Twelve French aircraft, ten of which were fighters, dropped 20 munitions on the de-facto ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria today. This appears to be France’s opening reprisal on ISIS for the terror attacks in Paris on Friday night. The AP reports ISIS targets hit include command and control centers, recruitment center, a munitions depot and training camp.
These strikes come as the U.S. has moved to share highly-detailed targeting information with the French military, which could be used for immediate retaliatory airstrikes in Syria. Currently six French Mirage 2000s are based in Jordan and six Rafales in the UAE, and France’s only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, packed with 20 Rafales and Super Etendards, is just arriving in the region. This French air combat force will likely build even larger in the coming days.
Although ready “targeting packages” have been rushed to the French, the Pentagon is removing hindrances on sharing their raw targeting information in real-time with France for future strikes. This move is a signal that the French are prepared to take a much more active role in the anti-ISIS air campaign over Iraq and Syria. It would also be a divergence from the “Five Eyes” intelligence gathering consortium, which includes Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Introducing France into this equation would give the French intel services and their military counterparts the highest quality actionable intelligence available when it comes to producing targets to Strike in Syria and Iraq.
Although increased air strikes against fixed ISIS-related targets are worthwhile, the airpower is severely limited when it comes to actually trying to defeat a group like ISIS. You can put pressure on the terror group with aerial bombardment, making it hard for them to grow and freely operate in the open, and precision medium-altitude strikes can keep what has become largely a military stalemate in place in Iraq.
But make no mistake about it: a different strategy, a much more risky strategy, will be necessary in order to truly take the fight to ISIS. As such, any politician or military spokesman who says their aim is to destroy ISIS, not to attempt to contain them at best, is stating a goal that is impossible to achieve under the current strategy and tactical limitations put on our fighting forces.
Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com
Top shot via USAF, other shots via Armée de l’air