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Kamala Harris Still Plans Vietnam Visit as Afghanistan Crisis Evokes Memories of Saigon Disaster

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Recent photos from Afghanistan’s capital of people boarding US helicopters and planes to escape the Taliban*-captured country have been drawing gloomy comparisons with the Fall of Saigon over four decades ago.

US Vice President Kamala Harris has no plans to cancel her upcoming trip to Vietnam, according to The Washington Post, despite Joe Biden’s administration coming under fire for it’s role in the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, with many saying the situation is reminiscent of Washington’s chequered history in Southeast Asia. 

As the Taliban raised its flag above the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday following the end of America’s 20-year-long military engagement in the country, many couldn’t help comparing the Islamist group’s offensive to the chaos that erupted in Saigon in 1975 after the end of the US’ direct involvement in Vietnam. 

The Fall of Saigon greatly contributed to America’s withering image as a global power in the 1970s. According to comments from world leaders and reporting by the media, Sunday’s events have again put Washington’s ability to handle its global commitments under serious scrutiny. 

© REUTERS / REUTERS TV

People climb a barbed wire wall to enter the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this still image taken from a video

But as of Monday, VP Harris was still planning her trip to Southeast Asia, an anonymous White House official told the newspaper, despite comments that its timing is not great. 

For Harris, it will be her second overseas trip after her controversial – and long-awaited – visit to Mexico and Guatemala in June. In March, she was tasked by Biden to address the migrant crisis on the US southern border, however, the VP chose to avoid the worst migrant hotspots on her travels. 

Second Overseas Trip to Key Region

Harris is expected to arrive in Singapore on Sunday before visiting Vietnam on 24 August. According to the source, the VP will be constantly briefed about the situation in Afghanistan.

© REUTERS / CARLOS BARRIA

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris gets off the Air Force Two, after technical difficulties that made her change planes for her first international trip as Vice President to Guatemala and Mexico, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., June 6, 2021

Harris’ journey to Southeast Asia – where China is asserting its power in no uncertain terms – is seen as crucial by the Biden administration amid territorial disputes and the ongoing health crisis.

“Given our global leadership role, we can and we must manage developments in one region while simultaneously advancing our strategic interests in other regions on other issues,” the anonymous official said. “The United States has many interests around the world, and we are well-equipped to pursue them all at the same time.”

According to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who travelled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines last month to condemn China’s claims to the South China Sea, Harris’ upcoming visit will help “advance” America’s “interests in this vital region.”

Despite criticism surrounding the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan, Austin believes that Harris, who departs Washington on Friday, will “find our partners there eager for US engagement, as well as for her thoughts about how we can revitalise our relationship in the face of significant security challenges.” 

*The Taliban is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries

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