OPINION. We must keep in mind the circumstances in which the decisions were taken in the aftermath of these attacks of unheard-of violence, writes our columnist François Nordmann

Twenty years ago, the attacks in New York and Washington were greeted with fear and amazement. On the same day, the Federal Council said it was shocked and dismayed by “the inconceivable human tragedy” which had occurred in the United States. He was learning “the absolutely new and hitherto unknown dimension of international terrorism.” He condemned “with the utmost vehemence these attacks, which have exposed in the most brutal way the vulnerability of a highly developed society and its security arrangements”. And to extend his condolences to the victims as well as to the American people and government.

This text, unusually long and comprising infrequent value judgments in an official statement, reflected the emotion felt throughout the country and the world: “We entered the twenty-first century through gates of fire,” said little. after Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations. One wondered about the nature and significance of these terrorist operations: would they multiply in developed countries? What parade could we oppose them? The message had to be deciphered first, especially in the writings of bin Laden and other jihad theorists.

At the same time, attention was focused on what form the reaction of the attacked superpower would take. A few days later, the annual session of the London Institute for Strategic Studies opened in Geneva, which had changed its agenda to analyze the causes and consequences of the 9/11 crimes. Informed circles hoped that a battered America would not take disproportionate and thereby counterproductive action to deal with a terrorist threat. For the experts gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel, it was feared that Washington would choose to attack Iraq, which they believed was wrong. They were relatively reassured when they realized that it was Afghanistan that would bear the brunt of the US retaliation.

The police operation to search for bin Laden, whom the Taliban refused to extradite, was an act of self-defense, recognized as such by the international community. As of September 12, 2001, the Security Council, by condemning the attacks perpetrated against the United States, unanimously and in the strongest terms, reaffirmed its determination to fight against threats to peace and security. international organizations resulting from acts of terrorism. The anti-Taliban operation was a fight for freedom, President George W. Bush told Congress.

In 2003, the mission changed direction: if we wanted to prevent Afghanistan from becoming again a base for terrorist movements, we had to help it develop and transform its governance, open up and modernize the country. The doctrine of “state building” was then current, launched by Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in his Agenda for Peace of 1992. It was to accompany peacekeeping operations and eliminate the causes of the civil wars which provoked the intervention of the Blue Helmets. The notion did not appear unreasonable. At the time, the euphoria of the end of the Cold War reigned in the United States.

It seemed irresponsible to leave Afghanistan after driving out the Taliban. It was a long-term effort. Today, we know he failed, but he had to be tried, by the criteria of the time. We also benefit today from a fairer appreciation of terrorism and the methods of countering it. If the organizations that claim it are omnipresent, the industrialized countries have the technical means of prevention, response and control with drones, communications and artificial intelligence. The situation is no longer the same, but we must bear in mind the circumstances in which the decisions were taken in the aftermath of these attacks of unheard-of violence.

The Opinions published by Le Temps come from personalities who speak for themselves. They in no way represent the position of Time.

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