Worse than the fall of Saigon
The popular pushback against comparisons of the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul with that of Saigon in 1975 is that they are entirely different, and can’t be compared in any way, shape or form.
As Philip Caputo writes in Politico, that’s…not true:
As a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam (1965-1966), a reporter who was among the last to be evacuated from Saigon by helicopter (1975) and a correspondent who covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from the Afghan side (1980), I can say with authority that I agree wholeheartedly with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement, “This is not Saigon.”
Worse…yet so very familiar:
One similarity between the two conflicts stands above others: The Great American Delusion machine operated as effectively in the Hindu Kush as it did in the Mekong Delta, producing rosy predictions of victory that were contradicted by the gloomy facts on the ground. No one in Washington imagined that 75,000 insurgents would defeat 300,000 Afghan soldiers, supported by heavy artillery and gunships, in a few weeks without expending much ammunition. The NVA had to fight their way into Saigon, the Taliban basically walked into Kabul.
A scene from Caputo’s stint in Afghanistan in 1980 is worth repeating:
It was clear right away that the mujahideen were determined to expel a foreign invader, no matter how long it took, no matter how outgunned they were. Once, my photographer, an Englishman named Steve Bent, and I were hiding in a cave with a band of insurgents while two Russian MI-24 gunships prowled low and slow over the river in front of us. At the mouth of the cave, a mujahid aimed his rifle at the choppers, armed with mini-guns, rocket pods, bomb racks and electronic sensors. I prayed he would not shoot and bring all that techno wrath down on our heads. After the aircraft flew on, I asked to look at his rifle. Stamped on the receiver were the initials V.R. — Victoria Regina — and the date of its manufacture: 1878. It was a single shot Martini-Henry, the standard infantry weapon of Rudyard Kipling’s British-Indian army.
The saying making the rounds is Americans had all the watches but the Taliban had all the time. And they measure it in centuries.