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What will happen to the U.S. embassy in Kabul?

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When the U.S. government officially pulled its military presence from Afghanistan this month, it left behind a valuable piece of real estate. The U.S. embassy in Kabul, a sprawling 15-acre complex of more than a dozen buildings and annexes, built at an estimated construction cost of $806 million.

As the Taliban takes over, it is physically filling in the footprint of the previous regime, including taking over the presidential palace. The U.S. embassy, the centerpiece of the country’s long and tumultuous presence in Afghanistan for more than 20 years, could similarly change hands. The State Department declined to comment.

This is not the first time the United States has packed up and left an embassy behind. In Somalia in 1991, escalating tensions led to the evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu. “Free-wheeling militia violence” led to the evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya, in 2014. Most memorably, American embassy officials crowded a rooftop staircase to board a helicopter and evacuate the embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975. Images of the evacuation became visual shorthand for the country’s ill-fated military intervention.

For many, the parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam are hard to ignore.The sight of helicopters ferrying U.S. personnel from the embassy in Kabul to nearby Hamid Karzai International Airport were starkly reminiscent of the scene in Vietnam nearly 50 years ago. But the official U.S. stance is different. “This is not Saigon,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on August 15, arguing that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was started to deal with the perpetrators of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and........

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