America’s desperate attempt to evacuate embassy staff from the Afghan capital of Kabul has been compared to the fall of Saigon in 1975. In Saigon, the U.S. military troops hastily pulled out 7,000 citizens from the Vietnamese city.
Larry Chambers was skipper of the Midway aircraft carrier during the Saigon evacuation. The 92-year-old believes what is happening in Kabul is actually worse than what took place in Saigon.
“We tried to get out as many people who worked with us as we could [from Saigon]… Did we do a good job? Who knows? I do not know what [the Taliban is] going to do, but whatever it is, [is] not going to be pretty… We made a promise to those folks [in Vietnam] that we would rescue them, and we didn’t… In Afghanistan, we are abandoning the folks who supported us while we were there,” Chambers said in an interview with Military Times.
Chambers said that one thing that makes the fall of Kabul worse than Saigon is the proximity to the ocean. Saigon is located 30 miles off the coast; Kabul is situated 800 miles from the Arabian Sea, which is too far for a small airplane or an overloaded helicopter. Kabul airport is also flanked by mountains; the Taliban can easily use these mountains to fire down at the airport and the airplanes.
Kabul airport was temporarily shut down after Afghan nationals broke through the perimeter and forced security forces to fire in the air. U.S. military flights have resumed, but the situation continues to be tense on the ground. Foreign nations are also rushing in to evacuate their people. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the “images of desperation” at the airport “shameful for the political West.”
Kimberley Motley, an international human rights attorney, was working to get Afghans out of the country. She called the situation a “human rights nightmare” and compared it to America’s Vietnam exit. “This is like Saigon on steroids,” she said.
Mariam Sulaimankhil, a female lawmaker from Afghanistan, cried on her flight leaving Kabul. “The next time I come here it will be a white Taliban flag… Today was one of the worst days of my life. We are leaving people we know behind, in danger. It’s terrifying,” she told The Wall Street Journal.
Elise Stefanik, chair of the House Republican Conference, criticized President Joe Biden for the situation in Afghanistan. She said that Trump’s Afghan policy was “conditions-based” and that Biden “totally abandoned” it, allowing the Taliban to break the agreement.
“This is Joe Biden’s Saigon… Joe Biden is desperately attempting to pass the buck. But the buck always stops with the President of the United States. There is only one Commander-in-Chief. There is only one person who sits behind the Resolute Desk. The responsibility for this failure rests solely with President Joe Biden,” Stefanik said in a statement.
The fall of Saigon happened two years after American forces had withdrawn from Vietnam. However, the fall of Kabul has taken place amidst the evacuation of American troops. President Biden might end up facing a bigger political impact than what President Gerald Ford faced back in 1975.
“I have little doubt that it’s going to hurt Biden… It’s going to be viewed as a loss, and possibly as a disgrace… it really was his call, fairly or not,” Christopher Phelps, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC.