First U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghan War
Senior diplomat in Afghanistan said he believes the war is simply fueling the insurgency
WASHINGTON -- A former Marine who fought in Iraq, joined the State Department after leaving the military and was a diplomat in a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan has become the first U.S. official to resign in protest of the Afghan war, the Washington Post reported early Tuesday.
Matthew Hoh, who describes himself as "not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," said he believes the war is simply fueling the insurgency.
"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," Hoh wrote in his resignation letter, dated Sept. 10 but published early Tuesday. "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."
The move sent ripples all the way to the White House, the paper said, where officials immediately appealed for him to stay out of fear he could become a leading critic.
U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry brought him to Kabul and offered him a job on his senior embassy staff, but Hoh declined. He then flew home and met with Richard Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Holbrooke told the Post he disagreed that the war "wasn't worth the fight," but did agree with much of Hoh's analysis.
"We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke said in an interview with the newspaper. "We all thought that given how serious his letter was, how much commitment there was, and his prior track record, we should pay close attention to him."
The revelation comes as President Obama pledged on Monday not to "rush the solemn decision" to send more troops to battle in Afghanistan as he weighs military options on what to do next in the troubled war.
The administration is debating whether to send tens of thousands more troops to the country, while the Afghan government is moving to hold a Nov. 7 runoff election between President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah. The runoff comes after complaints by international monitors of fraudulent voting in the first election.
ABC News, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday evening that Obama will likely announce his decision for Afghanistan between that nation's runoff presidential election on Nov. 7, and the president's departure for Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 11.
"I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary," Obama told service men and women at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Monday. He promised a "clear mission" with defined goals and the equipment needed to get the job done.
Obama, who is in the process of weighing options put forward by the Pentagon that include various levels of increased troops, spoke of the latest example of the dangers and sacrifices there -- helicopter crashes that killed 14 Americans in the deadliest day for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in more than four years.