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French soldiers with French Foreign Legion’s 6th Light

Armored Brigade assault objective during bilateral
seize-and-capture training exercise with U.S. Marines
on Quartier Colonel de Chabrieres, France, May 29,
2015 (U.S. Marine Corps/Christopher Mendoza)

What It Means to Be
A Look at the French Army in Africa
By Michael Shurkin

ormer U.S. Army Chief of Staff well as more scalable, tailorable, and also evoked the imperative of having an

F General Raymond Odierno
elaborated a vision for the Ser-
vice’s future that left many questions
regionally aligned. General Odierno’s
successor and the current Army Chief
of Staff, General Mark Milley, similarly
“expeditionary Army.”2 What, however,
do these terms mean? What would it
take for the Army to realize the gener-
unanswered. Specifically, he called for has spoken of the need for the Army als’ vision, and what, if any, are the
the Army to be more expeditionary as to be “agile,” “adaptive,” and “expedi- associated risks?
tionary,” and to have an “expeditionary A recently published RAND study
mindset.”1 Lieutenant General Gustave of French army operations in Mali in
Michael Shurkin is a Senior Political Scientist at
Perna, writing in the March–April 2013 noted that in many ways, France’s
the RAND Corporation. 2016 issue of Army Sustainment, has army epitomizes the characteristics

76  Features / A Look at the French Army in Africa JFQ 82, 3rd Quarter 2016

There is usu. It is a living example of a called on the Army to be the following: area. ronments. with the smaller operates provides insight into what their packages capable of rapidly reas- ideals might mean in concrete terms for The U.” It also organized combined arms forces able to ally a cost incurred when organizations must be “mission tailored. cannot. in effect. General Odierno nonetheless “has retained capability. changed as a result of the meaning of the word expeditionary. vehicle protection. “increased expeditionary capability” and but rather what the French example im- Envisioning Expeditionary be a “more expeditionary force” that plies for U. It defines expeditionary as “the personalities. ing the Army’s conventional capabilities Reference Publication 3-0. Future Force 2025 project. interest. for a variety of reasons. While the SF focused on stop- capable of defeating any adversary. remains The French Operation Serval began on Army. builds on the operations knowledged that there is little the French above by adding scalability. Army and the associated ben. 2013. The top priority was restor. The most Operation Serval Strategic Planning Guidance. and operate immediately on arrival technologically sophisticated force that exploiting success and consolidating tacti- •• capable of task organizing at increas- checks all of the generals’ boxes.”9 capabilities.”6 as the risks involved if it were to become presented his vision of the future in an What the text does not provide is more like the French. France rushed general- force could not simply revert to what it and conduct operations upon arrival. Studying how tributes. Of particular an altogether different understanding of effectively mission tailored” and “region. along with insight into how the force must change to issuing the more official 2013 Army be “more” of in so many ways. of conducting operations immediately and the Army normally does not create According to a white paper published in upon arrival. Expeditionary operations require the arrive—also on January 11—were units it had to be something altogether new. and integrated. something differently.S. however. armies.S. 3rd Quarter 2016 Shurkin 77 . we in contrast. ally aligned. It needed.S. tailorability. Army Operating Concept: •• oriented to stress small-unit leader- and risks U.3 organized with the “capabilities needed of sufficient scale and ample duration American planners. France first responded by and retaining its value as a deterrent Operations: committing to the fight special forces associated with its ability to deploy and (SF) assets that were already in the sustain indefinitely large formations Expeditionary capability is the ability region. it does cal and operational gains. ability to deploy quickly with little notice. Army and the ability to manage in austere envi- units are familiar with local cultures. aims to to have different understandings of Units also must be “engaged regionally. to be to the Future Force 2025 project can over northern Mali began an offensive recentered. where they had JFQ 82.S. which bears ship that thrives in an environ- When comparing the strengths of the Odierno’s signature and reflects the ment of dispersed.and battalion-size units from January 2014. ized. planners need to consider. combat units (BCT [Brigade Combat Turning now to the French army. moreover. and conditions. it must be ac.5 The prominent question.S. they begin with a mindset that •• capable of rapidly deploying scal- the French army has organized itself and pervades the force. be found in the 2012 Army Doctrine that threatened the nation’s capital.” It has to operate “decentral. flown in from Chad. However. is a tions or envelop forces from unexpected force protection. as well In February 2013. Odierno rapidly shape conditions in the operational highlighted. appear for a specific mission and environment.” The Army should have which the French army is expeditionary. Army Training and sembling into larger formations as the U. to promptly deploy combined arms forces ping the offensive and rallying Malian However. purpose troops into