Why and To What End in Afghanistan

Matthew P. Hoh, a former U.S. combat marine captain and Department of
Defense civilian in Iraq starting in 2004 and until September a
political officer in the Foreign Service stationed in Afghanistan is
giving some consternation to President Obama's advisors as the
Commander in Chief considers sending more soldiers to that war-torn
country next to Pakistan.

Matthew P. Hoh, a former U.S. combat marine captain and Department of
Defense civilian in Iraq starting in 2004 and until September a
political officer in the Foreign Service stationed in Afghanistan is
giving some consternation to President Obama's advisors as the
Commander in Chief considers sending more soldiers to that war-torn
country next to Pakistan.

Mr. Hoh wrote a letter of resignation
to the State Department in September. His four page letter frames his
doubts about what he said is the "why and to what end" behind "the
strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. He
notes that like the Soviets' nine year occupation, "we continue to
secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and
system of government unknown and unwanted by its people."

Mr. Hoh focuses on the giant Pashtun society composed of 42 million people and moves to his conclusions. Read his words:

"The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly
infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun
people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on
Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external
enemies. The U.S. and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys
and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and
composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation
force against which the insurgency is justified. In both RC East and
South, 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.

"The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly
contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun
insurgency. In a like manner our backing of the Afghan government in
its current form continues to distance the government from the people.
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 strongmen allied to 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 election process dominated by fraud and discredited by low
voter turnout, which has 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.

"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 whose nationalism we arrogantly and ignorantly
mistook as a rival to our own Cold War ideology.

"I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice
from our young men and women in Afghanistan. If honest, our stated
strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda resurgence or
regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western
Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc. Our presence in Afghanistan has
only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan where we
rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose
control of its nuclear weapons. However, again, to follow the logic of
our stated goals we should garrison Pakistan, not Afghanistan. More so,
the September 11th attacks, as well as the Madrid and London bombings,
were primarily planned and organized in Western Europe; a point that
highlights the threat is not one tied to traditional geographic or
political boundaries. Finally, if our concern is for a failed state
crippled by corruption and poverty and under assault from criminal and
drug lords, then if we bear our military and financial contributions to
Afghanistan, we must reevaluate and increase our commitment to and
involvement in Mexico.

"Eight years into war, no nation has ever known a more dedicated,
well trained, experienced and disciplined military as the U.S. Armed
Forces. I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with
such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the U.S. military has
received in Afghanistan. ...

"'We are spending ourselves into oblivion' a very talented and
intelligent commander, one of America's best, briefs every visitor,
staff delegation and senior officer. We are mortgaging our Nation's
economy on a war, which, even with increased commitment, will remain a
draw for years to come. Success and victory, whatever they may be, will
be realized not in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and
generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury for
such success and victory. ...

"Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical
and mental wounds, some that will never heal or will only worsen with
time. The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families
who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy
of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost
confidence such assurances can anymore be made. As such, I submit my
resignation."

Will Mr. Hoh's highly regarded experience, sensitivity and judgment
reach the attention of millions of Americans? That will depend on
whether President Obama meets with him, whether Congressional
committees will provide a hearing for him and others of similar
persuasion, and whether the mass media will suspend their dittoheading
and trivia long enough to report these views, so that we the people can
deliberate better about avoiding a devastating, worsening quagmire
replete with serial tragedies over there and boomerangs back here.