A (Very) Brief History of French Airstrikes In Syria

Will the Paris attacks be a turning point in France's fight against ISIS in Syria?

Nov 16, 2015 at 6:14 PM ET

French aircraft pounded ISIS targets in Raqqa over the weekend, bombing what is widely considered the Islamic State’s capital in a move seen by many as a massive retaliation for the November 13 attacks on Paris, which French President François Hollande called “an act of war.” The mission ultimately proved unsuccessful in eliminating any major ISIS targets, and others were quick to point out that France has been involved in coalition operations in the region for some time.

Prior to Sunday’s airstrikes, French forces had been slowly establishing a presence in Syria that seemed to reach a head in September, when the first French airstrike was launched in the region. The French have been relative latecomers to a coalition that was initially forged by the U.S. with local partners in the Middle East, but which has increasingly been left to U.S. personnel to carry out. After the Paris attacks, however, President Hollande vowed that France “would destroy ISIS” and made immediate moves to intensify France’s existing presence in the region.

A statement from the Pentagon on Monday announced a “security partnership” between the U.S. and France that aims to “improve our ability to deter and defeat mutual enemies, particularly [ISIS].” The U.S. has been the most aggressive country in its airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria of all coalition members over the course of the past year. According to Airwars, a group that monitors the international coalition’s airstrikes on ISIS, the U.S. has been responsible for nearly 95 percent of all 2,827 recorded airstrikes in Syria.