theater.”8 The pamphlet also adds company. operate on a small scale by Team] 2025)” intended to meet several find that it embodies many of the desired design and doctrine and appear to have objectives. The first to had been in the 1990s. •• aligned regionally so that operating can do that the ever-adaptable U. multiple parent organizations. Unified Land Bamako. Win in a Complex World. pression in the “Army 2025” concept.7 able force packages. expeditionary maneuver. however.S. decentralized French and U. defined as “the rapid deployment of task the French do routinely. capable small scale (at the brigade level or below).S. article in Foreign Affairs. and so forth.General Odierno and General Milley have Among other capabilities. however.” to achieve strategic objectives. the Army’s general. he noted.S. Expeditionary ingly lower levels to execute “small well precisely the things the generals call capabilities are more than physical at- footprint” operations on the U. among them being “more attributes mentioned above.4 The French. purpose forces arguably are not designed ability to deploy task-organized forces on and organized to deploy and fight on a Odierno’s priorities later found ex. short notice to austere locations. the Army has to “operate a new term. Army assumptions.” with units transition quickly and conduct operations do things they are not designed to do. January 11. On the contrary. the worldwide into any area of operations army defenders. is not the degree to sufficiency. Army to do.” turn the enemy out of prepared posi- what constitutes “enough” in terms of At the top of the agenda. Doctrine Command’s 2015 pamphlet required efits—but also the implied compromises The U. distributed. revised force design featuring “optimized directions. the day after Islamist a decade of operations in Afghanistan The fullest definition dating to just prior militants who had already seized control and Iraq.

among other things. They did curving path. commonly referred to accept a good deal of risk. proportionately larger support element. with comparable capabilities) would with maneuverist doctrine and mission Task Organizing have required a larger logistical tail of ap. or vice versa—together with our assessment of the French forces The French deploy in small numbers a command element and those support deployed to Mali compared to U. Although it is difficult to compare four platoons—three infantry and one the French and American armies. Gao Setting aside the unknown number sweeping reforms intended to transform and Timbuktu. and they have no strategic lift tion. the French had ments and aim for “just enough. according to defines GTIAs and SGTIAs as task-or- related to how the French organize their the French military. scalable battalion. took Gao on January 25 and Timbuktu rather than first gathering strength and thereby forcing the army to rely on an 4 days later. or 28 percent of the overall to operate autonomously and indepen- ity over protection. while still more units began have designed their army to do—is perhaps in light of their weak logistical arriving from France. task force. could not deploy conscripts overseas. in 2015 revived its divisions. a larger force overall. of the Niger River. there is little change. joint fires coordinators of various possible 78  Features / A Look at the French Army in Africa JFQ 82.400 forces. suggesting that SGTIAs and GTIAs have the same ability to tailor their forces. who in the 19th French and Chadian forces converged on group to arrive in Mali was a 200-man century were part of the French Navy. another SGTIA arrived from Côte ments at the center of gravity. deploying the United States would have had to field structure but are different in terms of relatively small task-oriented forma. where sous-groupement tactique interarmes The French understood that in order to remaining militants made a last stand.and company-level task a number of features of interest to this The total force reached roughly 3. The French employed of SF troops who were present in the army from a large conscription-based fast-moving armored columns combined Mali before Serval began. ments. contingent in Mali—whose north.11 The army dissolved Serval continued on a smaller scale until interarmes (GTIA). the French continental force designed to fight the with airborne and air-land operations. a company-scale combined pack as much capability as possible into a By late spring. measure out their forces in small incre. 2014. the French fielded volunteer formations that historically had Tuareg militancy—by January 31. dently according to their commanders’ alignment. d’Ivoire by road. Their forces are few and ing some indirect fire capability as well as would have sent a larger force with a are overcommitted to overseas deploy. and July 15. France’s prioritization of mobil. in part because they would struggle to elements deemed necessary.S. scale. lives fighting in Mali between January 11. Chief among them Tessalit on February 8.300 by the Published French army doctrine approach to task organization.” That virtue of necessity by designing their stopped the militants’ offensive and involves. arms task force that was detached from smaller force. (SGTIA). more expedi- coordinated with SF and with air support ern half alone is roughly the size of tionary force. capabilities—arguably have made a By January 15. (By law. the “major combat op. often includ- norms. platoon by are the Foreign Legion and the “Troupes climaxed in February and March as platoon. the French— d’Ivoire. and finally its expeditionary erations