U.S. official quits Afghanistan job over war

Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy adviser will meet this week with a highly respected U.S. Foreign Service officer who quit his job in Afghanistan last month because he lost faith in the purpose of the war, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The action by Matthew Hoh, 36, a former Marine captain with a stellar career in combat in Iraq, and then at the Pentagon and in civilian State Department roles, was reported by the Post in an extensive Oct. 27 article by Karen DeYoung.

Hoh was the top U.S. civilian official in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, considered a Taliban hotbed.

Citing “doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy,” Hoh wrote in a Sept. 10 letter to the head of the Foreign Service, Nancy Powell, “My resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”

To put it simply, he wrote, “I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is truly a 35-year civil war.”

The U.S. and NATO military presence greatly fuels the Afghan insurgency, he said.

“If the history of Afghanistan is one great stage play, the United States is no more than a supporting actor, among several previously, in a tragedy that not only pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at least the end of King Zahir Shah’s reign, has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency,” Hoh wrote.

“I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.”

Hoh lambasted the current Afghan government for its corruption, saying its failings “appear legion and metastatic.”

“Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to conflict in an indefinite and unplanned manner that has become a cavalier, politically expedient and Pollyannaish misadventure … shaped more by the political climate in Washington, D.C. than in Afghan cities, villages, mountains and valleys,” he wrote.

Hoh received a citation for bravery for his Iraq service, and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after being unable to save four fellow Marines after a 2006 helicopter crash in Anbar.

“I’m not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love,” he told DeYoung. “There are plenty of dudes who need to be killed,” he said of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. “I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys.”

Hoh is the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, according to the Post.

He is considered an outstanding officer and he is being taken seriously by the White House.

After he sent his letter, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry offered him a senior embassy position in Kabul, and he also was flown to Washington to meet in person with President Obama’s special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke.

“We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer,” Holbrooke told the Post. “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.” Holbrooke offered him a job which he first accepted but then turned down.

The killing of 8 U.S. troops by roadside bombs on Tuesday brought the number of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan in October to 55, making this the deadliest month so far in the eight-year war. The U.S. currently has 66,000 troops in Afghanistan, in addition to NATO forces.

Photo: U.S. soldiers fire mortars in the Pech Valley of Afghanistan’s Kunar province. (AP/David Guttenfelder)



Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.