The resurgence of the Taliban and the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is an incredible tragedy that has provoked emotional memories of past wars and policy debates. There have been many references to the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam as an important historical analogy in assessing the implications of the situation in Afghanistan; however, a better analogy is Cambodia. The history of Cambodia offers not only important critical insights into the implications of the current situation in Afghanistan, but also important reminders that there is still hope for future U.S. foreign policy and the international community’s approach to the Afghan people.
We must be serious and forward thinking in our approach; the very future of Afghanistan hangs in the balance.
It is hard not to compare the images of the chaotic air lifting of American and Afghan peoples with images of the United States’ departure from Southeast Asia. Many popular news media have made this comparison, drawing from the images of the rooftop airlift to evacuate personnel by helicopter from Saigon, Vietnam. One cannot deny that the frenzied departure of Americans from the rooftops of hotels in Kabul appears remarkably similar to the images of the chaotic evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Vietnam almost 50 years ago. But the similarities really end there, and Cambodia, for a number of reasons, is the better analogy.