Center for Strategic Decision Research


Post-Iraq War Challenges: An Operational Perspective

General Richard Wolsztynski
Chief of Staff, French Air Force

I would like to focus on defining the main post-Iraq war challenges the international community is now facing from a military standpoint. First, a wider range of threats has refocused our attention on the potential for new forms of attack. The need is even greater than it has been for a global guarantee of security and for the defense of our citizens’ interests. The current threats are unpredictable, even during military operations, and are perpetrated on a worldwide scale. The latest events in Iraq demonstrate the efficiency of the asymmetrical attack, and it is clear we face a complex environment.Second, the end of the war in Iraq enhanced the need for strong cooperation in order to restore peace and stability within a regional organizational framework. 


The challenges to restoring peace and stability following military operations are multifaceted and complex. But we need to involve the regional actors as early as possible to provide stability. Events in Iraq have reminded us that there is no longer a clear distinction between security and defense, and that a global response is needed. But a military response is only one part of the crisis—we must worry about the Alliance’s interests and take full advantage of regional cooperation at the military, economic, cultural, and political levels by establishing new partnerships with former adversaries and by using modern technologies, including intelligence gathering and analysis. 

In order to prepare for the unexpected, we also need to coordinate closely with allies in the field of homeland security. Regional coordination is practically mandatory to promote true operational efficiency. In addition, we must remember that responsiveness has always been a key factor before and during a crisis. If we need to focus on mobility, interoperability, and innovative technology, we need to provide real-time management to allow forces to make very quick transitions from one phase to another. 

The European states are now coordinating their efforts because they know that, if they want to meet the asymmetrical dangers of the future, they must practice trust and maintain partnerships. They must also, as they have in the past, share knowledge within regional organizations (EURAC is a good example of this). 

In order to reach these goals, we need to develop better, more integrated intelligence capabilities so that we can provide timely, accurate information concerning threats, wherever they may emerge. We must be able to cover the entire spectrum of military tasks so that we have true operational consistency. 

In addition, we must improve the way civilian and political multinational organizations work together, and employ well-trained people who are knowledgeable about complex military tools.  

All of us need to address these issues—we need to understand what is within NATO and what is within Europe. This understanding will enhance multinational and regional cooperation and help us to face future challenges. As for the air force, one of our main tasks will be to foresee the nature of future air operations and the way these operations will be conducted in joint and multinational contexts. 


All of these thoughts lead to several questions: 

  • How can we coordinate our efforts to better involve regional actors in future crises? 
  • What assets do we need to guarantee the responsiveness and readiness that are expected of us? 
  • How can we improve regional exercises to harmonize military requirements and standards? 
  • How do we maintain and, in some cases, reinforce the level of interoperability among our forces? 

All of us need to address these questions in order to identify and face the challenges of tomorrow. If we want to successfully confront a wider range of unpredictable threats, we need to share knowledge with and increase trust in a wide range of regional organizations. We also need to determine what future military operations might be and how they will be conducted in joint, multinational, and interagency contexts. 

To answer these questions, and to face all the challenges, all air forces must remain strongly committed to international cooperation.




















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