45 Years Ago Today The US Ended The Vietnam War—It’s Time To Do The Same In Afghanistan

Thursday, March 29, 2018
By Paul Martin

March 29 has been designated as National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which serves as a reminder that it is time to finally end the war in Afghanistan.

By Rachel Blevins
March 29, 2018

On March 29, 1973, the United States withdrew the last of its combat troops from Vietnam and the last prisoners of war that were held in North Vietnam returned to U.S. soil. While there is debate as to when U.S. military involvement in Vietnam officially ended, this day is regarded as National Vietnam War Veterans Day and in 2017, it is a clear reminder that the United States’ 16-year war in Afghanistan must come to an end.

Before the U.S. funded and aided proxy wars in the Middle East in the name of ending the War on Terror, it did the same in Vietnam and Korea in the name of stopping the spread of Communism. As with the current model, the U.S. spent years indirectly influencing the country’s politics before it directly declared war on North Vietnam on November 1, 1955.

According to estimates, more than 2 million civilians, 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters, 250,000 South Vietnamese fighters, and nearly 58,000 U.S. military members were killed in Vietnam during the war.

While many have argued that the Vietnam War was “an attempt by the United States to suppress a heroic Vietnamese national liberation movement that had driven French colonialism out of its country,” or “a tragic mistake brought about by U.S. leaders who exaggerated the influence of communism and underestimated the power of nationalism,” one thing is clear—the U.S. is still using the same tactics and making the same mistakes today.

When the U.S. announced the beginning of the Afghanistan War on October 7, 2001, it did so by telling Americans that the goal was to eradicate Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. At the time, it was less than one month after nearly 3,000 people were killed in an attack that was quickly blamed on Al-Qaeda, on September 11, 2001.

Americans shifted their focus from stopping the spread of Communism to stopping the spread of terrorism. But in the same way that North Vietnam eventually prevailed and the Vietnam War is now considered a massive failure on the United States’ long list of military interventions, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are flourishing in Afghanistan 16 years after the U.S. pledged to defeat them.

The Afghanistan War has cost more than $1 trillion and more than 31,000 civilian deaths have been documented. It should be noted that over the last few years, civilian deaths have substantially increased—which serves as a reminder that the situation is only getting worse.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting civilian casualties in 2009. The combined number of civilians who were killed and injured that year was nearly 6,000. The number has steadily increased over the years, and in 2016, it reached a record high with nearly 3,500 killed and nearly 8,000 injured.

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