consulted for this study indicated intent. “army within the army” consisting of fully securing distant Kidal—the epicenter of tion Desert Shield. The French France—started at zero.” or Marines.10 Several experts on U.been engaged in a long-running opera. personnel. and their units as they arrived in theater. Nine French soldiers lost their mation to arrive in Mali as a group was tionally speaking. Other units drove in from Côte What the French do—and what they of their own. when it was subsumed into a new later.) the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains. we believe that the Americans do otherwise.S. scale and tailor their forces to meet spe- over the broad strip of land on either side tions on the fly as well as the will to cific needs. Senegal. The French pushed modularity to as the Niger Bend because of the river’s well below the brigade level. a full GTIA of mechanized infantry that and what really matters now as in 2013 2013. which relates to all of the above. Two days became force providers. Army op. which it officially came to an end on July 15. command. article. However. and are the French army’s task-organized and The French in Mali demonstrated then drove the rest of the way. Soviet Union into a smaller. reached Dakar. operating in Chad. SGTIAs are composed of a core of tions. and placed regi- 2014.500 were support ganized combined arms forces designed force. that force would have to be erations” phase of Serval was complete. For example. The campaign often company by company. that a comparable American force (that and distributed operations in keeping is. GTIAs and SGTIAs. then committing to the field à la Opera. by ship.12 The French in Mali demonstrated an proximately 40 percent. the first non-SF de Marine. 1. the objective is decentralized culture. the French military from the French air force. The largest single for. Moreover. Of those. a colonial vocation. The Bend includes north. a battalion-size groupement tactique modular and flexible. which is end of February. or combined arms its divisions in favor of brigades. but opera- Barkhane. 3rd Quarter 2016 . in GTIAs and SGTIAs armored. the ability forces to deploy and operate on a small begun advancing north to seize control to disaggregate and re-aggregate forma. These include the French army’s by the end of January and 5. The Numbers this in the 1990s as part of a number of ern Mali’s most populous towns. the army’s regional force. They kept moving quickly. The French regional counterterrorism operation.

indirect fire to human terrain teams. are from the warfare elements. from regular line regiments together with lective and individual training of this sort SGTIAs in Afghanistan reportedly were marines and legionnaires. JFQ 82. They also train a limit of eight. led by one engineering). trinally mandated 3/1 structure. infantrymen reduces the turbulence that might be as- large and diverse owing to the numerous with cavalry troops. artiller.French soldier sits aboard U. Air Force/Nathanael Callon) types. the French component consisting of two Caesar SGTIAs. In Mali. Afghanistan. one armor. Additional some combination of commanders’ esti. composed of four com.S. January 20. It also had an artillery GTIAs and SGTIAs. Thus. reflecting ments. and so forth. Presumably. 2013 (U. such as those that were slated for essary. sappers. GTIAs and SGTIAs in Mali were smaller evolved. several GTIAs participated in the Adrar des Ifoghas and deploy together as SGTIAs.S. A captain commands the force. some of the forces participating in the op. Only self-propelled howitzers and four 120mm mal training for French army captains. it should be noted. 3rd Quarter 2016 Shurkin 79 . there. and tactical drones. structuring them into the fly in response to emergencies. A colonel commands. GTIA 3. mortars. is part of the for- created a provisional Serval brigade. sociated with cobbling units together on requirements associated with operating ists. cycling operated simultaneously. The mand structures on the fly. of other branches to ensure that they brigade commander’s home brigade. as the mission panies—three infantry and one armored. and trained to function in and command headquarters established in theater.13 or vice versa—with a command element and in fact did not comply with the doc. each with dis. consisted of three companies (one as such. for example. French officers are all under the command of a brigade-level mechanized infantry. col- requirements and the resources at hand. which regiments and brigades. which included everything from different formations with different com- GTIAs are larger. For example. GTIAs and SGTIAs are platoons or companies can be tacked on mation of the force size required and unit more homogenous with respect to home as needed up until the task force reaches availability. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III en route to Mali. They routinely bring soldiers effectively with them. communications and electronic which includes working with officers erations. In the case of planned deploy- and those support elements deemed nec. The GTIAs and SGTIAs in Mali know enough about how the others do The exact composition of GTIAs often have drawn from a diverse array of their jobs to understand how to work and SGTIAs varies according to mission regiments. In addition. Commanding a brigade commander. offensive in northern Mali in February through France’s national training centers tinct areas of operation or missions and 2013. where French forces were fighting extremists who took control of much of north of country.

