Vets Fear, Like Post-Vietnam, US Unlikely to Learn Lessons From Afghanistan

© AP Photo / Anja NiedringhausAn Afghan Army soldier pauses before dropping his helmet and his gun next to his comrade's equipment at a training facility in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.
An Afghan Army soldier pauses before dropping his helmet and his gun next to his comrade's equipment at a training facility in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.08.2021
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) Barrington M. Salmon - US policymakers are unlikely to absorb any lessons from the Afghanistan war, despite accomplishing nothing in 20 years, just like they failed to learn from mistakes made in Vietnam, American Army veterans told Sputnik.
Just a couple days after the Taliban* seized Kabul, the US inspector general for Afghan reconstruction released a "lessons learned" report which shined on a bright light on America's failed efforts to stabilize Afghanistan since 2001. The report, released on Tuesday, also slammed the US military’s inability to effectively train Afghan government forces, which collapsed quicker than expected on Sunday.
In fact, the speed of the Taliban takeover blindsided the Biden administration, which has come under fire this week after footage went viral depicting chaos at the Kabul airport as the US tried to evacuate civilians and Afghan refugees, evoking memories of the American exit from Saigon nearly five decades ago.
After criticism over abandoning Afghans, the United States announced that it will house some 22,000 refugees in military bases across the US, including sites where whistleblowers have complained of abuses.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Afghans still need to be evacuated - including thousands who helped the US during the war.
"Lessons learned means that they’ve messed up and after 2 months, they’ll be back doing the same foolishness," US Army veteran Larry Sewer, who served in Vietnam, told Sputnik. "The US will turn on the people who helped them and leave them there, as we saw in Vietnam in 1975."

And the Cycle Continues…

The 79-year-old Sewer, who enlisted in the US Army when he was 19, said he is struck by the arrogance and ignorance shown by the United States in the two decades it fought the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Much of the loss of life, the squandering of American money and resources and the focus on an undefined mission could have been avoided, he added. But hubris, greed, attempts to control the region and visions of expanding the American empire drove those in charge, Sewer said.
US leaders, Sewer added, should take time to examine what went wrong and how to avoid such failures in the future after spending $2 trillion over 20 years, including $83 billion on training Afghan forces, with no noticeable gains.
Yet political and military leaders will not, he added, hence America could find itself in a similar situation somewhere down the road, as they continue to use the same "playbook."
"What about the equipment and supplies? Some of the Taliban rode into Kabul in a Humvee. Fidel Castro rode into Havana on a military truck. That shows that they have your assets," Sewer said. "Afghanistan and Vietnam look a lot alike with the way things played out at the airport and the last helicopter leaving Saigon."
He said the buzzword Americans like to use is "in America’s best interests."
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"In the US perspective, everyone has their role, has their place and their value is determined by how they fit in with America’s national interests," Sewer said. "If it’s not in America’s interests, they aren’t doing it."
In the meantime, while occupying a country, Sewer said, the United States takes natural resources "on the ground, underground and above ground."
Retired US Army Major Frank Phillips, who was with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, also saw similarities between the Afghan exit in 2021 and the Fall of Saigon in 1975.
"I think it is like Vietnam. We’ve been there for a long time and accomplished little," Phillips told Sputnik. "From a military perspective, it’s good that we’re out of there… but I don’t know if anything came out of this."
The only positive I see is to protect the people who helped us. If not, that will make it difficult to gain people’s trust in the future. When we go into these countries, we have to depend on people. They know things we don’t, know things we may never know."
"I’m a little disappointed that we left those guys there. That’s what brings me the most pain," he said. "From my perspective, at a minimum, I would hope that they get as many people who have worked with Americans as possible. I felt a little more comfortable when I heard that some of them were here."
There is also "always talk about money going into people’s pockets," Phillips said, underscoring the high level of endemic corruption the US watchdog reported.
Meanwhile, the Afghans remain unconquered, Phillips added.

Playbook Blowback

Sewer said racist and classist themes are also at play because Afghans, Blacks and other non-whites are regarded as the "load-bearing" people, those on the frontlines doing the hard work who end up as collateral damage.
"Whites do not learn from nobody," Sewer said. "The only thing they learned is to double down, put money in places where it will fail and then blame the people they gave the money to."
The great powers, including countries like the United States and Britain, he added, have used the same playbook in places like Africa, India, Asia, and Australia, among others.
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Sewer warned that the United States could see unrest when troops return, with many angry over the loss of life, injuries and other problems military personnel must deal with.
"It’s been 50 years since Vietnam and returning troops coming home will be pissed. America will be under fire," Sewer said. "The insurrection is coming again and police and the military will be deciding who are allowed to leave."
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