I’ve previously looked at the similarities between the long and ultimately futile war in Vietnam, and the increasingly long and potentially futile conflict in Afghanistan. And, over time, voices in the USA have been making the same comparison. Now, Kai Bird, in an opinion piece for Politico, has also made that comparison.
Most significant and disturbing aspect of Bird’s analysis is that the land war in Vietnam lasted from 1965 to 1973 – eight years – but that the land war in Afghanistan has now overtaken that timescale. The corruption that had worked its way through the South Vietnamese Government appears to be equally endemic in that of Afghanistan.
Moreover, as has been seen in the past week, the Afghan army is not the most reliable fighting force. As Bird notes, the USA wanted to hand over to the Vietnamese army as a way of disengaging from the conflict: this was futile, given its utter ineffectiveness – something like fifteen thousand VietCong were consistently outplaying an army of around a quarter of a million.
Now, the push in Afghanistan is to hand over to the Afghan army. The parallel, together with the ever lengthening timescale, is significant. As Bird concludes, “If the war has become a quagmire like Vietnam, then the Afghans should be fighting it”.