Matthew Hoh, a political officer in the foreign service and a senior civilian officer in Zabul, Afghanistan, wrote a four-page letter to Ambassador Nancy Powell, director general of the foreign service at the State Department, to express his "doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy," as first reported by the Washington Post today.
Today, Hoh told reporters he submitted his letter of resignation on Sept. 10 because he doesn't agree with the U.S. mission in the country. Afghanistan, Hoh said, is in stark contrast to Iraq, especially when it comes to security.
"I feel that our strategies in Afghanistan are not pursing goals that are worthy of sacrificing our young men and women or spending the billions we're doing there," Hoh said. "I believe that the people we are fighting there are fighting us because we are occupying them -- not for any ideological reasons, not because of any links to al Qaeda, not because of any fundamental hatred toward the West. The only reason they're fighting us is because we are occupying them."
Hoh spent six years in Iraq, where he served as a Marine Corps captain and then worked as a civilian for the Department of Defense.
The 36-year-old told reporters he wants people to know that stabilizing the Afghan government doesn't equate to defeating al Qaeda.
"If that's our goal, to defeat al Qaeda, we need to change our strategy because, you know it's the proverbial swatting of the fly with a sledgehammer, all you do is basically exhaust yourself and you put holes in your walls and your floors, and you don't do anything to the fly," he said. "We are still fighting them the way we would have fought in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and we need to change. We need to evolve to actually fight this threat so that we can affect it."
The U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, and Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, apparently tried to talk Hoh out of resigning. The latter even offered him a job but Hoh declined, according to the Post.
The State Department said today that senior officials spoke to Hoh and heard him out, but that they believe the Obama administration's strategy is on the right track.
"We take his point of view very seriously. But we continue to believe that we are on track to achieving the goal that the president has set before us," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.
Asked how Hoh's resignation stacked up against those of career officials who resigned over the conflicts in Bosnia and Iraq, Kelly replied, "Without minimizing the obvious passion and depth of feeling of Mr. Hoh, in terms of his perception of the mission in Afghanistan, yeah, I would draw a distinction between his situation and somebody who had been in the Foreign Service and had a stake in the Foreign Service for 20 years or more."
Hoh's resignation comes as a blow to the Obama administration, which has yet to decide whether it will send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, as the lead commander on the ground, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has requested.