Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Time to Rethink Strategies

President Obama has a difficult decision to make in Afghanistan. Should the U.S. add more troops, or change strategies in Afghanistan?

Matthew Hoh, a highly regarded U.S. foreign service officer, who also served as a Marine captain in Iraq, has made his decison.
Hoh has resigned over what he sees as a hopeless situation in Afghanistan. In his resignation letter, Hoh said he had "lost understanding" of why the U.S. is fighting, and that the presence of foreign soldiers just fuels the insurgency.
Glenn Greenwald thinks Hoh's resignation is remarkable.
[I]t entails the sort of career sacrifice in the name of principle that has been so rare over the last decade, but even more so because of the extraordinary four-page letter (.pdf) he wrote explaining his reasoning.

Hoh's letter should be read in its entirety, but I want to highlight one part. He begins by noting that "next fall, the United States' occupation will equal in length the Soviet Union's own physical involvement in Afghanistan," and contends that our unwanted occupation combined with our support for a deeply corrupt government "reminds [him] horribly of our involvement in South Vietnam." He then explains that most of the people we are fighting are not loyal to the Taliban or driven by any other nefarious aim, but instead are driven principally by resistance to the presence of foreign troops in their provinces and villages.
The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceoved by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies.

The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency.

As John Nichols sums up Hoh's words, the continued U.S. presence is making things worse rather than better in Afghanistan.That's not a radical conclusion.

It parallels statements made by veteran Central Intelligence Agency analysts, diplomats and soldiers in Robert Greenwald's powerful documentary, "Rethink Afghanistan."

As such, the decorated Marine says, the point of the continued occupation is called into question.

Making his objections known as President Obama is weighing calls for a dramatic expansion of the U.S. military force in Afghanistan, Hoh's letter is a blockbuster.

As Glenn Greenwald asks:

How long are we going to continue to do this? We invade and occupy a country, and then label as "insurgents" or even "terrorists" the people in that country who fight against our invasion and occupation. With the most circular logic imaginable, we then insist that we must remain in order to defeat the "insurgents" and "terrorists" -- largely composed of people whose only cause for fighting is our presence in their country.

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