By Isa Cox September 18, 2021 at 12:57pm
On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that French troops had killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, one of the top Islamic State leaders in Africa who took responsibility for the slaying of four U.S. troops in Niger in 2017.
The U.S. had a $5 million bounty on al-Sahraoui, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and Macron wrote on Twitter that the drone strike which took him out in August was “another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel.”
“The nation is thinking tonight of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel in the Serval and Barkhane operations, of the bereaved families, of all of its wounded. Their sacrifice is not in vain. With our African, European and American partners, we will continue this fight,” his French-language tweet added.
France, a key U.S. ally, has been a major military force responding to the rise of the Islamic State in the Sahel region of West Africa over the past several years as widespread instability and a lack of significant forces have made it difficult for local governments to fend off the jihadi insurgency.
And while the U.S. and France have worked closely together in the global war on terror in Africa and elsewhere, on the day Macron announced that al-Sahraoui had been successfully taken out by French forces, American President Joe Biden announced a new security deal with Britain and Australia that leaves France conspicuously snubbed.
The defense pact was so offensive to our French friends, in fact, that the move earned Biden a comparison to his predecessor President Donald Trump on the part of French officials.
Wednesday evening, Biden announced that the U.S. and the U.K. would be helping Australia develop nuclear submarines to bolster its defenses against an increasingly aggressive China. However, this meant Australia would be pulling out of a massive $66 billion deal with French defense contractors as a result, as The New York Times reported.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who had called the 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group the “deal of the century,” said on Thursday that he felt “stabbed in the back” by the “unacceptable” new arrangement, Bloomberg reported.
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“This unilateral, brutal, unforeseeable decision really looks like what Mr. Trump was doing,” Le Drian declared. “This move is unacceptable between allies who want to develop a structured Indo-Pacific partnership.”
Le Drian plans to seek an explanation from the Australians over how they plan to withdraw from the defense contract, while Macron, who was touting the relationship between France and Australia over the summer, would be discussing the matter with German Angela Merkel over dinner in Paris Thursday evening.
It gets worse. Le Drian has recalled the French ambassador to the United States over the snub, a move which he said was “justified by the exceptional gravity” of the offensive new deal excluding France.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was her usual standoffish self when confronted on the alienating deal on Thursday.
“We value our relationship and our partnership with France on a variety of issues facing the global community, whether it’s economic growth, or whether it’s the fight against COVID, or addressing security throughout the world,” she stated, adding that it was on Australia to explain “why they pursued this technology from the United States.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had virtually the same message, insisting that the U.S. places “fundamental value” on its relationship with France and passing the buck to Australia “to describe why they sought this new technology.”
Now, from the perspective of both the United States and global security at large, the deal to bolster Australia’s defenses with American-made submarines is increasingly desirable as war drums have been reverberating across the waters of the Pacific.
Yet we do need everyone in the west to get along in order to effectively stand up to China’s advances. Our treaties with nations like France exist for a reason, and we simply can’t afford to alienate such a critical ally that has clearly shown its worth in the willingness to fight global terror in Africa and the Middle East. Do we really want to cut them out of the deal, literally, as we build up western defenses against the threatening might of China?
What’s more, not only does this deal crucially alienate one of our most important allies, but it came from a president who wasn’t supposed to alienate our foreign allies.
Trump never pretended he’d be considerate to our European friends at the possible cost of global security — far from it. He always made clear he didn’t care who he offended if he thought he was doing what was best for America and global security at large. Whether you’re a fan of this style of diplomacy or not, there’s certainly no pretending he ever put on any airs about making sure his foreign counterparts were always pleased.
But Biden, in the vein of former President Barack Obama before him, was supposed to be the one who would make sure his foreign counterparts were pleased. He sure seems concerned about what the Taliban thinks. But not France?
That’s right, this is made all the worse by the fact that it comes in the wake of Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, during which Macron’s French troops appeared to have done more to rescue civilians from Taliban-controlled zones than Biden’s handcuffed military could.
Our allies, including France, were forced to withdraw ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline, despite practically begging Biden to keep NATO troops in the region as long as it took to evacuate everyone. But Biden was more interested in pleasing a violent Islamic insurgency group than the critical European allies that have helped us maintain global security for 75 years.
Trump might have been willing to alienate our European allies on the world stage — but he never would have limited the American military, ignored our NATO allies over terrorists, or abandoned American and European civilians abroad.
Biden is behaving like Trump — but he’s simply not Trump, and he never promised to be like Trump, which makes it all the worse for Biden and sadly, our partners overseas.