Matthew Hoh, a former Foreign Service officer and former Marine Corps captain who last month became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, was online Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the reasons why he thought the war "wasn't worth the fight."
Washington, D.C.: Not worth the fight? Have you forgotten about 9/11 and the failed state that existed before we entered Afghanistan? Do you want to give all we have accomplished, removing the Taliban from power, taking away al-Qaeda's safe haven, making it possible for women to get an education, etc., back to the Muslim extremists? Isn't that letting them win?
Matthew Hoh: I disagree and I think it is emotional arguments like this that keep us tied to Afghanistan and to a policy that fuels the insurgency as well as adds credence to calls for global Islamic jihad. 9/11 was a tragedy for this country and we cannot let another event like that happen, particularly as we have still not recovered from the emotional shock of the event 8 years later. Additionally, events like 9/11 cause tremendous shock to world financial markets, something we cannot allow to occur, especially at this point in time. However, since 9/11 al-Qaeda has evolved and no longer will tie itself to a political state or geographical boundaries. They have turned into an ideological cloud that exists on the internet and recruits worldwide. Look at the makeup of the attackers for the 9/11, London and Madrid attacks and additionally looked at where they planned and trained for their operations. Heck, the 9/11 attackers trained here in the US! The people we are fighting, for the most part, in Afghanistan are fighting us because they do not want to be occupied by either a foreign army or a central government force. Simply put, al-Qaeda does not exist in Afghanistan and 60,000 troops with the hope of stabilizing the Afghan central government which may or may not succeed in 5-10 years time will not defeat al-Qaeda.
Austin, Tex.: Do you have a sense of what will be the plight of the women in Afghanistan if the U.S. and U.N. forces were to pull out?
I don't see much coverage in the media of the women in Afghanistan.
Matthew Hoh: The plight of the Afghan women, particularly those who live in the Pashtun belt of the country is tragic and horrific. Girls are locked away for life as early as the age of 11 or 12 (and under the Taliban it may have been as early as age 7), only to leave the house escorted and completely covered. In the province I was in literacy was less than 1% for women and the only employment opportunity I was aware of was done by the US military in partnership with USAID and USDA--this was for roughly 20 widows to clean raisins. It is a terrible plight and it is anguishing to see, as I have a mother, sister, niece, girlfriend...However, we cannot justify the deaths of our young men and women for the goal of changing a society's internal cultural and familial norms. This is a goal best left to NGOs and IOs or through the US government's strategic communications. But this is a process that will take generations/decades.
Karzai's brother, the CIA and opium: What are the implications to our ongoing presence in Afghanistan of the NYT disclosure that Karzai's brother has been on the CIA payroll the last 8 years and that he is also likely involved in the Afghan drug trade?
Matthew Hoh: I think it is a blight on us and is a smack in the face to those who have participated in counternarcotics efforts. It is also shows the duplicity or maybe the opposite the lack of coherence in our policies and goals in Afghanistan. We've known for a long time that Wali Karzai has been involved in the drug trade. Why are we sacrificing our young men and women to support such a regime? There are also many other undesirables at all levels of Afghan government.
Cumberland, Md.: Don't think that our over-emphasis on collateral damage and nation building is harming our effort to wage war effectively as we did in WW II?
Matthew Hoh: This isn't WWII and there shouldn't be a comparison. No one can kill better in this world than the US military, however, if killing was the means to victory we would have "won" this years ago. This is primarily a political fight.
Morristown, N.J.: Mr. Hoh, I very much appreciate and respect the position you have taken. As an Afghan-born American I have been doing development work in Afghanistan, I agree with your position. I believe that many in our government and in the military agree with you as well but are not speaking out. The best way for us to get effectiveness out of the Afghan government is to announce our timeline to exit Afghanistan. What is your thought on this?
Matthew Hoh: Yes, I agree and thank you for your work. When I would ask the provincial leadership in Zabul province how long the US should remain in Afghanistan, there answer was 20-30 years. My counterparts in other parts of the South reported similar conversations. When I would ask them why we should remain that long, they would say it was because only 10% of the people supported the government.
Just one comment here - when the wingnuts say they want less or weaker government, ask them if Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, or any of a hundred other places is what they want the U.S. to become.
Washington, D.C.: Would a little more thought go into the why of going to war, if the Congress actually had to declare war and that upon a declaration of war, the military draft was reinstated for the duration of said war?
Matthew Hoh: Absolutely. As a former professional military officer I am against the draft because I don't believe it leads to an effective military. However, as a private citizen I feel that a draft would engage our population in the debate. I don't believe we would have invaded Iraq if we had a draft and I don't believe we would still be in Afghanistan if we had a draft.
This is the reason the draft was dropped in the first place - so the U.S. could do what its rulers wanted to on the world stage without any pesky unwanted input from its citizens who may have objected to their sons and daughters being dragooned into an imperialistic effort. It may be the one thing we learned from Vietnam.
Semper Fi, Captain Hoh.