Is This the Right Way to End a War?

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tags: foreign policy, Vietnam, military history, Afghanistan

Afghanistan long ago took from Vietnam the title of America’s longest war, when it passed the 13-year mark in 2014.

Five years later, with the recent possibility of a peace deal that would bring another American withdrawal from an unpopular war, comparisons of the two conflicts are once again rife — even among many of the leaders America has sent to Afghanistan in recent years.

Ryan Crocker, who was twice America’s top diplomat in Kabul, led the chorus of people sensing déjà vu. “It just reminds me of the Paris peace talks on Vietnam,” Mr. Crocker, now diplomat-in-residence at Princeton, said. “By going to the table, we basically were telling the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, ‘We surrender, we’re here just to work out the terms.’” 

He was comparing the Paris negotiations that led to America’s withdrawal from Vietnam with six days of talks between the American envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. The talks ended Jan. 26 in a preliminary agreement that American troops would be withdrawn in exchange for Taliban guarantees not to allow terrorists to attack America again. “I just cannot see this getting to any better place,” Mr. Crocker said. “We don’t have a whole lot of leverage here. I can’t see this as anything more than putting lipstick on what will be a U.S. withdrawal.”

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