October 27th, 2009
06:17 PM ET
9 years ago

Official resigns over 'cavalier, politically expedient' Afghan war

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Widening rifts over America's war in Afghanistan were laid bare Tuesday with the revelation that a State Department official recently resigned in protest over what he termed a "cavalier, politically expedient and Pollyannaish misadventure."

Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh, a 36-year-old former Marine Corps captain, submitted his resignation letter on September 10.

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative in both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, made a personal plea for Hoh to change his mind. Hoh refused.

His resignation took effect September 28.

"I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the U.S. military has received in Afghanistan," Hoh wrote.

"Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to a conflict in an indefinite and unplanned manner. ... We are mortgaging our nation's economy on a war which, even with increased commitment, will remain a draw for years to come."

News of Hoh's resignation came as the administration continues to deliberate whether to change course in an eight-year conflict once dubbed a "war of necessity" by President Barack Obama.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander, has reportedly submitted a request for as many as 40,000 additional troops.

McChrystal's request is being weighed against the backdrop of suddenly spiraling U.S. military fatalities. Two roadside bombs killed eight soldiers on Tuesday, two military officials told CNN. Their deaths meant a total of 24 Americans - most of them military - had been killed over 48 hours.

There have been 58 American military fatalities so far in October, making it the deadliest month for U.S. armed forces since the Afghanistan war began in October 2001.

"I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan," Hoh wrote. "If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al Qaeda resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc."

Hoh, who had been serving as a top political officer in Afghanistan's southern Zabul province, argued that the American presence in the war-torn Islamic republic "has only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan, where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons."

He also drew parallels between the war in Afghanistan and U.S. involvement in Vietnam four decades ago.

American support for "an invalid and illegitimate Afghan government ... reminds me horribly of our involvement in South Vietnam; an unpopular and corrupt government we backed at the expense of our nation's own internal peace, against an insurgency whose nationalism we arrogantly and ignorantly mistook as a rival to our own Cold War ideology."

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the administration respected Hoh's decision.

"We take his opinions very seriously," Kelly said. "Senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan and here in Washington have talked to him, have heard him out. We respect ... his right to dissent."

Hoh's resignation from a special one-year appointment appears, at least so far, to be an anomaly. No career Foreign Service officers have resigned from the State Department over Afghanistan policy, according to Kelly.

Hoh concluded his resignation letter by stating that he could not promise the families of U.S. soldiers killed in action that the war was worthy of their sacrifice.

"The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept," he wrote.

"I have lost confidence such assurances can anymore be made. As such, I submit my resignation."

–CNN's Elise Labott, Dugald McConnell, and Brian Todd contributed to this story.

Filed under: Afghanistan • State Department
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. 60's survivor

    pay heed

    October 27, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  2. George Bush - Worst President Ever

    How good could this guy have been at his job. We've been doing a bad job of fighting this war for over 7 years, and he just realized this.

    October 27, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  3. W l Jones

    He sound like the Army have to come to his aid again time.

    October 27, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  4. Maxx Goff

    Mr. Hoh is, I believe, completely accurate in his assessment of our Afghan war. Look at the history of failure for foreign invaders of Afghanistan, read Clausewitz, look at the will of the Afghan people to resist the Taliban and secure democracy for themselves, their women and children. Not worth one more wounded G.I. – Maxx Goff, member, Special Forces Association.

    October 27, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. James Mable

    Wow, our handpicked wars as of late have been politically calcuated and worst of all most of our politicians have never been in the military. Terrorism will be in its "last throes" thousands of years in the future...a paradox we have to live with..I respect this official for his outspoken courage while under fire....godspeed.

    October 27, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I know Hoh will write a book but let's all pray he doesn't write it while our men and women are still fighting. We all know the U.S. should have never gone to war in the Middle East and there had never been any planning. God Bless our brave military.

    October 27, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  7. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    This is an interesting situation.
    President Obama has not made any changes to policies implemented by President bush...
    From the beginning, "the dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost."
    So, my questions start with: What is different now from when the "war" was started?
    Why did he take the job in the first place, did he not realize the nature and scope of the problems at hand?

    And end with: Is it fair to assume that the biggest part of the "protest" is against President bush's policies and actions or that it is a political gambit by a "Right" wing operative, intended to undermine a supposed "Left" wing President?