especially when (ATGMs) or other standoff precision mented that the roughly 30-year old VABs compared with the U.14 tity and training. 3rd Quarter 2016 . and 25mm automatic cannons. and air support. enable the army to invest more in quan- The French army operates a vehicle fleet ing to one report. artillery. and EBRC ostensibly will exercise high degrees of situational awareness and fight in close coordination with networked dismounted infantry. has the multirole armored vehicle (véhicle French are the relatively light logistical 80  Features / A Look at the French Army in Africa JFQ 82. not their level of sophistication. accord. France has mechanized gamble that being able to move quickly was a virtue. there appears to be a current within the French army that favors lower technology vehicles such as the venerable VAB. simpler weapons would be preferable because their lower cost would Mobility vs.S. other vehicles. Protection been tested with a 120mm gun. although it is not clear how well field than newer equipment. The VBCI. a level that was at times preoccupying and cule blindé de combat d’infanterie. which are due to enter service by 2020. This approach worked proved less delicate and easier to fix in the battle tanks and heavy infantry fighting there. or ties. For example. they had more robust logistical capabili. including add-on armor kits. or at least modernization. French weapons. However. The armor as they modernize. the as has been confirmed by recent reports.”18 The problem.17 vehicles such as the American Bradley. French armored units would hold up But not everyone was pleased by the the wheeled armor units of the French against a more sophisticated enemy performance of the aging vehicles. and ERC-90. has argued in the past that perhaps cheaper. French would make the same tradeoff if last” and that their “performance reached and infantry fighting vehicles (véhi. and the VBMR and EBRC are expected to be lighter or roughly the same). or EBRC). 90mm guns (ERC 90). using relatively provides more protection than heavier in Mali—with the notable exception of light. down on their commitment to light at this level of difficulty. however. The army provide considerable firepower equipped with antitank guided missiles GTIA 3 commander. primarily by means of technology-enabling networked warfare. While cisely the kind of campaign the French now state that their outdated equipment lacking the level of protection of main conducted in Mali. slated to replace Central African Republic. are heavier than the vehicles they are intended to replace and offer greater protection. that is well suited for precisely the kinds The French assess that mobility is the French claim to have found that the of operations it conducted in Mali. French develop- ers have focused on maintaining their predecessors’ mobility while enhancing their capabilities. Colonel Michel Goya. for example. vehicle (engin blindé de reconnaissance et has been deployed to Afghanistan. French doctrine emphasizes rapid the VBCI and arguably the Caesar and be transported in C-130s and C-160s as coordinated movements calculated to VBL—are old and slated for replacement well as driven long distances over poor maintain the operational initiative—pre. AMX-10RC. makes their replacement indispensable VBCI) are equipped with 105mm guns The French nonetheless have doubled for continuing to conduct engagements (AMX-10RC). they remain roughly in the Stryker weight class (the VBCI weighs in at 25. appears to have been the ve- armored reconnaissance and combat which entered service recently and hicles’ age.6 tons. The French quality roads and cross country. and Particularly important to the the AMX-10RC within the decade. We also must wonder if the and AMX-10RCs were “breathing their light tanks. Stryker. armored personnel carriers. and they low-tech nature of the vehicles used there be more specific.19 de combat. wheeled armored vehicles that can armor. blindé multi-rôles. including a fleet of C-17s. Most of the French vehicles nearly all of its units. To more important than protection. or VBMR) and the EBRC. com- for their weight class. a leading French military analyst. VBMR.15 Interestingly. The VBCI. and Mali.16 With regard to Mali.

