL is now engaged in sporadic attempts to defend territories it has held since 2014. This defensive posture is centred on urban strongpoints. It extends into areas where oil is produced, logistics routes and border transit zones.

To this end, the terrorist organisation still uses different modes of action, ranging from the conventional to the insurrectional. It is also keeping up its propaganda activity.

In Iraq, ISIL has lost the most ground in the Euphrates Valley and southern Al-Anbar.

Operations to recapture the city of Fallujah made significant progress this past week. Iraqi forces are gradually advancing into the city, which has been in ISIL's hands since 4 January 2014. These operations are mainly conducted by ICTS forces, the spearhead forces of Iraqi forces in Fallujah. Fighting is currently going on in the centre of the city, around the trunk road linking Baghdad and Ramadi.

At this point, it is difficult to see how the battle will progress. It will take time to take control of the city.

Manoeuvres in urban areas are particularly complex and restrictive. The built-up area affords even small numbers of enemy fighters the possibility of resistance, or of taking civilians hostage. Above all, the attacking force must use specific investigative techniques.

From March 2015 to June 2016, as part of the drive to start this offensive, facilitate approaches into the city and weaken the structure put in place by the terrorist organisation and its followers, the Chammal force carried out 66 strikes, destroying 96 targets in support of the Iraqi troops on the ground.

In the Tigris Valley, ISIL remains entrenched in a defensive position in Mosul. Further out, its defences are centred on key positions at Tal Afar to the west, and Hawijah, Sharquat and Qayyarah to the south. ISIL's objective is to block any possibility of advance by the Iraqi Special Forces (Peshmerga and Iraqi forces).

As well as these key towns, ISIL has used the city's topography to construct a highly effective defence network. Any operation to liberate these towns will be complicated.

In Syria, the coalition reports that on-going operations in the Manbij corridor are on the point of cutting off one of ISIL's essential communication routes. This will help weaken ISIL and further the military's efforts to isolate Raqqa.


The Chammal force continues to conduct its air campaign, as well as training and advice missions.

Since 15 June 2016, the Chammal force airborne component has continued its air operations against ISIL, with 40 sorties in all, including 28 bombing sorties and 12 ISR sorties. In all, 18 ISIL targets were destroyed in 12 strikes.

The week saw the Chammal force continue operations in the air above Mosul and Fallujah, providing air support for operations on the ground. It also carried out a strike against an important logistics site behind enemy lines, thereby keeping up pressure on the terrorist organisation.

Eleven strikes in support of ground troops were carried out in Iraq this week:

The Chammal force provided support for Iraqi Security Forces on the ground, focusing on the districts of Fallujah and Mosul.

One planned attack was conducted in Iraq:

On 19 June, a patrol made up of four Mirage M2000s carried out a raid in the region around Haditha targeting a weapons production site.

Changes to fighter aircraft deployed in the Levant and Africa

Since January 2013 in the Sahel, and since September 2014 in the Levant, French armed forces have been heavily engaged in air operations. For the last 18 months, the French Air Force has deployed around twenty fighter aircraft on long-term operations, mostly based at three sites.

The armed forces have provided a faultless response to the requirements imposed by operational constraints, engaging capabilities beyond the operational contract defined in the France's 2013 White Paper on Defence, which provides for "around twelve fighter aircraft, distributed across theatres".

However, this has created pressure on Air Force capabilities, and particularly on the fleet of Mirage 2000s. Overseas deployment of one Mirage 2000 now uses up the same amount of resources (human, equipment, training, etc.) as five Mirages deployed in France.

In a bid to sustain this level of engagement in the long term, the Air Force has requested the EMA (French Defence Staff) to review the deployment of these fighter aircraft. In the summer, the fleets of fighter aircraft will be rationalised in each theatre of operation: Rafales will be deployed in the Levant and Mirage 2000s in the Sahel.

This reallocation of the fighter aircraft will not affect the Armed Forces' participation in the various theatres of operation with regard to French and partner units engaged on the ground.

Sources : État-major des armées
Rights : Ministère de la Défense