A young foreign service officer, formerly posted in Afghanistan, has resigned to protest the war in Afghanistan. As he puts it, he’s no “peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love.” Matthew Hoh is a former Marine with combat experience in Iraq.
But he has now decided, based on his experience, that many Afghans are fighting U.S. troops just because we’re there, because of a deep-seated, centuries-old hatred of invaders, no matter who they are or what their intentions are. It’s the most compelling argument for switching to a counter-terrorism strategy that I’ve seen. (Unlike a counter-insurgency strategy, which would needs thousands more troops to fight the Taliban and pacify much of Afghanistan, counter-terrorism would use fewer troops to go after al-Qaida.)
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.
“That’s really what kind of shook me,” he said. “I thought it was more nationalistic. But it’s localism. I would call it valley-ism.”
Hoh isn’t the only expert who has come to the conclusion that putting tens of thousands more troops in Afghanistan would be counterproductive. President Obama has heard from plenty of deep-think types who know Afghanistan well who’ve said just that.
But, for some reason, I find Hoh’s argument especially compelling, perhaps because he struggled with coming to that conclusion. His letter of resignation has already caused ripples throughout the administration.
Obama ought to give the young man an audience in the Oval Office.