Any savings ally poor infrastructure in countries such of “roughing it. and without conducting repairs. it may well have done the had no air conditioning.24 JFQ 82. France. “Each vehicle traveled were just barely keeping their vehicles The statements about Serval contain a 2. or in contact with the enemy. it otherwise the troops were left to get by its army a degree of flexibility regarding should be made clear. ample. As mentioned.U. or 6 weeks of operations. 3 days’ worth of food and 9 liters that the troops in Mali after a few weeks Africa. The troops little time. near tingents in theater.21 A news report of the great deal of bravado. some reached Mali of water). without In late March 2013. a leading defense regarded all standards to keep the high returning to base. January 21. They Mali boasted that his battalion. based on his contacts momentum required to destroy as much pauses. Airmen and French soldiers load equipment inside U. Darras stated. Air Force/Nathanael Callon) requirements associated with light fighting in the Adrar des Ifoghas moun. remained almost same for some of the other African con. but a significant portion drove with them only the essentials (in many Ground Forces Command.S. that ground troops of the enemy as we could. fuel) as they did a fully equipped modern force had to cover a lot of ground. was providing water. but France’s choice of vehicles also gives French logistical capabilities. burden is an advantage. It was “the price to how it gets its units to the theater of their extreme limits in Serval. even with pay for taking so many people so far in so operations and moves them around once airlift borrowed from allies. there. given the gener. and the subsequent focus of in the field resembled “Napoleon’s army by driving from Senegal or Côte d’Ivoire. the French units the bare essentials (food.” in the French army. water. sleeping because of the heat: “We dis. 2013 (U. tains described the operations in terms excess sustainment capacity. army had been in the field for a month using wheeled versus tracked vehicles bilities. showers. food.S. uniforms.”22 Colonel Bertrand Darras. Most vehicles arrived in theater that France rushed to Mali initially had who at the time was with the French by air. and so on. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in Istres. anything that reduces the logistics and noted that the logistical support probably helped a great deal. were stretched to as best they could. without technical blogger reported.” It commented that the such as that which might have come from as Mali and France’s weak logistical capa.500 to 5. logistical efforts remained on providing before the Italian campaign” more than Once in theater.20 France also because of the condition of their equip. and had trouble entirely “in the zone of operations. and fuel. Indeed.000 km” off-road and on dif- in working order. For ex- troops raced north and east. the commander of GTIA 3 in assumed responsibility for sustaining the ment. 3rd Quarter 2016 Shurkin 81 .”23 He continued. during Chadian force. that the French had little in the way of wheeled armor. boots. commented to Mali from points elsewhere in West cases. toilets.S. but they make clear ficult terrain.

primarily by scouting and translat. notables.or 3-year be stressed. for all intents and men provided the French with invaluable case of water and fuel. with whom knowing the human terrain and did not Foreign Legion. Since the reforms of the Tuareg contingent in the Malian army the rule that whatever can be sourced 1990s. given Africa well. which played tise paid off was France’s ability to rely on as commando-qualified legionnaires) an important role in some of the most regional bottled-water suppliers (pre-cer. March 16. the French literally purposes. What must small scale with limited resources. however. whose locally. This operations—also conduct 2. Air Force/Kate Thornton) Regional Expertise loyal to General Haji ag Gamou. had an explicitly colonial vocation. most The payoff was evident in Mali. Also of tified by the French health service) and a long-standing expeditionary mission note is the French army’s work with the fuel providers.French soldier discusses objectives with U. In the The French army is. knew whom to call and had pre-existing Setting aside their long colonial experi. These. All French army units rotate that he represents a particular faction Expeditionary Culture through Africa on 4-month “short.S.250. where doing and understood all the pertinent if not all of which historically have the French were able to make up for their ramifications and risks. Djibouti. own small numbers in part by calling in other words. however. The have to race to get up to speed. Another way in which regional exper. arrived in Mali already most obviously the marines and the upon regional and local allies. are not SF (although there most obvious example was the 2. ing. should be sourced locally.” France’s explicitly history of conflict with other Tuareg in French operations in Mali is the expeditionary brigades—that is.25 ence on the continent. but rather general-purpose forces with intense fighting in the campaign. The French. it should be they know how to work effectively. Working with ag Gamou’s men did contracts with regional suppliers. though. almost certainly knew what they were specifically expeditionary units. 3rd Quarter 2016 .S. are French marine SF regiments as well man Chadian contingent. Soldier during field training exercise in Arta. a regionally aligned force. within Tuareg society and has a long A less tangible yet significant factor duration missions. stressed. the his. this expeditionary 82  Features / A Look at the French Army in Africa JFQ 82. 2016 (U. the French know not come without risk. is that the French might be particularly true of France’s “long-term missions” in Africa. The French operate with and outlook. particularly ones hailing from expeditionary culture that serves the torically “colonial” units that conduct Kidal and the elite clans of the restive French army well when operating at a the lion’s share of the country’s overseas Kel Adagh confederation. help.

