I applaud anyone with the strength to act on his convictions and this guy seems to deserve that praise.
A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.
But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.
"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."
I have heard most of his complaints and reservations and discussed most of them at length here. But let's look at some of his conclusions. His resignation letter is a scan so I cannot quote him directly, but I will be fair in characterizing his position.
He claims we have no strategic reason to be involved in what is essentially a 35 year old civil war. While his characterization of the conflict may be accurate I dispute his conclusion. We had a serious need to respond to al Qaeda's attack on us and they were safely ensconced in Afghanistan enjoying the hospitality of the Taliban hosts. That was not a situation we could tolerate. So we didn't and in a stunningly, well-orchestrated display of leveraged Special Ops combined with massive air power we and the Northern Alliance routed the Islamists and sent the survivors scurrying.
Now at that point a valid case could me made for packing our bags and calling it a day. But since we are not allowed to operate under the guidance of hindsight we must act on the basis of the decision that was made, to attempt to create a stable state that would not require another attack somewhere down the road. You can disagree with that, but you cannot erase it or fail to appreciate that it affects all that we do now.
We spent several years attempting to promote democracy and to a reasonable extent the election that made Hamid Karzai President was as fair and valid as many others worldwide. We also tried to build the institutions of national security and governance. We had some success and many failures, and this process continued for several years with little comparative violence throughout the country. Then a renewed Taliban infiltration from the tribal areas of Pakistan began due to their ability to recruit and refit there. This led to increasing violence staring in 2007 and since.
Since we had made the choice of attempting to spin up an new Afghanistan that would not be run by religious zealots who are increasingly integrated with al Qaeda, we have a larger stake in not losing to that alliance. Hoh says that if we claim Afghanistan is a strategic center in the fight against AQ, then we must designate Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia etc. as vital as well. That is a false choice and not reflective of the fact that AQ has chosen the Af/Pak region as their base. The new Taliban has broader goals than just imposing Sharia on their respective tribes, they have begun to embrace the Islamic Caliphate idea with their homes as the first bastions.
When we chose to fight for a free Afghanistan instead of simply using the "Rubble doesn't make trouble" tactic, we bit off a huge challenge. But having done that, we cannot afford defeat to this newly invigorated Islamist movement. They would become an inspiration to like-minded jihadists worldwide and would gain fundraising and recruiting bonanzas by driving the Crusaders out. Hoh claims that most who fight us do so because we are occupiers, and there is some truth to that. But it overlooks the fact that 90% of the populace in Afghanistan does not want to live under Taliban rule. He claims that our presence causes the people to turn against us. Again partially true in the kinetic state we were operating in, that is the point of switching to COIN. You shield the people from the depredations of the Talibs and make their lives better. Then their desire to live free of the Taliban and our presence are aligned.
He has huge issues w/ the corruption of the government and he is absolutely correct, it is near Chicago-esque. But the area has operated under various forms of corruption basically forever. What they need is to feel that it does them some good to tolerate it. If the security situation is improved for much of the populace, then we can bring about the rise of an Afghan civil structure that helps it's people.
None of these things are easy, but living with an encroaching Islamist movement bound on expansion through whatever means necessary sounds worse to me.