    October 27, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  8. Rebecca Rosen

    I was disappointed to here this just seconds ago on the Situation Room. I understand that people may draw a parallel between Afghanistan and Vietnam, but each conflict is unique and should be treated separate from each other. I'm not trying to minimize how difficult the war is but we need to give our President as much time as he needs to decide on how many more troops will be deployed to Afghanistan. And I respect Hoh's decision but we need to pay close attention to our President's decision and see if his decision will bring stability to the war torn country.

    October 27, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. New Yorker

    If Obama keeps dragging his feet regarding whether or not to send more troops we may have troops, over there already, going AWOL. Thanks to all you liberal doves who voted for this AWOL commander in chief.

    October 27, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  10. Four and The Door

    Well, doesn't he have a nice platform now to broadcast his message worldwide? I would expect as much from Al Jazeera, but CNN?

    I don't suppose any of our young military men or women who understand what they are fighting for would get equal time. That doesn't sell so well, does it?

    October 27, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  11. Proud Member, Partyofdumbasrocks

    Where was his voice during the lead-up and initial stages of the Iraq misadventure?

    October 27, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Hoh is correct, we need to get out of Afganistan before we bankrupt ourselves. Our goals are ever-changing and there is no clear exit strategy.

    October 27, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  13. Disgruntled

    Its total insanity to keep pouring billions of dollars into the sands of the Middle East. Pull the troops out and use the money saved to give all Americans access to decent health care. Sorry , defence contractors.

    October 27, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  14. S Callahan

    There's more to be told from Mr. Hoh..I sure hope CNN follows up. Scary stuff.....again. There is a solution but it takes faith.

    October 27, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  15. hooverguide

    "He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue... In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns."
    The Art of War Sun Tzu (c.500-320 B.C.)

    October 27, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  16. tate

    Who would serve under the coward in chief. Let his wife take over she is the man of the house.

    October 27, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  17. They call me "tater salad"

    Good for Hoh! Im glad someone is finally telling the truth about what really goes on! The Republicans had no plan going into it 7 years ago because the only way they can keep the Military Industial Complex in business, along with all of there private, military contractor buddies is to have endless wars with no "end game" in the plan! Military contractors and defense contractors are a BUSINESS and in order for them to stay in BUSINESS they need to have a DEMAND for their PRODUCT! It's just that simple people!!! I think people really need to wake up now!!!!!

    October 27, 2009 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  18. Wise Latina

    I agree that it is difficult if not impossible to serve a Commander in Chief who is more of a Commander of Campaign Politics (and Golf), and who dithers while brave men die because he feels the need to first install state-run insurance and run private insurance out of business...

    October 27, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  19. Obama fails= Americans win

    Obama should be ashamed of himself! At least when Bush was president we knew what our mission was. This guy is gonna end up with the Irs invesigating him for questioning Comrade Obama

    October 27, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  20. haren

    Fools and their freedoms are soon parted wrote

    While he is out stumping...our military personnel are DYING and he is still smoozing with Hollywood and gutting our Constitution

    Another stupid Rush Limbaugh listener.
    Obama never wrote any thesis about gutting our constitution check your fact before listening any garbage from Rush.
    We want our troop to come home, we want peace in the world and it is time to check at the airport without taking off our shoes.

    October 27, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  21. Duck Fallas

    The man is far more credible and eloquent than any keyboard cowboy that posts their ramblings here. He's right. We should:

    A. Pull ALL our troops out
    B. Nuke AfghaniPakistan

    October 27, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  22. Angi's mom

    Hoh is right. Bring our troops home now.

    October 27, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  23. Dan

    Hoh Said.........We are mortgaging our nation's economy on a war which........

    Yes he is Correct.

    Bush should be in Jail.

    All Properties of Bush should be seized for paying compensation to the injured soldiers.

    October 27, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  24. jaye

    Sounds like a Hiroshima is in order to win this war. Either way, bring our troops home.
    Bush and Cheney's war rages on while they bask in their riches and mansions and tv interviews. Send them over there until the war ends....they started it, now let them fight in it.

    October 27, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  25. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    And still Obama waffles on what to do; filling his days with fundraising, campaigning and rounds of golf. If he were in the military he'd be charged with dereliction of duty.

    October 27, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
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