In ditions as in the past. for example. Goya carried the argument further improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for French colonial forces were invariably and defined the American approach to the simple reason that those that were small and relatively ill resourced. and a legionnaire who had participated in case. In contrast. argues that much of the outlook the French army had learned some bad drop of 250 lightly armed legionnaires.culture is also apparently true of the his. Ten regiments today operate in the same con. The French could just as mixing in with the population and un. This compares with destroying the of the other vehicles used in Mali. Similarly. who have to operate in the Finally. for that unit commanders exercised.S. multiple African and Afghan deploy. suggesting that.27 officers above claim. satellites. its antitank weapons or IEDs and did not divide-and-conquer tactics. so equipped were all in Afghanistan. Badly it. stated.28 with respect to three key requirements: era. deployments. something many VABs and other out-of-date light- relief.” which is riskier. the airborne operation in The French analyst Goya. little more than sufficient: just enough tion Serval. operated with author also draw a distinction between “belt and suspenders” institution. drop to block retreating fighters but en- that involves not just tactics. but also France cannot afford to fight like that. forge military “We learned a lot of methods from the possess ATGMs. military. they operate in the same way. success in northern Mali during the co. as the French the first month of Serval.” how they are taught to operate and often uses backup or redundant systems. the degree of autonomy was an exercise in thinking through what According to the French senate. or “combat 36 VBCIs were used there. Army.” he stated. Army can fight “properly” in vehicles.29 ing France’s priorities (protecting the locating it. ties a luxury. fuel. for they conducted the defines it in terms of a “global approach” and aircraft providing close air support. French alent of leatherneck) questions cultural Accepting Risk doctrine regarding fuel is that one should continuity yet notes that French marine Waging war on the cheap necessarily never go below a 10-day reserve. going about an operation the best way. however. and their terms with the associated risk. in Mali were not equipped to counter interest in leveraging local knowledge. especially if one days is the French army’s red line. Thus. address. The French with 177 venerable VABs. and other elements carefully Africa alongside the former colonials the sense that it can think in terms of and optimistically calculated to be and distinguished themselves in Opera. warfare in terms of detecting the enemy.S. translates into risk. he countered none. and medical support.” with which they the French army considers such ameni. a former ments. the French army troops. sees itself as having to make the best of just enough helicopters. the French cut things close institutional continuity from the colonial field with few resources. Another officer. and besides. been involved in Serval. whom to promote. The French seem not to have had He describes today’s marine regiments’ the sense that infantrymen worked in good intelligence regarding the threat approach explicitly as “colonial” and close conjunction with drones. France owes its Forces Command has gone so far as to good enough. it operated in Mali torically continentally focused regiments According to a French marine who had at or beyond the limits of its sustain- that now share responsibility for over. and so on.” in stances.S. which can be described as a their logistical elements. have become familiar in Afghanistan. only outnumbered and for the most part enemy through combat. another marsouin (the French equiv. planning for Serval and so forth. who often raced well ahead of French officers interviewed by the U. armor vehicles in Mali partly because the captains and below—learned to leverage According to Goya. not have been certain that would be the whom to trust. practice of attending to local politics and as not to retain the “bad habits” picked the enemy did not make effective use of the human terrain so as to better deploy up fighting alongside the U. and practices of France’s colonial units lessons in Afghanistan with regard to a risky enterprise in the best of circum- have survived and serve them well today. whom to push aside. similarly expressed concern that Timbuktu featured a night-time combat marine.26 When asked about of the time. express the desire that the French army they presumably would make replacing lonial period in part to the commanders’ post-Afghanistan “de-Americanizes” so them a higher priority. moreover. the effect. just enough tions that arguably have some relevance whatever resources may be available. fighting “American-style warfare. ment capabilities with a force structure. would have taken 12 hours to the “American way. which 24 hours of reserve. Any “rupture. he stated. But the French could alliances. the VABs and VBCIs used degree of risk they accepted.” he termed protection and other capabilities than any colonize cheaply or not at all. it was contrary to the easily have underestimated the threat as derstanding the entire context in which experience of most French officers most they overestimated it. on the ground. in favors close combat. the high was and was not available and coming to example. Indeed. and then using firepower to Moreover. for today is the small size of French Thus. colonial commanders—often just one can do when one has the means. water. Commanders knew Americans. There were so possibility of timely reinforcements or see fire maneuver as a luxury.31 one is operating.32 The French also struggled to JFQ 82.30 As it happened. France’s Ground French had been gambling that they were local knowledge. seas deployments and rotate through the U. he explained. although VBCIs offer better homeland) and its determination to destroy it—“fire maneuver. reflect. compared operating autonomously and without the maneuver. vehicles with just enough capabilities. Among the aspects of colonial opera. just enough force protection. In contrast to the French. If they thought otherwise. 3rd Quarter 2016 Shurkin 83 .

