An account of the French Army Intervention in Iraq and Syria
What is Operation Chammal?
Operation Chammal is the French counterpart to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). The operation’s stated goal is to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. The operation was launched on September 19th, 2014, alongside OIR, and is currently being commanded by General Serge Cholley.1.www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34372892 2.http://www.opex360.com/2016/08/06/iraksyrie-le-general-air-serge-cholley-pris-le-commandement-de-loperation-chammal/ Since the November attacks in Paris, Operation Chammal has increased in priority.3.http://www.opex360.com/2014/11/19/le-dispositif-de-loperation-chammal-va-etre-renforce/ Two years on, and with the subsequent progress of OIR against IS, the impact of the operation can now be assessed.
Despite having deployed 3200 soldiers, the operation has only suffered two casualties. This is a low number relative to the overall Iraq and Syria conflicts that have thus far claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.4.http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-iraq-iraq-idUSKCN12B2QI?il=0
Costs and weight of Operation Chammal
The economic costs have also been relatively low compared to other foreign bombing campaigns. Expenditure on Operation Chammal in 2016 has thus far totalled €330m, up from €220m in 2015. Comparatively, France’s ‘Operation Barkhane’ that began in August 2014 against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahreb (AQIM) in North Africa has thus far cost €550m. Whilst on a different scale, the Coalition’s OIR costs have reached $10bn.5.http://www.opex360.com/2016/11/17/loperation-chammal-devrait-couter-360-millions-deuros-en-2016/ 6.http://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0814_Inherent-Resolve The French government has justified the cost of Operation Chammal on the grounds of their perceived terror threat to Europe, meeting with little protest from the public or from within the government itself.
This expenditure has largely funded airstrikes launched from airbases in Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG), Jordan, and UAE as well as from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.7.http://www.opex360.com/2016/02/19/chammal-le-cap-des-500-jours-doperations-ete-franchi-par-la-base-aerienne-projetee-en-jordanie/ From information available it appears that the main French strike force is comprised of 6 Rafales, 6 Mirage 2000D, 12 Rafale Marine and 9 Super Etendard.8.http://www.defense.gouv.fr/operations/irak-syrie/actualites/rencontre-des-cema-francais-et-americain-sur-le-porte-avions-charles-de-gaulle Since January of this year, 2937 sorties have been flown with 416 confirmed strikes.9.http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20151201.OBS0526/frappes-contre-l-etat-islamique-le-delicat-bilan-des-victimes-civiles.html Objectives have primarily focused on reconnaissance and supporting ground forces. While France’s responsibility for civilian casualties in the Iraq theatre is estimated to have been several hundred people, exact numbers are unknown.10.http://www.opex360.com/2016/09/30/irak-les-canons-francais-ont-deja-fait-feu-trois-reprises/
A second French contribution, ‘Task Force Wagram’, is comprised of 150 soldiers and 4 CAESAR long range canons deployed at the Qarrayah base, south of Mosul. It has similar support-role objectives as Operation Chammal.11.http://www.europe1.fr/international/irak-la-bataille-de-mossoul-pourrait-durer-des-mois-2876237 The French military’s approach to Mosul has been explained by Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian:
It’s our Enemy’s cradle; it was from Mosul and Raqqa that the attacks that struck us were planned, and from where other attacks are being prepared. We need to strike at their heart. That’s what the Iraqis will do with the Coalition’s support.12.http://www.rfi.fr/moyen-orient/20160609-syrie-france-defense-terrorisme-ei-forces-speciales-francaises
Le Drian has emphasized how the primary role of French troops is to support Iraqi Security and Peshmerga forces. However, official statements have seldom discussed the role of Frances’ Special Forces (SOFs) who are also deployed in the KRG and alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The purpose of the SOFs in Iraq and Syria is mostly to perform coordination roles. Working with 18,600 Iraqi soldiers assembled and aided by the Coalition, France has helped form and train approximately 3,700 personnel in order to assemble the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (ICTS). In Syria, the French SOFs have often performed the role of unofficial “advisors”. They have been identified working alongside American SOFs with SDF soldiers. Both are likely involved in coordinating and commanding airstrikes.13.http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2016/06/15/97001-20160615FILWWW00091-damas-condamne-la-presence-de-forces-speciales-francaises.php Damascus has reacted negatively to their involvement, calling it ‘interference’, especially since French SOFs are believed to have played a significant role in the capture of Manbij from IS during the summer of 2016.14.http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2016/06/15/97001-20160615FILWWW00091-damas-condamne-la-presence-de-forces-speciales-francaises.php
In general, France’s role in the Coalition, via Operation Chammal, has been kept relatively discrete. French airstrikes and SOFs have mainly acted in support of both local forces and American military actions. In addition, France has pursued its own objectives in the overall ‘war on terror’, which are designed to ensure its own security on home soil. As such, the French strategy in Iraq has been in accord with a general consensus among the French political class concerning France’s overarching role and aims. It thus seems unlikely that there will be significant alterations to French policies in the foreseeable future. The prospect of Francois Fillon’s election in May 2017, however, may plot a new course for France’s role in both Iraq and Syria, perhaps one with a more ‘pro-Russia’ stance, but this remains to be seen.
Note: This Article has been first published in the Week In Review Volume 2, Issue 3 the 8 December 2016.
Chammal – Depuis le 19 sept. 2014• 2937 vols en Irak / Syrie• 416 frappes sur Daech• 762 objectifs détruits