When Matthew Hoh joined the Foreign Service early this year, he was exactly the kind of smart civil-military hybrid the administration was looking for to help expand its development efforts in Afghanistan.Howie P.S.: Eugene Robinson (WaPo):
A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.
But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.
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."
Obama is at the key juncture: in or out. If he ratifies the counterinsurgency strategy and approves a troop increase, he'll be committing the United States to see the project through to its end. Advisers say the president's goals for "fixing" Afghanistan are realistic, even modest. To me, however, the whole enterprise looks unrealistic and immodest.
We invaded Afghanistan to ensure that the country could never again be used to launch attacks against the United States. That mission is accomplished, and our only goal should be making sure it stays accomplished -- whether the place is run by Hamid Karzai or the Taliban. The counterinsurgency campaign that Obama is contemplating looks like a step onto the slipperiest slope imaginable. It doesn't matter whether the step is tentative or bold.
Sometimes a "war president" has to decide to start bringing the troops home. That's what Obama must do.