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Really interesting article in today's WaPo about an ex-marine, Matthew Ho, who was a member of the foreign service.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. 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."

Also available is the 4 page pdf reference letter.

Basically, his argument is that the Afghanis will resist any intruder - even from the next valley.

It's a really interesting read and one that surprised me. He is getting a lot of attention for these ideas.

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry brought him to Kabul and offered him a job on his senior embassy staff. Hoh declined. From there, he was flown home for a face-to-face meeting with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke said in an interview. "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."

He resigned in order to speak out It is a very honorable avenue to pursue ("Hello, Colin, are you there …").

Obviously, he resigned in order to make his views known. Go read it!

Originally posted to The Third Man on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:19 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm glad you posted this. (12+ / 0-)

    This guy is an expert too -- has read a great deal on Afghanistan.

    A voice of reason.

    Obama -- where the hell are you?  A whole bunch of Americans died again recently.

    So old I remember when NASA was just two drunk guys and a case of dynamite.

    by dov12348 on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:22:18 AM PDT

    •  he makes a lot of sense (9+ / 0-)

      Somehow the message of the hyper local nature of the insurgency never got through earlier. The whole letter is really worth reading.  

      Actually one can imagine this letter carrying significant sway with a thinking president like Obama.

      Interesting, I see the letter was sent on Sept. 10, so this took a while to get out.

      •  The problem is that Americans have a (5+ / 0-)

        great deal of trouble understanding human relationships which involve a complex tapestry of tribes, clans, families and other familial organizations and each tribe, clan, family, and other organizations has its own feuds and grudges and alliances.
        This is why the aftermath has been such a dismal failure. Iraq should have taught us that if you kill a man, his clan, tribe and family will count you as an enemy forever. Moreover, the blood feud will probably include any other American since Iraqis and Afghans have problems understanding the American custom of few ties beyond family and sometimes not even family.

        Until there is understanding, conflict is sadly inevitable

        •  Absolutely (3+ / 0-)

          It was as if the Bush administration had an attitude of saying Everyone's American.

          I believe this comes out of the evangelical movements belief that morality is universal--that all cultures have the exact same moral beliefs.

          A little social anthropology, and sociology goes a long way, yet I doubt any neo-cons do much reading or thinking of or about contrarian positions.

          Baroque: When you are out of Monet

          by bartct on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:52:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Soldier/Civilian Deaths Don't Seem To Matter Now (9+ / 0-)

      To most KOS'rs, now that we have a Democrat in charge.

      Remember when Soldiers deaths and massive Civilisn deaths like we saw this week generated diary after diary after diary on KOS?

      Now, barely a mention, and it's pissing me off to no end. Was the outrage displayed day after day here genuine? Or only because a REPUBLICAN was in charge?

      I've really got to question it, these days.

      •  I don't think that's the issue, really. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MuskokaGord, bartct

        "I don't oppose all wars, I just oppose dumb wars"

        I think some of us more or less bought into the idea that Afghanistan is not a dumb war. But this letter argues that it too is kind of dumb, though it is based on a kernel of reason.

        •  After 9/11 (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Third Man, StrayCat, NuttyProf, Alec82

          America, nearly unanimously, was outraged at Afghanistan for not turning over Osama bin Laden.  We made a decision, and it was supported by a tremendous number of people.  Rightly or Wrongly we believed that we could bring this area into the 21st century.

          That it has not worked out may have been the fault of the Bush administration (which I believe played a large part in the failure),  but also was the fault of Afghanistan being Afghanistan.

          Now that we have found ourselves in this quagmire, we need to support VP Biden's efforts to convince President Obama of the futility of staying in a situation that is not winnable.

          Baroque: When you are out of Monet

          by bartct on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:41:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That approximates my position (0+ / 0-)

            My feelings on Afghanistan were ambivalent at the time.  The real problem is, Al Qaeda can literally launch attacks from anywhere.  And it doesn't even need to be Al Qaeda; what we have here are basically Muslim anarchists funded by shadowy interests that will lash out at any targets that present themselves.  

