US Flight Emboldens The Taliban And Shakes The Ghost Of Vietnam

Not a month ago the US announced that it was leaving Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation and, with three weeks to go until the deadline, all the news coming from there smells of despair. If the Americans are in a hurry to leave, it is almost the same as the Taliban are in a hurry to return. They already control half of the country’s districts and have conquered six provincial capitals in the last week. The Kabul of 2021 is getting a face of Saigon 1975. Many now remember that phrase falsely attributed to the writer Mark Twain who says that history does not repeat itself, but rhymes.

The US sees the fragile regime it has created in Afghanistan totter, but the decision has been made. Just as Richard Nixon knew his South Vietnamese ally would not survive without the American troops, also Joe Biden they have told him that his departure may put Afghanistan back in the hands of the Taliban. However, the reflection of both has solid arguments: what is the alternative? Stay another 20 years? Keep spending dollars and lives on something that doesn’t work? Nixon and Biden have adopted the same formula of “peace with honor” or, put another way, “flee without being noticed too much.” Americans were and they agree.


The simile between Afghanistan and Vietnam was already drawn by Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in 1979. Brzezinski was one of the main responsible for the US support to the Mujahideen against the Soviets and was determined to give back to the USSR the blow that Americans received in Vietnam. “The secret operation was an excellent idea. The day the USSR officially crossed the border I wrote to President Carter: ‘Now we have a chance to give the USSR its Vietnam war,'” he declared in a interview with the newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998. The USSR was hit hard, but more than 40 years later, it is the US that has trouble getting out of there.

Washington has been negotiating with the Taliban for years and is perfectly aware of the real situation in the country. The level of seriousness of what is happening in Afghanistan is perfectly appreciated in the measures that the US is taking in this regard and that are those of someone who is trying to save the bare minimum in the middle of a certain disaster. The embassy in Kabul has already asked all Americans to leave the country immediately

and wants to get out too to Afghans who collaborated with the US military and whose life is in danger if the Taliban return.

The two great American parties, which do not agree on almost anything, have made an exception in this. An overwhelming majority in Congress just pass an emergency law to expand the number of visas for these Afghans and has budgeted more than 400 million euros to get them out of the country and help them start a new life. Perhaps it is generosity or bad conscience on the part of American politicians, or perhaps just an attempt to avoid an image like that of the helicopters and the crowded rooftops in Saigon in April 1975.

The Afghans who worked for the US have more than enough reasons to flee, but they are not the only ones. The last time the Taliban seized Kabul, in 1996, they left signs of their barbarism From the first moment. His letter of introduction was to raid the United Nations headquarters in the capital and arrest a former president of the country who was there as a refugee. Mohammed Najibullah and his brother were tortured to death and the next morning their bodies were hung at a crossroads so that everyone in the city could get a preview of the Taliban vision of public administration.

The first decree of the Taliban as a government was to prohibit Afghan women from working, studying or leaving the home if they were not accompanied by a man. Thugs from the “Department for the Propagation of Virtue and Vice Prevention” began patrolling the streets to whip offenders. Then came the obligatory beards for men, the prohibition of music and cinema, and very soon public executions.

Some say that today’s Taliban are less backward than those of 1996, that they may even consider allowing a few years of education for girls. What is clear is that the US has no intention or intention to prevent it if that requires maintaining a military force in the country. As other great powers in Afghanistan have learned before, it doesn’t work. It is not clear if Mark Twain said that history does not repeat itself although it rhymes, but the best known Spanish philosopher in the US has one that is better suited to the moment. Jorge Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”



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