Matthew Hoh: Afghanistan war not worth the cost

 In Afghanistan


Matthew Hoh, the former Marine and Foreign Service Officer who resigned in protest of the war in Afghanistan, has rightly garnered a great deal of attention in recent weeks. He offers a coherent, credible case for shifting gears in Afghanistan and abandoning the idea that a counterinsurgency campaign can be successful.

In his resignation letter, Hoh laid out a principled stance for leaving his position:


I fail to see the worth or value in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is truly a 35-year-old civil war…Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical and mental wounds. The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured that their dead have been sacrificed for a purpose worthy of such futures lost, love vanished and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can any more be made. As such, I submit my resignation.


In an interview with Fareed Zakaria, he points out that he has received a great deal of support from two important constituencies—Afghan-Americans and active duty military.


HOH: It’s been a bit overwhelming. It’s been a bit overwhelming.

My thoughts were this. I would publish the letter. And I figured I would get one or two days of attention, and then it would fade away. And I was fine with that.

However, I’ve received such an outpouring and a flood of e-mails, and particularly from two communities that have convinced me to stay in this and be a part of the debate as long as possible until it doesn’t make sense any more. And those two communities — one was Afghan-Americans.

I’ve had a lot of Afghan-Americans contact me and say, “Matt, you get it. You understand. Yes, there is a civil war going on. You understand this conflict (ph). You understand how Afghan society works. You understand this split within the Pashtuns. You understand valleyism, or whatever you want to call it.” And that has encouraged me quite a bit.

And the second one is active duty military. I have received many, many e-mails from active duty military and some guys who have just separated from service. Some are here in the States.

I’ve gotten many e-mails from guys in Afghanistan — some are people I know, but a lot are people I do not know — men and women who are saying, “Matt, thanks for doing this. Keep it up. We don’t know why we’re here. We’re not sure why we’re taking these casualties. We don’t know what it’s accomplishing.”


ZAKARIA: Do you think — the top military brass have all endorsed General McChrystal’s report and request. Do you think that down on the ground there is a very different feeling?


HOH: Oh, yes. Yes, there is. I think on the ground — and the perspective is that, what is the strategic value of what we’re doing here. Why are we doing this? What are we getting out of it?

It’s not going to defeat al Qaeda. It’s not going to — if you take our two goals as being the defeat of al Qaeda, and then, because of its nuclear weapons and because of the relationship with India, the stabilization of the government in Islamabad, 60,000 troops taking 50, 60 dead a month in this country, and how many wounded and killing how many Afghans, as well, it doesn’t accomplish either of those goals.


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