Afghanistan: Time To Pull The Plug

Matthew Hoh, a former US Marine serving in Iraq and diplomat to Afghanistan, argued in his September 10, 2009 resignation letter to the Foreign Service that the occupation of Afghanistan is futile, and that he could no longer participate in that effort in conscience.

I watched his interview on Fareed Zakaria's GPS dated November 1, and read his letter of resignation, and am now very troubled by this insider's perspective on the effectiveness of American operations, and by extension Canadian military operations, in Afghanistan.

On Afghanistan's Pashtun:
"To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued US casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war. [...] a tragedy that not only pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at least the end of King Zahir Shah's reign, has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that supports the Pashtun insurgency [...] 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 US and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages [...] provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified."
--from the letter

On the mission:
"I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the US military has received in Afghanistan. [...] 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."
--from the letter

On containing Al Qaeda:
"This is an organization that is quite ephemeral. It doesn't really exist. Occupying a country is not going to defeat them. It's the proverbial fly versus a sledgehammer. [...] In a population of twenty to thirty million, how are we going to keep a hundred people from being disaffected and joining some fringe group? It's impossible. Furthermore, occupying a location only provides justification and only lends credence to the goals of that organization. It only inspires young Moslem men to want to defend their culture against an occupying army, which is what we are."
--from the interview

On increasing the American troop commitment:
"Increasing troops is only going to fuel insurgency. We need to stop our combat operations in areas where we are fighting people only because they are fighting us. Otherwise, it's going to be 2013, we're going to look back four years, and we're going to say, 'What did we accomplish? What did we get? What was this worth? What did we get out of this?' We might be able to stabilize the Afghan government for five to ten years, with a lot of resources. I believe we could militarily defeat the [Qadashura? unclear] in two to three years with a lot of resources and a lot of debt. However, is it worth it? What do we get out of it? What's the benefit of us doing it? It doesn't politically defeat the insurgency in the south, and more importantly, it doesn't defeat Al Qaeda."
--from the interview

Go here to view CBC's roll call of Canadian Forces soldiers killed serving in the Afghanistan mission.

Matthew Hoh Resignation Letter -