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Ex-State Department Official Explains Exit Over Afghan War Strategy

In an interview with Judy Woodruff, Matthew Hoh, the first U.S. official known to resign in protest to America's presence in Afghanistan, discusses his objections to the war.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight, we continue our ongoing conversations on Afghanistan.

    Tonight, it's with an official dissenter to U.S. policy.

    Judy Woodruff is in charge.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    After five months serving with the State Department in Afghanistan, Matthew Hoh became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest against American policies there.

    In his September 10 letter of resignation, revealed this week in "The Washington Post," the former Marine captain said: "I fail to see the value or worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditure of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war."

    Hoh's resignation was greeted more in sorrow than in anger by the State Department. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke said — quote — "We took his letter very seriously because he was a good officer."

    Mr. Hoh joins us now.

  • MATTHEW HOH:

    Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Thank you for being here.

    So, is it your view that the U.S. should just get out?

  • MATTHEW HOH:

    Of course it's impossible to wave a magic wand and be gone from there. However, I do believe we are involved in a 35-year-old civil war.

    I believe we are not the lead character in that war, that it's an internal conflict. I believe that 60,000 troops in Afghanistan do not serve to defeat al-Qaida and do not serve to stabilize the Pakistan government.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What is it that has given you the confidence to know this? What did you see in Afghanistan?

  • MATTHEW HOH:

    Sure.

    Well, before I went, I studied quite a bit about it, I read a lot of its history, particularly the late '70s and in the Soviet-Afghan war. Additionally, I have many friends and colleagues who have served in Afghanistan.

    I went there with some ideas that this didn't sit well with me about what we were doing there, but I wanted to contribute. When I got there, however, serving in the east and in the south, the similarities were the same.

    What I found, we were fighting people who were fighting us only because we're occupying them or because we are supporting a central government that they view as occupying them.

    Most importantly, I think I listened to as many Afghans as possible because my role as a political adviser was to work with the Afgha

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