when the United States was Al-Qaida’s “top priority”

By Christophe Ayad and Soren Seelow

Posted today at 19:37, updated at 19:52

New York, September 11, 2001. On a beautiful Indian summer morning, the world is entering the new millennium in a crash of rubble and dust. By erasing the twin towers of the World Trade Center from the New York skyline, Al-Qaida amazes the planet: the terrorist organization, until then best known for the simultaneous attacks in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) , in August 1998, as well as for the suicide attack of the destroyer USS Cole in October 2000 in the harbor of Aden (Yemen), succeeded in striking in the heart the first economic and military power of the world. Wall Street, the Pentagon: the two symbols of a triumphant America were touched by the suicide plane attack which caused nearly 3,000 deaths. The worst attack in the history of mankind. All that is missing is the Capitol, seat of democracy and target of the fourth plane, which crashed in Pennsylvania following a revolt by its passengers.

The towers of the World Trade Center ablaze after being struck by two planes in New York on September 11, 2001.

In a televised speech the same evening, Jacques Chirac, visiting Rennes, displays his unwavering solidarity with the American people and its President George W. Bush, struck by this Pearl Harbor of the XXIe century: “It is with immense emotion that France has just learned of these monstrous attacks – there is no other word – which have struck the United States of America. (…) France has, as you know, always condemned and condemns terrorism unreservedly and considers that it is necessary to fight terrorism by all means. “

A few days later, on September 20, he was the first foreign head of state to travel to New York to visit the ruins of the World Trade Center, the still-smoking crater of which he flew over by helicopter with the mayor, Rudy Giuliani. He then meets Bush junior and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan (1938-2018), to discuss the upcoming military response. From the end of the autumn, France joined without hesitation in the International Assistance and Security Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, under NATO command.

France is not a “priority”

Paris deploys the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle in addition to the porpoises of the 21e RIMA (the Marine Infantry Regiment) from November 2001, in Mazar-e Charif, in northern Afghanistan. As of January 2, 2002, 600 French soldiers are hard at work to participate in the occupation of Afghanistan as well as in the destruction of the residual terrorist networks. Despite this military commitment, France nevertheless appears relatively spared, during the first half of the 2000s, by the threat emanating from Al-Qaida. Obsessed with the United States, Osama bin Laden hardly ever mentions France in his public statements or in the unpublished writings to which The world had access. Extremely rare are the plans for attacks by the Al-Qaida organization targeting French interests during this period. France feels safe, protected by its image of independence and soft anti-Americanism.

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