per day. French officers interviewed for a would not have managed had they not it is adept at deploying small. Airman communicates with French air force pilots during tactical exercise in Djibouti. the problem was that the the same time. 2016 (U. the French have a rule re. and it leverages respect to the degree of autonomy and that must be on hand for a given number deep regional expertise. command scale relative to their North Similarly.S. medical support called for by French doc. tions associated with mission command. 3rd Quarter 2016 . which facilitate the kind beds before they fell off while driving Odierno and General Milley have envi- of decentralized and distributed opera- over the rough terrain (there are no sioned for the future of the U. mod- but the trucks that took the water north hour coverage to one operation to pro- ularity. and vide it to another.S.33 There. scalable.35 French officers also •• relatively light armored vehicles that and at times fell below the required 10 disclosed that they were not capable of emphasize mobility over firepower liters per man.U. paved roads north of Gao). we find important differences with of Gao could not handle containers. The extreme heat providing the “golden hour” standard of •• an institutional and command reduced significantly the lift of aircraft. In at least one instance. It also has an responsibility they invest in lower ech- of soldiers. doctrine these characteristics are elements that Whereas the French appear confi- dictated that they needed to have the distinguish the French army from the dent that their success on the battlefield ability to perform 12 major surgeries at American: 84  Features / A Look at the French Army in Africa JFQ 82. according to the French G-4. In Mali at a certain point. Air Force/Kate Thornton) keep the most forward-deployed troops the same time when in fact they could •• sub-brigade modularity in northern Mali supplied with water only support 2. it has a force structure well suited for Atlantic Treaty Organization Allies with garding the amount of medical support expeditionary operations. bottled water reached Gao in containers. •• greater acceptance of risk. separate study on interoperability claim jury-rigged walls for the truck beds using task-organized forces that can disag- to be on the extreme end of the mission wooden pallets.34 gregate and re-aggregate on the fly. February 24. culture accustomed and suited to obliging the French to rely on convoys of trine for all of the operations going on at austerity trucks. they had to choose not to provide golden If we break apart the first point. The French The French force has demonstrated that Indeed. Associated with elons and their commanders. Army.S. expeditionary culture.36 respect to training and the authorities and there was a limit to how many crates of The French army is a living example responsibilities bestowed upon company bottled water could be loaded on their of precisely the kind of force General commanders.

Magazine. 20.foreignpolicy. “De la Larcher.” Terre Info that the quality he looked for the most vo. elements and a large contingent intended to July 8. 43.” Defense Update. 16 Michel Goya.” en vue du débat et du vote sur comfortable bringing much less to the modularite/>. François Lecointre. Nominee for Chief of 15 Ministère de la Défense. 2013. “Les derniers jours de Unified Land Operations (Washington.S. stitution). 201. 2013. February 14.” Politique 34 Interview with French logistics officer. 2007. Given limited the embrace of modularity in the 1990s. USA. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1. ing decisions regarding force structure. 35 Interview with French G4.” Armée de Terre. 2nd REP. Odierno. CA: RAND. having a “small footprint” in 12 FT-02. See Bruce Nardulli et 20 Céline Brunetaud. May 2013. September 5. Pernin et al. n. 5 Raymond T. France. May publication Doctrine Tactique refers to this must also question the premise that one 5. October something. 47347 de M. Disjointed War: Military Operations in Koso. 2012). 2014). we would have to give up l’armée de demain.. Ministère de small” and to deploying only a portion of an la Défense. Staff of the Army. 2014. 15.” Foreign Policy. it appears Headquarters Department of the Army. April 16. les réformes. 2015. Les fondamentaux de la tion. assigned missions that differ from designed mis. and how it task-organizes. 10. Army Capabilities Integration Center.” July 21.” Béret Rouge. 18 François Marie Gougeon. Étrangère. 1999 (Santa Monica.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in 28. 7 Army Doctrine Reference Publication travail “Sahel. ary Army. which has not yet entered produc- greater risk. “The Force of 21 Philippe Chapleau.” Institut de la commission des affaires étrangères. The same blogger put the number of vehicles conventional conflicts or to provide the 6 “Army Vision—Force 2025 White Paper. the VBMR. November 7. in his generals was that they be lucky. DC: la guerre dans l’Adrar au Mali—France Info. 11 For more on French army reforms and counterinsurgency. October 23. 3 For a discussion of some of the turbu. 