            We need to get out of Afghanistan, and fast.  And we also need to end that predator drone program.

            •  'Al Qaeda' is a franchise... a concept... (0+ / 0-)

              Anybody can use the label - friend OR foe for whatever purpose.

              •  And many people do (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                StrayCat, Claudius Bombarnac

                The groups that label themselves "Al Qaeda" today have at best a minimal connection to the ideology originally advanced by its founding members.

                •  You are right about ending the predator drone (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  StrayCat, Alec82

                  program. Unfortunately, Obama has exponentially increased its use in AfPak and I see an even greater increase in this 'War by Video Game' in the future.

                  Obama has stated very clearly that his concept of a strong America is one with a "high tech military" with "over the horizon force projection". He is also a strong believer in the Cold War myth. Obama is quite hawkish with the military. That is why he has kept much of the old guard in the Pentagon (to the delight of the neocons).

                  The blowback from the use of drones is going to be a significant factor in increasing future acts of terrorism around the globe. You can some of it now occurring in Pakistan.

                  The more the insurgents realize that America has no military 'skin in the game', the more they will use American civilians or allies as surrogates.

                  This is the natural result since the days of the King David hotel bombings - asymmetric application of power always results in an increase in terrorism.

          •  Since when did America get a mandate to... (0+ / 0-)

            bring foreign nations "into the 21st century"? That is hubris...

            I suggest America should look first into bringing itself into the 21st century.

        •  What kernel? (nt) (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          StrayCat

          So old I remember when NASA was just two drunk guys and a case of dynamite.

          by dov12348 on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 07:12:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  the kernel = Al Qaeda + Taliban (0+ / 0-)

            A large amount of the planning for 9/11 obviously took place there. Plenty of rationale for working to prevent a reoccurrence.

            •  Planning can be done anywhere in the world... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              StrayCat

              Much of the logistical planning for 9/11 was done in Hamburg and Pakistan. The only training possibly done in Afghanistan was in 'box-cutter'. The high-tech pilot training was done in the US and other developed countries.

              "Plenty of rationale" - Yes, this is nothing more than a rationalization of the need for troops in the AfPak region.

              •  sorry that is revisionist (0+ / 0-)

                The Bin Laden, Zawahiri, KSM coordination, funding and hatching of the plot took place in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Operational details were planned in Hamburg and the US. I am not saying that another attack could not be planned somewhere else, but 9/11 was developed and funded by coordinators in Af/ and the tribal areas of Pakistan.

                •  My comments are not revisionist in the least (0+ / 0-)

                  I did not say that none of the initial hatching of the 9/11 plot was done in Afghanistan. Look to their history since the original bombing of the twin towers to see how readily they moved from country to country and still managed to hatch various terrorist attacks.

                  The funding came from (and still does) Saudi and UAE fundamentalist religious factions and is international in scope. Bin Laden paid the Taliban for his bases in Afghanistan.

                  Original funding for Al Qaeda was done through Pakistan with the implicit assistance of the US.

                  BTW, there would not be the current situation in the AfPak region if it weren't for the US playing "The Great Game".

            •  They can go anywhere. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              StrayCat, Claudius Bombarnac

              Somalia, Pakistan, Algeria, apartments, the internet.

              Do we try and fight them everywhere through all eternity...until all our soldiers are dead, maimed, suicides, driven insane, with corresponding destructions of their families?

              I don't think so.

              So old I remember when NASA was just two drunk guys and a case of dynamite.

              by dov12348 on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 08:30:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Lattitude is given...and rightly so (3+ / 0-)

        I think that progressives, and mostly everyone allowed latitude with Obama, and it was needed and deserved.

        Obama came in with a financial situation not seen since the 1930's.  He came in after an administration that was pro-torture.  He came in after an administration that had a cowboy, my way or the highway approach.

        He has shown significant thoughtfulness on how to adress these issues.  His policy review was not entered into with pre-conceived notions, but allowing of genuine debate and differences of opinion.

