Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A U.S. Foreign Service officer, Afghanistan, and his resignation

Matthew Hoh recently gained national headlines with his resignation last month from the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service officer corps over what he perceives as the lack of goals behind the U.S.'s involvement in Afghanistan.

He argues that "U.S. and NATO presence and operations...provide an occupation force against which the [Pashtun] insurgency is justified" and that "the bulk of the insurgency fights...against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul." While he is correct, no free person should ever suffer the indignity of occupation, though I would argue just how free they were under the Taliban, simply withdrawing will serve neither the U.S. nor the peace-loving Afghan people in the end.

Mr. Hoh goes on to mention his time in Iraq, but he so quickly forgets we faced a similar problem there with al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI) and the Ba'athists. The U.S. military, under Gen. Petraeus, turned the Ba'athists against AQI, not by leaving Iraq, but by instilling in them a desire to play a role in the rebuilding and ownership of their country.

Mr. Hoh makes many correct, justifiable statements about the failure of U.S. strategies and tactics over the past eight years; no one can legitimately argue that he does not have some very valid points. However, there are ways to fix the problems. Do we have the answer right now? No. Will it happen overnight? No. It will take time. Most of us that wish to see a peaceful Afghanistan that plays a role in the international arena understand that and are seeking ways to achieve that by participating in the efforts and not by abandoning them.

Mr. Hoh would do well to remember, that while we have been in Afghanistan for eight years, it took the United States of America from 1775 until 1789 to cobble together a nation of immigrants and establish some semblance of a republic, one that I would argue we are still building 234-years later.

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