I agree with Spencer Ackerman that this is a big deal–Matthew Hoh, a Foreign Service officer with previous experience in the Marines, has resigned his post in Afghanistan, specifically in protest over the war, which he claims “fuels 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 […]
While he did not share Hoh’s view that the war “wasn’t worth the fight,” (US envoy Richard) 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.
Hoh agrees that the Taliban is a dangerous force in the region, and that the Al Qaeda remnants in Pakistan need to be disrupted, much of the insurgency is composed of small, discrete sects of regular Afghans fighting a military occupation and the corrupt national government. This has roots going back centuries, according to Hoh, with Pashtuns (the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan and also the vast majority of the insurgency) sharing a sense of disrespect for their culture and traditions from external forces as well as the more urban class (a relative term) in Kabul. Hoh explicitly says that he will continue to speak out as an activist, defining his goals this way: “I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, ‘Listen, I don’t think this is right.’ ”
“We want to have some kind of governance there, and we have some obligation for it not to be a bloodbath,” Hoh said. “But you have to draw the line somewhere, and say this is their problem to solve.”
Hoh’s critique is not functionally different from that of John Kerry’s, even though Kerry gave tentative backing to the counter-insurgency strategy favored by military commanders, while adding that Gen. Stanley McChrystal “reaches too far, too fast.” But instead of concluding that pulling out would risk civil war, as Kerry does, Hoh thinks that would be the consequence of staying.