        Now, if Obama does not head progressive voices in his own Administration and in his electorate, then obviously he does so at his peril.

        However, up to now he, in my opinion, has shown significantly greater clarity of thought than many previous administrations.

        Baroque: When you are out of Monet

        by bartct on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:36:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  after all it took FDR three terms in order (0+ / 0-)

          to spark a financial turnaround with a great deal of federal money going directly into public projects.

          BTW dunno which channel it was (may have been Beck) or the show but the host was discussing how healthcare reform is supported by younger people because they think it is a handout. He then did a stoner imitation for the younger folks in his audience, saying that free healthcare means more money for weed and then played an interviewer discussing with people on the street about the incentive. In each case, the subject had what could be characterized as a heavy (almost TV like) African American accent or inflection. In each case the response to the questions about the incentive was that they were waiting for Obama to mail them the cash so they could go shopping.
          Not sure which show but not very subtle    

      •  Did you vote for Obama? If so, then you're all (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MuskokaGord

        in.  He campaigned on the war in Afghanistan. He stated clearly, and consicely, all through his campaign that he would go into Afghanistan and finish the job.

        Beware the lollipop of mediocrity: lick it once and suck forever.

        by second gen on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:43:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  What are you yelling about ? (0+ / 0-)

      He hasn't made any decisions on the troops yet. Don't you read the news ?

      Between birthers, deathers and mouth-breathers, the gop has got 'teh crazy' and 'teh stoopid' covered.

      by amk for obama on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 07:41:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Similar to Vietnam where Invaders were always (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, StrayCat

    thrown out even if it did take 300 years  to get rid of the Chinese. If the US had taken that knowledge to heart we would have fewer dead to commemorate on Veterans Day, a smaller or even non-existent memorial and maybe no Nixon presidency.

    Health is the first requisite after morality - T. Jefferson

    by OHdog on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:30:45 AM PDT

  •  Have to agree with him (8+ / 0-)

    It is hard to recognize that a war is not winnable.  In Vietnam, it took the Tet offensive, 7 more years, and three different presidents (LBJ, Nixon, and Ford) to finally extricate ourselves from an ultimate fiasco.

    Genghis Khan, the British Empire, and the USSR all had to learn that Afghanistan is not easily pacified, and not able to be conquered for long durations.

    I certainly hope the U.S. will head this gentleman's warning.  I hope that Obama will realize the futility of staying on in what is a Bush/Karzai created failed state.

    While at one time we may have had an opportunity to have a real shift in local attitudes; now it seems that too many civilians have died, too many corrupt officials have raped the provincial districts, and too many U.S. and Karzai supported warlords have hurt too many people -- that any credibility is shot.

    I absolutely agree with VP Biden, go after the bad guys with drones and intel.  We will not win a ground war.

    Baroque: When you are out of Monet

    by bartct on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:31:04 AM PDT

  •  What to do in Afghanistan is very clear (2+ / 0-)

    There is any number of articles by Russian and British officers who served in the country and in each case, watched its country withdraw, for all practical purposes beaten by the Afghans.

    These were the glory years for invaders as Alexander, the Brits and the Russians really had minimal interference (even the US aid to the mujaheddin was minimal in the final analysis).

    Now three regional players are engaged by proxy in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Iran. While none is hostile to the US presence, none of them is very pleased either. Looming behind the curtain of the regional powers jockeying for position in Afghanistan is China, ever alert to any challenges to its borders, such as an Indian/Pakistani conflict might induce.

    Before we insert another 40,000 troops, some of our leadership really really need to read some history

    •  can you answer one history ? for me? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      StrayCat

      The article suggests that the ethnic Pashtuns are more or less ungovernable by any sort of central govt and form a impressive resistance. Were the Pashtuns the main source of resistance to the British and the Russians too or where their other major ethnic groups that opposed them?

      •  In my undergrad days (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        entlord1, Claudius Bombarnac

        I had a South Asia class where it was discussed that the Pashtuns are the same as those in the Tribal regions of Pakistan.  That basically the Pakistani line was drawn by the British with no real understanding of the local situation.

