Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Afghanistan Is Not "Our" Civil War!

John McCain and John Kerry have a lot in common. They're both Vietnam War combat vets and that seems to have given both of them pretty flawed approaches to the AfPak War. Both of them see the AfPak war in the context of America's perceived interests.

Kerry recently left Hamid Karzai's political prospects in the gutter when he forced the Afghan president to accept a runoff election, an acknowledgement of failure and a profound humiliation of Karzai before Afghan voters.

Now Kerry is warning that an American pullout from Afghanistan would trigger a civil war between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Trigger a civil war? Just what does Kerry think is underway in Afghanistan right now if not a civil war? Just because we're filling in as Kabul's foreign mercenaries doesn't change the essential nature of the conflict being waged.

It began as a garden-variety insurgency but that changed when the Taliban started actually taking over territory, imposing political, administrative and judicial authority in regions we couldn't or wouldn't contest. It's the evolution of a rival government structure that morphs what began as an insurgency into today's civil war. John Kerry either doesn't or doesn't want to see that.

Someone who sees that all too well is Matthew Hoh, a former combat Marine captain turned Foreign Service Officer who just resigned in protest over Afghanistan. This guy is not some disgruntled crank either.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "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."

... But many Afghans, he wrote in his resignation letter, are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there -- a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted, he said, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.

...With "multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups," he wrote, the insurgency "is fed by what is perceived 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 U.S. and Nato presence in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified."

So seriously was his resignation taken that Hoh was brought to Kabul by U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and induced to accept a post there. When that failed, noneother than Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, tried to convince Hoh to stay by offering him a policy post in Washington. The Washington Post reports that even the top brass took Hoh's resignation letter to heart:

"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."

While he did not share Hoh's view that the war "wasn't worth the fight," Holbrooke said, "I agreed with much of his analysis."


LeDaro said...

Ho was offered a job with Holbrooke but after one week he resigned from there too as he could not justify to himself to carry on.

Afghan war is a total disaster of worst kind. Yesterday there were 14 US soldiers killed. Today 8 more are killed. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33491981/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia

LeDaro said...

Sorry I meant Hoh.

Comrade Okie said...

Another excellent post Mound. I'm glad you are sticking with this issue and bringing forward the background information that few take the time to search out and present.