Late last week I had a chance to sit down for a talk with Matthew Hoh. You might remember his name from when he resigned his post with the State Department in Zabul Province in Afghanistan in 2009. Here’s a link to an article which was published around the time of his resignation. It ought to jog your memory and give you some background on what we talked about.
He’s since gone on to become Director of the Afghanistan Study Group, which last year published a report titled A New Way Forward. The report counseled in no uncertain terms that we should seriously rethink our approach to the 10 year effort in that beleaguered country, because what we were doing was clearly not working.
Now, with the death of Osama Bin Laden, the United States is poised, many hope, to take a different tack. Following on the heels of Hoh’s group’s report, the Century Foundation task force co-chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi and Thomas R. Pickering released a roadmap for how we might go about negotiating with the Taliban. No less an eminence grise than Richard Haass testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it’s high time that we thought about disengaging. Can Administration thinking be far behind?
Matthew Hoh is cautiously optimistic that the stars might be aligning for a re-evaluation of our policy, but he walked me through his thinking as to why this can be such a difficult thing to achieve in government, and why he chose to fight his fight outside the walls of officialdom, unstymied by victory narratives and the siren song of counterinsurgency doctrine as cure-all.
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