The last helicopter out of Kabul

How the evacuation of Kabul has drawn some stark comparisons to the ending of the Vietnam War

The last US helicopter to depart Saigon, South Vietnam, on 30 April 1975

The scenes of desperation from people in Afghanistan have dominated the news since the Taliban invasion of the country was confirmed.

The group has swept across the nation and last week claimed the capital of Kabul. This led to hundreds of Afghans fleeing to the airport in the city with desperate hopes of escaping the impending Taliban regime, and one shocking video showing people falling from the outside of an aircraft hundreds of feet in the air.

This desperate chaos has unfolded in the days following US military withdrawal from the country, effectively leaving the Afghan people at the mercy of the Taliban.

Flights from across the West have gone to pick up foreign nationals and embassy workers as the new regime begins to take hold of the country, and the events of the last week in Kabul are proving to be a stark reminder that when we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

In April 1975, similar scenes of people fleeing a city on the cusp of invasion were spread around the world. On this occasion, the city was Saigon and the people were escaping the North Vietnamese invasion that were closing in on the city.

The military evacuation was swift from the USA in 1975, but the agreement to end military involvement had been made in 1973. A cease fire and an agreement that the South Vietnamese government would remain in charge until an election could be held was made, but not kept.

The war, which by 1973 looked to be winding down, intensified once more and by the end of 1974, an estimated 80,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians had been killed during a year that would become the bloodiest of the Vietnam War.

In the years following the departure of the USA, the two nations were united as one and it was agreed that the nation would follow the governmental rulings of socialism. People in the south were sent to ‘re-education camps’.

By the end of the decade, tens of thousands of South Vietnamese had fled the country, unwilling to live under the new communist hand. Whilst many successfully settled overseas, a significant number died at sea attempting to escape for a better life.

It goes without saying that this example is one that we have seen repeated many times in history. A western nation intervenes in a conflict in the east, causes countless deaths and untold suffering, removes its involvement and pushes thousands of locals to make the perilous, often deadly decision to risk sailing around the world in search of safety. Is this factor of an invasion likely to change soon? Somehow, it is doubtful.

The ink of the pages of Afghanistan’s recent history is still drying on the pages, and the events of what the Taliban regime will bring in the next few years will be closely scrutinised by the wider world, but what can be said for sure is that there is actual proof that what we are seeing unfold in Afghanistan has occurred many times in history before and sadly, it will likely happen again.

Humans have rarely learnt lessons from history. With Afghanistan, it feels as though this will be just another example of this.