Just a day after Osama bin Laden warned France to remove its troops from Afghanistan, French Defense Minister Herve Morin announced Thursday, Oct. 28 that the withdrawal of French troops would begin in early 2011. Paris then raised its terror alert level to "red" after confirming the authenticity of the Bin Laden audiotape aired Wednesday.
The French government is obviously taking very seriously the threat issued by al Qaeda's leader: "The only way to safeguard your nation and maintain your security is to lift all your injustice and its extensions off our people and most importantly to withdraw your forces from Bush's despicable war in Afghanistan," said Bin Laden.
Paris appears to believe that al Qaeda teams may already be in Paris poised to back up the threat, debkafile's counter-terror sources report. Defense minister Morin was pressured enough to make two separate statements: First he said, "There is a fixed date by NATO in the framework of its new strategy. That is the start of 2011." He then stated: "At this moment, there could be the first movements or withdrawal of allied forces from Afghanistan."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was interior minister with responsibility for the war on al Qaeda in March 2004 when its bombers blew up Madrid trains and railway stations killing 191 people and injuring more than 1,800. Then too Al Qaeda gave the Spanish government an ultimatum to withdraw its troops from Iraq – and struck with lethal force when it was not heeded.
Sarkozy appears determined to prevent this happening to France.
Morin tried hard to explain that the decision to pull the 3,750 French troops out of Afghanistan was not connected to the Bin Laden warning – but he was not convincing.
debkafile's counterterrorism sources say that never since the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, has any Western country caved in so quickly and precisely to an Al Qaeda ultimatum.