During his speech on Friday about international cooperation on Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry referred to France as America’s “oldest ally.”
The statement might seem surprising given the fraught history over the Iraq war in 2003 — a time when the animosity between the two countries grew enough to have some Americans wanting to rename “French fries” as “freedom fries.” A lot has happened in the 10 years since.
For one, France has been a key member of the International Assistance Security Force in Afghanistan, with both combat troops and now trainers still in the country.
In the air war over Libya in 2011, it was France that launched the first salvos with the U.S. not far behind.
This year, the United States worked closely with the French in their military intervention in the West African country Mali as they fought to drive out Al Qaeda-backed militants. Then it was France that was pushing for military action and the United States that agreed to get involved, but first needed to weigh the legal ramifications over whether providing transport and gear would be the equivalent of America joining the fight.
In the end, the U.S. provided C-17 transport planes to transport a French armored battalion into Mali. The U.S. also provided air refueling tankers for the French fighters flying over Mali.
On top of that, the Obama administration agreed to be primary funders of an African-led force to fight alongside the French and Malian army.
The partnership was considered a fairly successful one, with enough militants being driven out of the country for the United Nations to bring in a peace-keeping force. Mali held new presidential elections this month without incident.
Despite Thursday’s parliamentary vote against Britain joining a military intervention in Syria, the country is still be considered America’s closest ally, but recent history shows France may not be far behind.