        I do believe that for a while the King of Afghanistan was a Pashtun, but that even the monarchy system was fragmented in what could be compared almost to how King William governed after the glorious revolution -- in that the monarch was not as powerful as the lords which ruled various areas.

        This shows itself in the Pashtun's Jirga, or gathering of Pashtun tribal leaders.  They are a family and clannish society with a strong patriarchal bent.  

        Don't quote me onb this because it has been a few years, but I believe this to be accurate.

        Baroque: When you are out of Monet

        by bartct on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:48:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Here's some links to the historical background (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat, entlord1

        To even begin to understand the current situation in the AfPak region, you must understand how the countries were created in the first place.

        Durand Line

        The Durand Line is a colonial era de jure boundary established as the "Great Game" buffer between British and Russian interests in the region.

        This artificial border has divided the 30 million Pashtuns into two countries. They do not recognize it as legal and is one of the reasons that the AfPak border cannot be sealed. The complete closure of this border by Pakistan will give rise to conflicts much, much greater than we now see in the area. Possibly civil war in Pakistan.

        Next, you must understand the ethnic culture of the Pashtun people in a historical context.

        Pashtunwali - Primary Concepts

        Pashtunwali is an ancient "code of honor" that belongs to Pashtuns of Afghanistan and NWFP, including the Pashtun communities around the world. It is a set of rules guiding both individual and communal conduct. Pashtunwali is socially practiced by the majority.
        ...

        Some useful words that signify individual or collective Pashtun tribal functions are given below in Pushto language. The first four form the major components of Pashtunwali.

           * Melmastia (hospitality) - Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of distinctions of race, religion, national affiliation as well as economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pushtuns are widely considered to be the most hospitable people in the world and a pushtun will go to great extents to show his hospitality, so much so, that in very many recorded cases it has been observed that a pushtuns have even provided enemies with sanctuary.
           * Badal (justice/revenge) - to seek justice over time or over space to avenge a wrong. This applies to injustices committed yesterday or 1000 years ago if the wrongdoer still exists. Justice in Pashtun lore needs elaborating: even a mere taunt (or "Paighor") is regarded as an insult - which can only usually be redressed by shedding of the taunter's blood (and if he isn't available, then his next closest male relation). This in turn leads to a blood feud that can last generations and involve whole tribes with the loss of hundreds of lives. Normally blood feuds in this all male dominated setup are then settled in a number of ways.
           * Nanawateh (asylum) - derived from the verb meaning to go in, this is used for protection given to a person who requests protection against his/her enemies. The person is protected at all costs.
        ...
           * Zemaka (land/earth) - A Pashtun must defend his land/property from incursions wherever he or she might reside.
        ...

      •  Can't find the source I want (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        StrayCat

        and sadly British military records, while very precise in naming the ethnicity of their native levies, use the general term Tribesman.  Basically, after the Durand Line was established, the British concern was in keeping the Northwest Territories for Pakistan which effectively divided the Pashtun and giving them an incentive to go to war.

        Reading through the readily available sources, it appears that the Afghan forces were usually predominately Pashtun but at the same time other tribes or clans or families could be involved in supporting the Pashtun depending on their relationship with the Pashtun at the time of any conflict.

        Amazon has several excellent books including one I am not familiar with that details Afghan military history from Alexander to the present  

      •  I say just give them their own country n/t (0+ / 0-)

        GOP = Godless opposition party We Hassle to make America a Vassal (state)

        by Shhs on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 07:24:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The American aid to the mujaheddin (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      entlord1, Losty, freesia

      was considerable.

      Operation Cyclone

      Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, 1979 to 1989.[1] Operation Cyclone is one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken;[2] funding began with $20–30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987.

      The US was directly responsible for helping to overthrow the best government the Afghans have ever had because it was socialist and backed by the Soviet Union.

