Yup - I sort of admire them for it - they bug the hell out of me on the 'relationship with us' front, but they don't muck about when they decide what La France needs done. Rainbow Warrior being a case in point...
I fail to see the relevance of comparing this situation to Iraq.
A French training team was in location in Birao, training the local forces against attacks from rebels coming from the Sudan.
It came under repeated attacks from the same rebels. The training team asked for reinforcements and got it in the form of Mirage F1 CAS and two HALO drops at the beginning of March (one of 10 men, another of 58 according to RAIDS magazine); then a French para company did a TALO on the Birao airfield.
Logistic support was also provided to the CAR army in order to recapture the city of Birao.
I saw the same report and it was great when one of the African's was complaining about the French using jets against which they had no defence. What a shame considering these same people rape and execute women and kids who can't defend themselves.
RAIDS magazine has confirmed that the French SF did an operational jump over the airfield of the city of Birao in the Central African Republic during the night of the 6th of March 2007.
58 operators belonging to the 1er RPIMa, the Commando Hubert (Navy SF) and CPA10 (Air Force SF) jumped from a height of 12,000 feet in order to clear the airfield before a parachute company was airlanded there.
Previously, ten pathfinders from the 3 RPIMa had done an HALO insertion into the Birao city in order to reinforce another HALO team from the 17 RGP (airborne engineers) which had been advizing the local army in their fight against Sudan-based rebels.
This team had been directly attacked by those rebels; they called Mirage F1s on them and several of their vehicles were destroyed.
FYI, France is the 4th or 5th largest financial contributor to NATO and there has never been more French personnel in NATO HQs in Europe and the USA since France left the integrated command structure in the early 60s.
Mons, Brunssum, Stavanger, Norfolk, Istanbul, Izmir, they are all over the place now.
So, instead of leaving, France is actually coming back to NATO.
Fantassin - don't expect to see much objectivity around here when French military is under discussion.
For the few that can be bothered to dig beyond purile frog bashing there is a lot to be learned. Their army is fully professional like ours, but very well equipped, very forward looking with technology and as a result highly motivated. The French are selective in deploying guys and tend to do it in their national interest rather than the US national interest.....and when they do the government, the people and the other military arms all thrown in when asked.
Whilst I wouldn't trust the French Government per se, I have huge respect for their military. Having worked with them on ops over or in Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Afghanistan I've always found I have more in common with the French than a lot of the US I've worked with. I've never trusted the US military since that nations active deception of 'allies' in the Bosnian and Kosovo campaigns.
Overall, I don't find the French military quite as good as our own as they are still transforming from its conscript past. However, they are good professional and aggressive guys who take no quarter from anyone.
I've always considered the UK's interests lay very much in maintaining relations with the US rather than Europe. However, after Iraq, I'm now not so sure.
Good to see everybody's mind has not been "Fox Newsed" !
Magic Mushroom, your analysis is actually very close to what the Brit LNO to the French school of infantry has written in the 2006 issue of "The Infantryman".
I have to admit it also matches mine in most fields; most honest French soldiers (at least in the army) look with much respect at the british army and wish they had the same level of good kit (Warrior, Chinook, C-17...to name a few) and realistic training (Brecon !)
For those who think that France should not be doing anything in the CAR, here is some food for thoughts:
CAR children 'seized for ransom'
Armed gangs are seizing children for ransom payments in the lawless north of the Central African Republic, human rights body Amnesty International says.
Some parents have paid up to $4,000 for their children to be freed, while others have been killed, Amnesty says.
The region is a "free-for-all" for rebels, soldiers and armed bandits, a researcher who has just returned says.
CAR has accused neighbouring Sudan of backing the rebels, with attacks coming from Darfur. Sudan denies the charges.
Some families have had their children kidnapped seven times, said Amnesty researcher Godfrey Byaruhanga.
"News is clearly spreading to criminal elements throughout the region that they can have free rein in northern CAR, as there is an almost total absence of any authority," he said.
Civilians were fleeing "from the frying pan into the fire" by heading to Chad and Sudan, he said.
More than 280,000 people have fled their homes in the past year.
Rebels killed anyone who refused to fight with them, while government soldiers killed suspected rebel sympathisers, he said.
Presidential spokesman Cyriaque Gonda denied that the army was killing civilians.
"This is not true, this is a ridiculous accusation and those accusations not founded at all," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.
"What the government troops are doing is first of all to protect themselves when they are being attacked and to go after the rebels who are keeping the population under terror."
Mr Byaruhanga said the government was failing to protect the population and only controlled the capital, Bangui.
Mr Gonda renewed a call for the UN to send peacekeepers - an idea also supported by Mr Byaruhanga.
"This situation is too dangerous and simply cannot wait," he said.
I'd like to echo the comments about the French military made above. I've worked with the French in Djibouti and have been generaly impressed by them. There is still a tri-service garrison there including the Legions 13eme DBLE as well as the 5th Marine Regt. There are also Mirages, Super Puma's and Gazelle's based there.
The French army in Djibouti are, IMHO, good, well trained soldiers. If their desert warfare and commando school at Arta is anything to go by then the two units above deserve their strong reputations. Anyone fancy an obstacle course that has been built in the sea? Or the other one that features a drain pipe bolted to a f*ck off big cliff? Not me!
Yes they do still view their former colonies as within their sphere of influence and don't much like other western countries becoming involved in them, but that's the French, willing to do their own thing regardless.