Friday, October 30, 2009

U.S. official resigns over Afghan war

U.S. Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh has resigned his position in Zabul, Afghanistan over protest about the direction of the war in Afghanistan.  His protest is not about how the war is being pursued, but is about the why and to what end we are still involved.  

Mr. Hoh, 36, is an intelligent man with Marine Corps combat experience in Iraq.  Plus he has served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. Until his resignation, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province.

He has stated in an interview that there are others who are considering the same step he has taken however, he is the first to have done so.

A traitor?  Did he jump ship too soon?  Or is he a hero who has brought the feelings of many to the attention of the general public?

Let's discuss.  I would love to hear your opinions.

U.S. official resigns over Afghan war

Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why his nation is fighting

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.

A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.

But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

The reaction to Hoh's letter was immediate. Senior U.S. officials, concerned that they would lose an outstanding officer and perhaps gain a prominent critic, appealed to him to stay.

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry brought him to Kabul and offered him a job on his senior embassy staff. Hoh declined. From there, he was flown home for a face-to-face meeting with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke said in an interview. "We all thought that given how serious his letter was, how much commitment there was, and his prior track record, we should pay close attention to him."

While he did not share Hoh's view that the war "wasn't worth the fight," Holbrooke said, "I agreed with much of his analysis." He asked Hoh to join his team in Washington, saying that "if he really wanted to affect policy and help reduce the cost of the war on lives and treasure," why not be "inside the building, rather than outside, where you can get a lot of attention but you won't have the same political impact?"

Hoh accepted the argument and the job, but changed his mind a week later. "I recognize the career implications, but it wasn't the right thing to do," he said in an interview Friday, two days after his resignation became final.

"I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," Hoh said. Although he said his time in Zabul was the "second-best job I've ever had," his dominant experience is from the Marines, where many of his closest friends still serve.

But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there -- a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.

U.S. official resigns over Afghan war continued...

Resignation Letter from US Foreign Service Officer Matthew P. Hoh

Related Commentary:

Time to move on from Afghanistan - We don't admire quitters, but no one wants to be the last person to believe in a mission, either - by Garrison Keillor

I like how pundits who spend their time casting doubt on the assessments and opinions of those with in-depth understanding of Afghanistan and NATO operations there jump at the chance to sing the praises of others with in-depth understanding of Afghanistan and NATO operations when they conveniently advance assessments and opinions that match up with conclusions they themselves have already reached. (Here's but one example.)

On Huffington Post, Earl Ofari Hutchinson urged the president to listen to Mr. Hoh lest Afghanistan ruin his domestic agenda and severely wound Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.

Malou Innocent of the libertarian Cato Institute, also writing on Huffington Post, said that Mr. Hoh had largely echoed her view that the conflict involves “a local and regional ethnic Pashtun population fighting against what they perceive to be a foreign occupation of their region; that our current strategy does not answer why and to what end we are pursuing this war; and that Afghanistan holds little intrinsic strategic value to the security of the United States.”

But on his blog Forward Movement, Jules Crittenden argues that Mr. Hoh has given in to despair, that defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda will require far more patience and resolve and that drawing down in Afghanistan now will show America’s enemies that “If you bleed them, they will run.”

On The Captain’s Journal, TSAlfabet wrote, “As I predicted months ago, this Admin will not commit the resources to win this fight, so getting out, as horrible as that would be, is less evil than sacrificing troops to a half-hearted approach that is under-resourced and, therefore, doomed to failure.”

Andrew Exum, an occasional adviser to General McChrystal who blogs at Abu Muqawama, counseled caution in making too much of Mr. Hoh’s resignation.

A summary from the Diplopundit says:

Resignation of Matthew Hoh /Admire Mr. Hoh and Respect Sacrifices Made for His Country / Take His Opinions Seriously / Senior Officials Have Spoken With Him / Respect His Right to Dissent /Had Limited, Non-Career Appointment / Political Officer in PRT in Zabul/Believe We're on Track to Achieving Goals President Has Set Before Us/No Resignations By Career Foreign Service Officers Over Afghanistan/Allegation of Desecration of Qu'ran Denied by Pentagon

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