America was in Afghanistan it wasn’t supposed to be another Vietnam. “I don’t get stuck,” said Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of the original American invasion, who died last week. In the end, the former US defense secretary made two deadlocks, gleefully assuming that Afghanistan was “won” in the spring of 2003 when he sent US troops to fight in Iraq.
American combat troops were in Vietnam for eight years, but they have been in Afghanistan for 20. It has been America’s longest war by far.
Joe Biden has insisted that the pullout is not entirely complete, but the few hundred US soldiers remaining in Afghanistan are on guard duty. The abandonment of the Bagram air base on Friday marked the true end of the US military presence in the country.
Built by the Soviet Union in the 1950s, Bagram was the center of American operations for two decades, as well as a famous prison camp. American planes will continue to fly over Afghanistan, but will be launched from “the horizon”, from warships and bases in other countries.
As in Vietnam, the United States is leaving after a peace agreement with an enemy that it tried to destroy and failed. As in Vietnam, the emboldened enemy is not expected to keep the peace. Saigon held out for two years against the North Vietnamese army after the American withdrawal. Some US intelligence estimates don’t even give Kabul six months.
The embassy in the Afghan capital has its own “emergency action plan” for worst-case scenarios, released by Political on Friday, which inevitably brings back memories of the humiliating fighting from the roof of the Saigon mission in April 1975. Then, as now, those who worked with the Americans, like the military interpreters, have been begging to be evacuated alongside them.
According to the United Nations, at least 50 of Afghanistan’s nearly 400 districts have fallen to the Taliban since May. With the departure of the United States, Afghan civilians are trying to organize self-defense militias to defend their villages against the forces waiting in the countryside around them. .
The military lesson from Vietnam was that the United States could not carry out a counterinsurgency thousands of miles from home against an enemy driven by ideologies rooted in a community that ultimately viewed US troops as occupiers. It was a lesson learned and then forgotten in the honor that followed the 9/11 attacks.
Rumsfeld thought he could sidestep the shadow of Vietnam using a small number of American special forces in association with local warlords, but this is how America’s involvement in Vietnam began in 1964, with small groups of “Team A “who trained regular and paramilitary groups. In the south.
Ultimately, in Afghanistan, young Americans who were not even born when the war began were deployed, in some cases serving alongside their parents who had served multiple tours there.
Both wars worked like a disaster, drawing more and more troops, money, and equipment to justify and protect what had already been spent or lost. Once Americans and Afghans died to drive out the Taliban, open schools for girls, and bolster the army, the withdrawal seemed like a betrayal.
That mindset kept the “eternal war” going, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. Those who collect weapons to defend their villages and many Afghan women and civil society activists now feel betrayed by the leaving Americans.
Whatever happens, more death and suffering are inevitable. Joe Biden and the US will not be able to escape some degree of responsibility, even if they are no longer there.