France launches airstrikes in northeastern Iraq

France has launched its first airstrike in Iraq against the Islamic State. Reuters reports:

“This morning at 9:40 (0740 GMT) our Rafale jets launched a first strike against a logistics depot of the terrorists,” President Francois Hollande’s office said a statement issued shortly after the raids.

The target in northeast Iraq was totally destroyed, said the statement, adding that there would be further operations “in the coming days”.

Hollande told a news conference on Thursday that French air strikes were imminent and would take place once reconnaissance flights had identified targets. He said the military action would be limited to Iraq, and no ground troops would be sent.

Meanwhile the US continues to target the Islamic State via the air. Three strikes were launched on Wednesday and Thursday near Mosul and southwest of Baghdad (likely in Jurf al Sakhar), according to CENTCOM:

U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq, using bomber and fighter aircraft to conduct two airstrikes Wednesday and Thursday.

In total, one airstrike near an ISIL training camp southeast of Mosul destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle, two ISIL-occupied buildings and a large ISIL ground unit. Another airstrike southeast of Baghdad damaged an ISIL ammunition stockpile. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

These strikes were conducted under authority to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts, and assist Iraqi forces in their offensive against ISIL terrorists.

U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 176 airstrikes across Iraq.

As the US plans to ramp up operations against the Islamic State inside Iraq, The New York Times notes that President Barack Obama himself will have to approve the deployment of all tactical-level air controllers who are embedded with Iraqi forces on the ground that are requested by US military:

In fact, General Austin said that air controllers would be needed. “He shares my view that there will be circumstances when we think that’ll be necessary, but we haven’t encountered one yet,” General Dempsey said of General Austin.

But the White House made clear on Wednesday that requests to use the advisers to call in airstrikes to provide tactical advice on the battlefield to Iraqi units would need to be approved by the president on a case-by-case basis.

In weighing such requests, the White House may have to choose between the increased risk to American personnel and the danger that without the use of advisers on the battlefield, the counteroffensive may stall.

Paging Robert McNamara and Lyndon Johnson.

Correction: The Obama administration must approve the deployment of each air controller, not each airstrike. The post was updated to reflect this.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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12 Comments

  • Morgan says:

    The WH will authorize tactical level air strikes….? Wasn’t this exact thing part of the problem in VN during the Johnson Administration?

  • pre-Boomer Marine brat says:

    The Reuters link is dead. I don’t know where the French jets operated from. My guess would be the RAF base on Cyprus. G*d forbid, all the way back in France.
    As “coalition” air attacks increase, ISIS will become a guerrilla force, visible for only blinks of the eye.
    If ground-support air doesn’t operate from local bases and doesn’t have up-to-the-minute targeting, it will become ineffectual.
    Hat made of bang and smoke. No cattle.

  • wilber says:

    As much as i dislike the current strategy, i think its pretty clear they were referring to approval of the use of forward deployed air controllers. But if that wasn’t just a canard for that already being done, no wonder no real progress is being made.

  • Jeff says:

    I rarely comment online (regardless of the website), but the LWJ’s misreading of the NYT article seemed rather interesting to me. The LWJ reports that the NYT reports that the President “himself” will have to approve “tactical level airstrikes,” which indeed would seem Vietnam-esque. However, the article does not state this–just read the three paragraphs that LWJ excerpts above (if not the entire article). The article states that if/when it comes to it, the WH wants to approve CENTCOM requests for the use of tactical air controllers, not the approval of each airstrike. It would seem that this would fit the WH’s current focus on avoiding “boots on the ground”…as the final sentence in the excerpt indicates: “In weighing such requests, the White House may have to choose between the increased risk to American personnel and the danger that without the use of advisers on the battlefield, the counteroffensive may stall.”

  • AMac says:

    > “requests to use the advisers to call in airstrikes… would need to be approved by the president on a case-by-case basis.”
    In other words, this is to be a 100% strategic campaign — there will be no tactical level.
    Are there precedents for successful military campaigns organized like this?

  • Aloysius says:

    The rafales operate from a french base in Abu Dhabi, not from Cyprus. So it’s even worse (1500 km rather than 900)…
    Kuweit would have been the best solution.

  • Alex says:

    pre-Boomer, France has naval versions of the Rafale that they can deploy from their one carrier.
    Curious what the French ROE will be. They weren’t playing games in Mali.

  • Dave says:

    Hopefully, the President has already approved boots on the ground as part of SAR when the first American pilot is shot down. And more hopeful thinking, that the SAR is a little closer than Djibouti.

  • jean says:

    The French practiced their CAS in Corsica prior to deployment in Afghanistan, but Cyprus is a good guess. If we continue the air campaign , we need to start thinking about DART and SAR operations

  • Hoping that the Resident agrees with the stategy.

  • blert says:

    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djibouti%E2%80%93France_relations
    One would think that the low tempo of operations would make Djibouti practical.
    The fact that they might need in-flight refueling ought not to be a serious impediment.
    Cyprus is always available in the case of injury.
    And then, there’s the close relationship that Paris and Ankara have that dates all the way back to 2003.
    As a NATO nation, Turkey would be more than willing to accept wounded aircraft.
    Ankara is on the record: they won’t support attacks on ISIS from Anatolia.
    And who can overlook the fact that ISIS is getting all of its food via Turkey? (It’s shooting down those two famous river valleys.)

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