An American Diplomat and a British Soldier Tell Their Leaders They Have No Clothes: No to the Afghanistan War Strategy

British
Army Lance Corporal Joe Glenton faces court martial for refusing to
return to Afghanistan. He defied a direct order by his commanding
officer to not participate in the in the Saturday, October 24, 2009, Stop the War march in London.

British
Army Lance Corporal Joe Glenton faces court martial for refusing to
return to Afghanistan. He defied a direct order by his commanding
officer to not participate in the in the Saturday, October 24, 2009, Stop the War march in London.

Challenging
his military command, Glenton told the 10,000 gathered for the march:
"I expected to go to war but I also expected that the need to defend
this country's interests would be legal and justifiable. I don't think
this is too much to ask. It's now apparent that the conflict is neither
of these and that's why I must make this stand.

"It
is distressing to disobey orders, but when Britain follows America in
continuing to wage war against one of the world's poorest countries, I
feel I have no choice. Politicians have abused the trust
of the army and the soldiers who serve, that's why I am compelled and
proud to march with the Stop The War Coalition today." (https://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1561/1/)

On
the day that the United States suffered the greatest number of deaths
in its 8 year war in Afghanistan and in the month with the most
casualties, an American diplomat assigned in Afghanistan resigned. As one of three U.S. diplomats who resigned in March, 2009 in opposition to the Iraq war (https://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0303/032103wright.htm), I had been wondering how long the next resignation from the U.S. government over war policies would take.

Six
weeks ago, on September 10, 2009, U.S. diplomat Matthew Hoh sent a
letter of resignation to the Director General of the State Department
over his concern about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Hoh
had served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps and had one combat tour
in Iraq as a Marine Corps Captain and a second tour in Iraq as a
Department of Defense civilian.

Hoh,
who had been in Afghanistan five months as the Senior Civilian
Representative for the U.S. government is Zabal province, questioned
"why and to what end" the United States is in Afghanistan. Hoh
said that "Like the Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a
failing state while encouraging and an ideology and government unknown
and unwanted by its people."... "The U.S. and NATO presence and
operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and
police units that are led by non-Pashtun soldiers and police provide an
occupation force against which an insurgency is justified."
"The
U.S. military presence in Afghanistan contributes greatly to the
legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency."

Hoh
described the Afghan government as corrupt and said "Our support for
this kind of government, coupled with a misunderstanding of the
insurgency's true nature, reminds me horribly of our involvement with
South Vietnam; an unpopular and corrupt government we backed at the
expense of our nation's own internal peace, against an insurgency we
arrogantly and ignorantly mistook as a rival to our own Cold War
ideology."

He
commented that the US support "for the Afghan government in its current
form continues to distance the people from their government. The
Afghan government's failings, particularly when weighed against the
sacrifice of American lives and dollars appear legion and metastatic:

--Glaring corruption and unabashed graft;

--A
President whose confidants and chief advisers comprise drug lords and
war crimes villains, who mock our own rule of law and counternarcotics
efforts;

--A
system of provincial and district leaders constituted of local power
brokers, opportunists and power brokers allied with the United States
solely for, and limited by, the value of our USAID and CERP contracts
and whose own political and economic interests stand nothing to gain
from any positive or genuine attempts at reconciliation, and;

--The
recent electoral process dominated by fraud and discredited by low
voter turnout, which created an enormous victory for our enemy who now
claims a popular boycott and will call into question worldwide our
government's military, economic and diplomatic support for an invalid
and illegitimate Afghan government." (https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/hp/ssi/wpc/ResignationLetter.pdf?sid=ST2009102603447)

Senior
officials in the State Department including US Ambassador to
Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and
Pakistan Richard Holbrooke tried to get Hoh to stay in the State
Department arguing that if he "wanted to affect policy then he should
be inside the state Department, not outside, where you can get a lot of
attention but you won't have the same political impact." Holbrook
even said that he "agreed with much of Hoh's analysis, although not his
conclusion that the war wasn't worth the fight."

On Friday, October 23, Hoh decided not to remain in the State Department and made his resignation effective on that date saying he had decided
to speak out publicly because "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." (https://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/27/matthew-hoh-afghanistan-resign-us) Hoh's resignation became public with the Washington Post article on October 27, 2009 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/26/AR2009102603394.html?nav=hcmodule)

I
was in Afghanistan three weeks ago, returning for the first time since
I helped reopen the US Embassy in Kabul in December, 2001. Eight
years ago I had hopes that a short term United States presence might
help the Afghan people out of the cycle of violence and that roads,
schools and clinics could be built quickly before our "welcome" was
worn out. The Bush administration's diversion to invade and occupy Iraq short-circuited those hopes.

Now
eight years later, there is little security in the country, despite
100,000 international troops, including 68,000 U.S. military, plus
90,000 U.S. trained Afghan soldiers. According to a
senior Army logistics officer, Afghanistan's roads are mined by
insurgents forcing 180 U.S. military outposts to be resupplied by
helicopters. "We don't have freedom of movement on the ground," a senior Army logistics officer says. "We're
resupplying between 30% and 40% of our forward operating bases by air because we just can't get to them on the ground." (https://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20091027/us_time/08599193238600)

In
the three weeks since I left Afghanistan, on October 8, a suicide
bomber drove unimpeded on the "secure" road in front of the Indian
Embassy and exploded the car killing 17 and wounding 76. In July, 2008,
another car bomber killed 41 and injured 139 at the gates of Indian
Embassy.

Today,
on October 28, 2009, Taliban gunmen dressed in old police uniforms came
into a United Nations guest house in Kabul and killed six UN staff and
wounded nine other UN employees. Six Afghans including three attackers were killed. Also,
today, rockets hit the Serena hotel used by many international visitors
in Kabul and the Presidential Palace, but no casualties have been
reported. On September 17, 2009, a suicide car bomber
killed six Italian soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians on one of Kabul's main roadways. (https://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091028/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan)

When
senior policy makers will not be honest with decision makers, sometimes
it's the more junior government employees who have the strength of
character and courage to tell their Presidents and Prime Ministers when
they and their policies have no clothes.

Matthew Hoh and Lance Corporal Joe Glenton have proven to be voices of conscience for us all.