A Soldier Says "Stop"
What should we do in Afghanistan?
In a week where 14 soldiers have already been lost in helicopter crashes, another eight were killed today in separate bombings in the southern part of the country. And this follows on the heels of the resignation of a highly-regarded former Marine, who was serving as a foreign service officer in southern Afghanistan, over his belief that our current and future policies would be fueling the insurgency rather than constraining it.
But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there -- a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.
General McChrystal wants upwards of 60,000 additional troops to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban while we wait for the Karzai government to gain legitimacy. (Sound familiar?) Yet Matthew Hoh says the problem is that our presence in defense of that same government, in the Pashtun regions of the country, are only making things worse, while an over-stretched military sees losses mounting that have little to do with the overall numbers of soldiers deployed, but rather with the same policies McChrystal espouses.
If the United States is to remain in Afghanistan, Hoh said, he would advise a reduction in combat forces.
He also would suggest providing more support for Pakistan, better U.S. communication and propaganda skills to match those of al-Qaeda, and more pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to clean up government corruption -- all options being discussed in White House deliberations.
"We want to have some kind of governance there, and we have some obligation for it not to be a bloodbath," Hoh said. "But you have to draw the line somewhere, and say this is their problem to solve."
One lone voice of experience speaks out, a man who has been there in both Iraq and now Afghanistan, to tell us to stop before it gets worse. Yes, the chorus of right wing fat-asses who never served will condemn him for being naive about the enemy, but Matthew Hoh is making us think before Obama makes a Bushian mistake.
What should we do about Afghanistan?