From Mayday Saigon to Mayday Kabul; tale of wars abandoned by US
The history of the United States of America is filled with conflicts and battles. From east to west the American forces have been seen on fronts with one group or another. After the end of World War II, the cold war sparked in which the US played a key role. From supplying tactical and military aid to deploying combat-ready troops; the pentagon was on its toes. But not every war turned in favor of US interests. In some cases, the balls were in the court of opposition.
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But being a hegemon and the conqueror of the second world war it was against the self-conceit and ego of the victor to see someone else with the victor’s trophy. There were times when the US had to unplug itself from the wars leaving behind its aides and allies in distressful conditions where even their chance of their existence in the future was at stake.
In the 1960s, soon after the creation of the 17th parrel line dividing Vietnam into north and south; the US started implementing their Truman doctrine in this particular region. They supported the South Vietnamese against the north communist ones. In the late 1960s, the USA landed its combat-ready troops to fight and assist the south against the North Vietnamese. In this almost two-decades-long war, around 58000 American troops laid down their life.
It was the biggest loss to the US forces since the end of World War II. In addition to this around million Vietnamese also became victims of this brutal conflict. During the initial days of the 1970s, the pentagon completely realized that this war is never going to be as easy as they imagined. With anti-war protests on spark within the US and thousands of troops dying, it was now clear for Nixon’s administration that the Vietnam war was out of hand. To keep it in good books of US history, The USA signed Paris-peace agreements with the north in 1973 in which it decided to withdraw its troops. This agreement was never implemented in its full fledge form. The newly formed government of President Ford went to the peaks by taking off its hands from its allies in South Vietnam. In 1974, the attacks from the north reached new levels. With each day passing towns and cities were falling to the communist North Vietnam military and Vietcong fighters. By March 1975, they were at the doorstep of South Vietnam’s capital Saigon. In such a distressful time, US forces evacuated themselves, their staff, and a few lucky allied south -Vietnamese in miserable conditions.
Thousands of sorties of Chinook and Huey helicopters took place which airlifted the Americans and their allies to their navy ships resting in international waters. In April 1975, north-Vietnamese took over the presidential palace in Saigon making the US forces flee and marking an end to one of the deadliest combats of the cold war.
Later in 2003, the USA attacked Iraq and overthrew Saddam’s regime. They claimed that Saddam was possessing WMDs but they were never found. Iraq was pushed into chaotic circumstances with different groups fighting for power after the US invasion. In 2007 pentagon decided to withdraw its troops and leave the state on its own, The complete withdrawal took place in 2011. Still, life in Iraq has never turned normal and the ones who collaborated with the Americans are being hunted and miserably dealt.
In mid-2011, The civil war was ignited in Syria and different armed groups began to strive for power. The governing body of Al-Assad joined hands with Russia. Putin’s administrations supported the Syrian government of President Al-Assad. The Russian regional supremacy was a matter of great concern for the Whitehouse. To tackle the Russian hold, the USA again jumped into this violent conflict and joined hands with Kurds. But tides again turned and this bond didn’t last in a long term. The USA again pulled back and the Kurds with multiple fronts opened were left on their own.
The case of Afghanistan was not an exceptional one. USA fought for 20 years, saw four presidential changes, spent a total of 2.26 trillion USD, and at the last left the state of Afghanistan in the same miserable conditions. In 2001, American forces invaded Afghanistan and kicked the Taliban out of Kabul. They struggled and kept their hold for 20 years. They directed a new government formed a national military and spent billions on infrastructural developments. But the history of Afghanistan speaks differently. Often termed as the Graveyard of empires, Afghanistan turned out to be another Vietnam for the US forces. Being left with no choice, Bidens administration finally realized that it was time to pull out from Kabul as the war was going in uncertain directions.
It is often said that US forces had the clock but the Taliban had the time. In 2021, Biden officially announced a proper withdrawal after the Doha talks in which possible negotiations were made with the Taliban. Taliban started advancement and the US-supported Kabul government and the military failed to resist. Finally, In August 2021, the Taliban entered the streets of Kabul without any resistance claiming their victory. The US evacuated itself to the Kabul airport which was the last escape hole for the American forces and its allies. Thousands of Afghans who assisted the US mission in Afghanistan were left unsheltered.
People spectated many dramatic scenes during the Kabul evacuation that recalled the memories of evacuation from Saigon. Analysts believe that it is not the latest edition of Vietnam for the US forces instead it is worse than that. It’s the most recent war that US forces have abandoned. Now the life of many who collaborated with the Americans is at stake outside the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan.
Author: Muhammad Usama
Muhammad Usama is an undergraduate of Peace & Conflict Studies at National Defense University Islamabad. His areas of interest cover the constantly changing political and strategical demographics of the world. He can be reached at @Usama_Pak1