As the Biden administration attempted to diminish comparisons of the U.S. evacuation from Kabul to the 1975 fall of Saigon, it found an unlikely adversary: The legacy media frequently said the situation in Afghanistan is as bad as, or worse than, what happened 46 years ago.
Comparisons between the aftermath of America’s two longest wars abounded, as people around the world saw heartrending images of Afghan citizens clinging to U.S. airplanes and falling to their death as they took flight.
Received this from an Iraqi source, a meme about the chaotic US exit from #Afghanistan now racing around the Arab world.
— Kim Dozier (@KimDozier) August 15, 2021
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to deny that the two foreign policy embarrassments bore any similarity to one another.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Jake Tapper asked Blinken, “President Biden is intent on avoiding a Saigon moment — that’s a reference, of course, to the hasty and humiliating U.S. evacuation from Vietnam. But with this troop surge to airlift Americans out of Afghanistan, aren’t we already in the midst of a Saigon moment?
“No, we’re not,” replied Blinken. “Remember, this is not Saigon.” Blinked argued that, unlike in Vietnam, the U.S. accomplished its strategic objective in Afghanistan by killing Osama bin Laden a decade ago.
Jake Tapper to Blinken: "President Biden is intent on avoiding a Saigon moment… but with this troop surge to air lift Americans out of Afghanistan, aren’t we already in the midst of a Saigon moment?" pic.twitter.com/SRmb6j4N4e
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) August 15, 2021
Blinken repeated a variation of that line on ABC’s “This Week,” saying, “This is manifestly not Saigon.”
Later in the day on “CNN Newsroom,” Fredericka Whitfield played the secretary’s two denials before asking CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali if comparing the 2021 collapse of Kabul to the 1975 fall of Saigon is “a fair comparison.”
“It’s a very fair comparison,” Naftali replied.
“For the last 10 years, our government has been trying to figure out what our mission should be, how to declare victory?” he said. “What Joe Biden did was that he remembered a debate he had with President Obama when he was vice president” over ending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. “He lost that debate. And so as president, he decided to close down a mission he didn’t believe in anymore. The problem is, what about the implications?”
“If Afghanistan returns to being a safe haven for Islamists, what have we spent 20 years doing there?” Naftali asked. “Yes, we beat al-Qaeda — we beat that generation of al-Qaeda. But there is another generation — which we saw with ISIS — of Islamists who are willing to do harm to the rest of the world. Are they going to find a home in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan?”
“If that occurs,” he said, “this is the Saigon moment for President Biden”; it will become his “legacy,” and “an albatross around his neck for the rest of time.”
Last Wednesday, President Biden told George Stephanopoulos that he had planned for every contingency, that there was no way to end a war without chaos, and that things could not have gone better. Naftali seemed to anticipate these objections. “He should take ownership of the chaos in Kabul,” he said. The pandemonium at the end of the U.S. war is “not America’s doing. But the way in which this [evacuation] is ending, we played a role in that.”
CNN’s pushback did not wait until “CNN Newsroom.” Just minutes after Tapper interviewed Blinken, he interviewed Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX). Rep. McCaul said that he and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker had analyzed the situation, and “we think it’s going to be worse than Saigon.”
Rep. Michael McCaul says the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is "an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions."
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 15, 2021
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