      Republic of Afghanistan

      Once in power, the PDPA moved to permit freedom of religion and carried out an ambitious land reform, waiving farmers' debts countrywide. They also made a number of statements on women’s rights and introduced women to political life. A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, who was a major Marxist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Ratebzad wrote the famous May 28, 1978 New Kabul Times editorial which declared: "Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country ... Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention."[57]

      Many people in the cities including Kabul either welcomed or were ambivalent to these policies. However, the secular nature of the government made it unpopular with religiously conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside, who favoured traditionalist 'Islamic' law.

      The U.S. saw the situation as a prime opportunity to weaken the Soviet Union.

      For further reading:

      The Largest Covert Operation in CIA History

  •  I'm going to rec this VERY short diary (6+ / 0-)

    ...because this is a story that needs some attention on dKos and I haven't seen it elsewhere. Recommended diaries are too busy talking about more important "stuff"

    Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny?

    by NuttyProf on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 06:40:48 AM PDT

  •  A lot of credit to Mathew Hoh (8+ / 0-)

    He resigned because it was the right thing to do. They almost had him talked into compromising this highly moral position ,offers of jobs,etc, but he rallied himself and held firm to his convictions.  

  •  What is the end game in Afghanistan?... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, Claudius Bombarnac

    I used to think it was to go in there, find/hurt Osama, take out the al Qaeda training camps and leave.

    Then it evolved into this quasi-neocon thing where we were going to establish a national infrastructure and central government to run the country. (Note to first world countries: Afghanistan is a non-organic state with false borders. It cannot be centrally managed by anyone who doesn't use mustard gas.)

    With Obama, I still don't get the point. It seems like a never-ending cycle of police actions to put down Taliban flare-ups, but its essentially an endless game of whack-a-mole.

    I'd like Obama to define what it is we're supposed to be doing over there and define how we plan to do it, or GET OUT.

    •  would mustard gas even work? (0+ / 0-)

      During WWII, even in their last desperate days, the Germans refused to resort to their poisonous gas arsenal. It is significant to note that Hitler was twice wounded in a gas attack and knew first hand the limitations of mustard gas

    •  By the time the US started bombing the shit (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dillonfence, StrayCat, entlord1, freesia

      out of the Taliban, Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda were long gone to the western provinces of Pakistan.

      The Cheney/Bush neocon controlled administration knew this and they knew enough not to get too militarily involved in the ensuing conflict.

      The Taliban were routed with the use of about 300 special forces operatives advising and funding the mujahideen (old friends of the CIA).

      They duped NATO into putting boots on the ground, installed a puppet government and got the f*ck out.

      Now Obama is escalating American troop presence in AfPak because the conflict has spread into Pakistan.

      It's blowback time for America (again). Those damn chickens keep coming home to roost!

      You'd think the US people would learn. Unfortunately, America has an ingrained war mentality. Solutions to social problems always seem to resolve into wars - War on Poverty, War on Crime, War on Drugs.

  •  Afghanistan conundrum... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, entlord1

    ...is one that despite McChrystal's "solution" of a simplistic "send in more troops" strategy" is going to take a lot more than that to solve.  

    There seems to be a willful blindspot in DC on the complexity of the country's tribalism, the fact that Afghanistan wars have not gone well for other empires, and the fact that the US has been too slow to learn from the lessons learned from the failures of others who have gone before us.

  •  This guy is MY NEW HERO! (4+ / 0-)

    This was surely difficult for him but he obviously felt that he had no choice but to speak out. I agree with him 100%.

    "We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist" --- President Barack Obama, 1-20-2009.

    by tier1express on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 07:12:07 AM PDT

  •  In the article, he said (0+ / 0-)

    "I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," Hoh said.

    Well, I am. I am a (no longer pot smoking) hippie who wants everyone to be in love.

    Peace, love, and prosperity to all. Yes!

  •  Tom Ricks: (0+ / 0-)

    Oh no!  Who will run the embassy Xerox machine!  The Post is making way too big of a deal out of this story.

    --Paraphrased but he used all those words.

    "Rahm Emmanuel bit my cat." - LaFeminista

    by TooFolkGR on Tue Oct 27, 2009 at 07:59:26 AM PDT

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