French military doctrine recognised two separate fields of armoured vehicle deployment, the first consisting of primary tasks such as maneuver and combat, while the second included other tasks such as rearguard defence, liaison, and deception. The latter was to be the responsibility of a mobile reserve which provided interior security during wartime - designated Défense Opérationnelle du Territoire (DOT) armoured cavalry regiments. Initially equipped with AMLs and jeeps modified for scouting purposes, these units worked closely with the French police and National Gendarmerie. Their goal was to intercept hostile special forces or airborne units which specialised in deep penetration behind the front line. Secondary tasks included counter-insurgency, passive observation, and guarding static installations.
Each DOT troop came to include three AML platoons. As they were expected to remain faithful to the traditional mission of reconnaissance where observation had priority over combat, a number of the Panhards seem to have been stripped of their main armament, necessitating crew dependence on the vehicle's secondary automatic weapons. Nevertheless, as French reconnaissance theory also suggested the occasional need to engage hostile armour and force it to deploy, AML-90s were favoured as well. DOT regiments came to hold a generic pool of sixteen AML-90s and thirty-four other AMLs of varying configuration.
As the AML was readily air transportable, it came to form the materiel strongpoint of the French Foreign Legion's rapid deployment force. The Legion AMLs saw combat overseas, either as part of single deployments by the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment or to provide fire support for other Legion regiments. Crews perfected unique airfield assaults in which AML-90s were unloaded directly from Transall C-160s onto the objective, with infantry joining them by parachute. These vehicles first saw combat against BTR-152s manned by FROLINAT rebels in Chad during Opération Tacaud. In the subsequent months, additional AML-90s rushed in by the Régiment d'infanterie-chars de marine (RICM) helped repel a major counter-offensive by the Chadian Democratic Revolutionary Council, which was backed by fifty Libyan T-55 tanks and EE-9 Cascavel armoured cars.
The Mobile Gendarmerie operated over a hundred AML-60s and AML-90s, which were allocated to nineteen separate squadrons. In subsequent decades, a number may have been replaced by the much heavier Renault VBC-90. France is still believed to possess three hundred AMLs in storage.
At least 52 AML-90s were delivered to the Lebanese Army in 1970-72, and saw considerable action during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). AMLs of the Irish Army (under UNIFIL) were also involved in actions against Lebanese militia armour at Atiri in South Lebanon in 1980. Two crew members received one of Ireland's highest military honours, the Military Medal for Gallantry, for their actions at Atiri.
The Israel Defense Forces ordered 29 AML-90s in 1960 and received them by the end of 1963. At least 9 were in service with a reconnaissance company of the Harel Brigade during the Six Day War. These vehicles participated in the capture of Ramallah in June 1967. Several were later destroyed attempting to engage Jordanian tanks on the Damia Bridge during the Battle of Karameh.
Saudi Arabia purchased 235 AMLs as part of an $90 million arms deal with France in 1967. The Saudi vehicles were blooded near Daraa during the Yom Kippur War, having been airlifted to assist its Syrian defenders in Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft loaned from Iran. At least four were lost in subsequent Israeli air and ground strikes, including one captured. Saudi Arabia has since retired much of its Panhard fleet and exported surplus stocks to various African nations, including Somalia, Senegal, Niger, and Morocco.
AML-90s were deployed, somewhat ineffectually, by Iraqi reconnaissance units against USMC and Saudi National Guard forces during the Battle of Khafji.
In the Falklands War, the Argentines deployed 12 AML-90s from Escuadron de Exploracion Caballeria Blindada 181 (181st Armoured Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron) and an unknown additional number from Escuadron de Exploracion Caballeria Blindada 10 near Port Stanley. During the Battle of Wireless Ridge the only armour versus armour engagement of the war was fought when these units encountered FV101 Scorpions and FV107 Scimitars of the Blues and Royals. The armoured cars were abandoned in Stanley after the conflict ended.
At least one AML-90 was destroyed by FMLN insurgents with rifle grenades and an M67 recoilless rifle in the Salvadoran Civil War.
During the Portuguese Colonial War, the Portuguese Army operated AML-60s in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. Approximately 50 were ordered in 1965 to replace the heavier Panhard EBR. Severe maintenance problems were encountered in the corrosive African environment, and custom air intakes cannibalised from utility vehicles had to be installed accordingly. Local engineers also copied several modifications applied to the Eland Mk7 for improved performance in this theater. In Portuguese service, the AML-60 equipped reconnaissance platoons, mainly used in convoy escort.
In 1987, during the Toyota War, FANT's use of swift wheeled vehicles, including AML-90s, allowed Chadian forces to break through combined arms formations and cause severe damage before the slower Libyan tanks could track or engage their targets. The Panhards, deployed in concert with MILAN missile teams at strategic hill junctures, frequently ambushed T-55s at a range of under three hundred metres.
In mid-December 2010, AMLs manned by Laurent Gbagbo's supporters were used to intimidate Ivorian civilians in Abidjan and the western countryside.
The Ecole de Formation et d'Application des Troupes Blindes, at Mbanza-Ngungu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was originally established by French Military Cooperation Mission to instruct African AML crews. Today, the academy can host 70 trainees; ten African armies are currently participating in the program.