Why Afghanistan defeat may ‘haunt’ Joe Biden’s legacy – just like the fall of Saigon

Afghanistan: Biden ‘was playing politics’ says Neil

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The fall of Saigon in 1975 saw South Vietnam’s capital captured by the People’s Army of Vietnam. After almost two decades of fighting, the US was forced to evacuate, with pictures famously showing crowds of people desperately embarking on US military aircraft to flee. Following the recent fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the ongoing US and allied evacuations, comparisons have been drawn between America’s defeats in the two conflicts.

Former president Donald Trump signed a deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020.

The deal committed to withdrawing US and allied troops, including British forces, from Afghanistan by May 2021.

The Taliban agreed to undertake measures to prevent terror groups like Al-Qaeda from threatening the security of the US and its allies.

President Joe Biden backed this deal when he came into office, announcing earlier this year that all American troops would be out of Afghanistan by September.

But Mr Biden has faced significant criticism for his decision, with many arguing the Afghan people have been abandoned as the Taliban reconsolidates its power in the region.

The Taliban claimed Kabul on Sunday, and now Afghans live in fear for their lives as another period of strict Taliban rule looms.

Some have claimed the US’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, along with the country’s hasty and chaotic exit in recent days, can be seen as Mr Biden’s ‘Saigon moment’.

America’s exit from Afghanistan could be a defining legacy of the Biden administration, according to a historical expert.

Dr Donna Jackson, Senior Lecturer and specialist in American History and Politics at the University of Chester, said: “It took many years for the United States to recover from the shame of the fall of Saigon and the scenes of the evacuation that were seen around the world.

“The footage of the Afghans clinging to planes as they took off, and then falling to their deaths, is something that is perhaps even more horrific and unforgettable.

“Biden admitted in his news conference that he had been surprised by the speed with which the Taliban took control and this failure of intelligence is something that is hard to overlook and something that certainly contributed to the chaotic scenes we’ve witnessed these past few days.

“It is a legacy that may haunt the Biden administration in the same way that the fall of Saigon haunted the US in the 1970s.”

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While many have been critical of Mr Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, there is also the argument that Mr Biden inherited the deal to end the war that America had been involved in for two decades.

President Richard Nixon did not end the US involvement in Vietnam, with his successor Gerard Ford making the decision to withdraw from Vietnam.

Dr Jackson added: “When Richard Nixon took office in 1969, he had a choice.

“He could have ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam in the same way that Biden ordered the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“Had he done so, it is very likely that South Vietnam would have collapsed and that it would have been seen as a major failure of American foreign policy.

“It certainly would not have been the ‘peace with honour’ that Nixon sought.

“But in insisting on ‘peace with honour’ and trying to avoid the collapse that did, of course, come in 1975, over 27,000 more American servicemen and women died, and thousands more Vietnamese were killed or left homeless.

“When something is never going to end well, then perhaps that is the lesson from history that Joe Biden referred to in his press conference when explaining his withdrawal order.”

In reference to claims the current crisis is Mr Biden’s ‘Saigon moment’, Dr Aurelie Basha, a lecturer in American History at the University of Kent, said: “I suppose they’re implying that it is a humbling foreign policy moment for Biden, which it is or should be.

“There’s no doubt that this is a humiliating moment for the United States and indeed ‘the West’.

“But Gerald Ford was president when Saigon fell and I don’t think historians blame him for it.

“I think historians will see this as a cumulative series of mistakes with Biden’s decision to pull out so rapidly as the last big mistake… although who knows, more may follow.”

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