Although Matthew Hoh resigned from his post as senior civilian representative in the Zabul province of Afghanistan in October 2009, he still remains outspoken about America’s purpose in the country.
During a visit to Miami University Tuesday, March 2, Hoh discussed, with a crowd of students, faculty and staff his public resignation from the post last fall.
Hoh, who also served as a Marine Corps captain in Iraq, worked to enforce United States policy in the Zabul province of Afghanistan but resigned after five months of working in the position. He is the first U.S. official to resign in protest of the war.
His decision to resign was part of an accumulation of knowledge and events after working several years in the Pentagon and as a public servant.
“It was building of disappointment, dissatisfaction with our political and military and civilian leaders,” Hoh said. “Overall the inability to be honest about the situations we find ourselves in.”
Hoh said the U.S. backed Afghan government, namely President Hamid Karzai, was one of the reasons for his resignation.
“It’s incredibly corrupt,” Hoh said. “It’s a self-enriching regime.”
The U.S. support of the Karzai government is one against the will of the Afghani people, according to Hoh.
“The people in rural populations do not want to be subjugated by the central government,” Hoh said. “We’re propping up the Karzai regime, for what benefit to us?”
Hoh said he supported the U.S.’s initial presence in Afghanistan but after occupying the country for nearly a decade, he said the U.S. is beginning to look similar to the Soviet Union.
“We went in there rightfully in 2001, we didn’t really understand the situation,” Hoh said. “I do think our presence there is not making things better. We are supporting one side of the civil war.”
Al-Qaida no longer relies on Afghanistan as a safe haven to house its members, making U.S. occupation irrelevant to America, according to Hoh.
“The U.S. military is the best military the world’s ever known, it’s the most disciplined, it’s the most professional,” Hoh said. “We have an obligation, to only send them into combat, only send them into harms way when it’s clearly in the interest and benefits the U.S.”
Hoh said he recognized the need to rid the world of al-Qaida.
“Unfortunately I think al-Qaida is an organization you have to destroy,” Hoh said. “You’re not going to do that with large masses of U.S. soldiers.”
According to Hoh, a different strategy is necessary for diplomatic outreach with certain foreign nations and organizations.
“I see us winning on an ideological basis, on a moral basis,” Hoh said. “You can do it through certain development efforts. We can do different things that make sense. There’s a lot of goodwill to the U.S. in central and southern Africa because of the different aids and medical campaigns we’ve done in the last 20 years.”
Hoh addressed recent U.S. efforts concerning the War in Afghanistan.
“I’m not very hopeful about the operation of Marjah,” Hoh said. “You’ll see us secure it and we’ll start to do various projects there but we’re not going to address the underlying issues of political stability, who actually will politically control the area. It’s of no consequence to the U.S. who controls Marjah, al-Qaida’s not there. There’s no benefit to the U.S. there.”
Hoh said he sees little difference in how either the Bush administration or Obama administration handle the war but was more disappointed in the Obama administration’s decision to deploy an additional 30,000 troops.
“The president did a very good job in terms of taking a couple months to review Afghanistan,” Hoh said. “We’ve got Americans dying everyday for it, I was very disappointed (in the Obama decision).”
Hoh said he is anticipating the troop withdrawal that he believes will occur on the July 2011 timeline President Barack Obama created.
“Unfortunately, I think that’s why the president authorized more troops to go to Afghanistan,” Hoh said. “In the 2012 elections, he’ll need something to point to that he campaigned to that he won.”