US official quits over ‘cavalier, politically expedient’ Afghan war

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Differences within the Obama administration over America’s war in Afghanistan have come to the fore with the resignation of a State Department official in protest over what he termed a “cavalier, politically expedient and Pollyannaish misadventure.”

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Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh, a 36-year-old former Marine Corps captain, who submitted his resignation letter Sep 10, refused to change his mind despite a personal plea by Richard Holbrooke, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. His resignation took effect Sep 28.

“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,” Hoh wrote according to the Washington Post, which first broke the story.

“Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to a conflict in an indefinite and unplanned manner. … We are mortgaging our nation’s economy on a war which, even with increased commitment, will remain a draw for years to come.”

News of Hoh’s resignation came as President Barack Obama held yet another meeting with his advisers in the White House Situation Room to review the administration’s s strastegy in an eight-year conflict once dubbed a “war of necessity” by Obama.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander, has reportedly submitted a request for as many as 40,000 additional troops.

“I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan,” Hoh wrote. “If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent Al Qaeda resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc.”

Hoh, who had been serving as a top political officer in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province, argued that the American presence in the war-torn Islamic republic “has only increased destabilisation and insurgency in Pakistan, where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons.”

He also drew parallels between the war in Afghanistan and US involvement in Vietnam four decades ago. Hoh concluded his resignation letter by stating that he could not promise the families of US soldiers killed in action that the war was worthy of their sacrifice.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the administration respected Hoh’s decision. “We take his opinions very seriously,” he said. “Senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan and here in Washington have talked to him, have heard him out. We respect … his right to dissent.”