Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Resignation over Afghanistan

Matthew Hoh, a State Department official and former Marine, has resigned from his post in Afghanistan, saying that our presence there is only fueling the insurgency we say we have come to fight. According to Hoh, whose resignation letter you can read here,
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. . . . 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.
From the Washington Post:

"I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," Hoh said. Although he said his time in Zabul was the "second-best job I've ever had," his dominant experience is from the Marines, where many of his closest friends still serve. . . . But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there -- a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. . . .

Hoh was assigned to research the response to a question asked by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during an April visit. Mullen wanted to know why the U.S. military had been operating for years in the Korengal Valley, an isolated spot near Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan where a number of Americans had been killed. Hoh concluded that there was no good reason. The people of Korengal didn't want them; the insurgency appeared to have arrived in strength only after the Americans did, and the battle between the two forces had achieved only a bloody stalemate.

Korengal and other areas, he said, taught him "how localized the insurgency was. I didn't realize that a group in this valley here has no connection with an insurgent group two kilometers away." Hundreds, maybe thousands, of groups across Afghanistan, he decided, had few ideological ties to the Taliban but took its money to fight the foreign intruders and maintain their own local power bases.
From what I have read, it seems that pressure on Obama to extend the mission is growing, both from in the US military and from some of our allies. I would be very surprised if Obama doesn't go along with these "experts" and send more troops. But it is still the wrong thing to do.

The comment which sheds most light on what is happening in Afghanistan was made by an ordinary Confederate soldier in 1863. Asked by his Yankee captors why he, a poor man with no slaves, was fighting in the war, he said, "I'm fightin' because you're down here."

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