2013. défense et des forces armées par le groupe de premised on austerity and learning to be able at <www. ary 5. France Info.” Assemblée Nationale. JFQ 41–43. les véhicules tirent la langue available at <www. RAND. Febru- lence associated with task-organizing to reflect nées en Afrique.pdf>. “La chaîne soutien en minded of Napoleon’s alleged remark al. In armée d’emploi. “Rusticité et ingéni- Moreover. see Christopher G.. 17 “L’engagement des forces préposition. February 2. Rapport d’information fait au nom vehicle design.lajauneetlarouge. 2013. 32 Interview with French G4. 2013). a Complex World. provide force protection. 2015. 2014. 26 A 2010 issue of the French military BCT structure make the most sense? We 10 French army G4. Sahel Operation ‘Serval’ Lessons Identified. 2011). available 28 Personal communication with a legion- conventional warfare or quite simply at <www. 2 Gustave Perna. March 2015. U. in 1978. 2008). Milley. See “La Manœuvre globale: ing all other capabilities. 1 (2007). avail. 2013). 2015. Becoming more like the fin de la guerre à la fin de l’armée. when 450 legionnaires jumped Notes du théâtre Serval. email to author. 3rd Quarter 2016 Shurkin 85 . 44. includ- conventional deterrent power that U. and 20 commanders and French defense policy January 23. Army toward being 1–7. 6. Lille. Serval does not shed light on Tomorrow. November 1997. did a combat jump was at Kolwezi. 2015. Paris. Tactique. Philippe Roux. Michel Klein. as “global maneuver” and associates it with can be more expeditionary while retain. May. CA: RAND. April more expeditionary would require revisit.” Opération Serval: Le retour de la provisoire) (Paris: Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi Monica.” requirements and the associated turbulence. 2013. 2015. May 2013. Carlisle. This work details manœuvre aéroterrestre dans la profondeur des Forces. February 4. March 30.S. 2002). 48. in daylight into a city held by hostile forces and 14 “Scorpion Excites French Combat Ve.” Army Sustainment. 36 VBCIs.armed-services.” Lignes de Défense. “Armée de Terre: l’autorisation de prolongation de l’intervention fight than what one considers ideal. “Le programme in firefights. French Senate. we are re. resources.” Béret Rouge. ary 5.S. France’s capacity to handle more intense cles/2013/02/04/the_force_of_tomorrow>.S. Does the 9 Ibid.senate. email to author. In this case. au Mali. 2. PA. Five were killed. demoting protection as a priority for de-terre-les-reformes-larmee-de-demain#. proficiency of their military. outnumbered and outgunned and spent the day Mark A. AMX-10RCs. osité: Malgré tout. March–April guerre limitée de haute technologie. no. losing some ability to conduct large-scale et diplomés de l’école. “Dix millions de dollars 33 Interview with French logistics officer. no. 23 Bertrand Darras.and low casualty rates demonstrate the Apache unit without the full panoply of support çois Cornut-Gentille. “RAND ways in which units have had to scramble to re- (Paris: Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi des Corporation Conference: French Army Update design themselves to meet changing operational Forces. 2–3. 19. see Cadre général de la contre rebellion. March 16. the Army’s institutional resistance to “going (Paris: Cour des comptes.” La Jaune et la Rouge: 27 Interview with Frédéric Garnier. “Question No. See also FT-04.” Given the French example.” operated by the Serval brigade at 730. 2013. alike call for. opérations: À coups d’expédition. 2013. took fire as they jumped. Tactique Générale (Paris: Centre 30 The planned replacement for the VAB is the French way would mean assuming de doctrine et d’emploi de forces. 24 Gougeon. 2016. the end. Arlington.institut-jacquescartier. available at SCORPION. 50. 2014. 8 The U. 25 Interviews with French logistics officers. February 3. “L’Armée de 2015. ing 150 VABs. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Paris. 2014. de la French would also mean having a culture Jacques Cartier. naire. France. it might mean Revue mensuelle de l’association des anciens élèves 2.” Fondation pour la Recherche des forces armées au Mali (article 35 de la Con- Stratégique. 2014). 4 Task Force Hawk is a classic example of des matériels militaires: des efforts à poursuivre VA. The legionnaires were 1 “Advance Policy Questions for General hicle Industries. Fran- JFQ 82. March 25. 19 Le mantien en condition opérationnelle PowerPoint presentation. 13 “Par les airs et par la piste: L’ouverture Zaire. the et d’emploi de “Projecting an Expedition- le milicien: La crise du modèle occidental de Lille. manœuvre interarmes (Paris: Centre de doctrine 31 The last time that particular unit. the kinds of armored vehicles the Army U. doc/Milley_07-21-15. 22 Etienne Monin. “Témoignage 36 Doctrine d’emploi des forces terrestres en sions. 29 Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Gérard VBIkZeevyD4>. Readi- d’un chef de corps engagé dans l’opération zones desertiques et semi-desertiques (edition ness Reporting for an Adaptive Army (Santa Serval. 2012. 100 VBLs.. 2015.” Doctrine Paul Brutin. Febru- <www. 2012. that moving the U.