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Can We “Win” in Afghanistan? Former State Dept Official Comes to NH

November 5, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. - Nine years and counting - the war in Afghanistan rages on, costing lives and U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars per year, and "to what end?" That's one of the questions to be explored when former U.S. State Department appointee Mathew Hoh speaks tonight in Concord. Hoh, a former Marine Corps captain in Iraq, worked for the state department in Afghanistan, only to resign in 2009 for what he saw as a matter of conscience.

"I could not continue supporting a policy that was not in the benefit of the United States, that was counter-productive, and that was wasting a lot of lives, both American and Afghan, for no benefit to either country."

When the U.S. initially intervened in Afghanistan's civil war nine years ago, Hoh considered the military presence helpful because the Taliban were giving shelter to Al Qaeda, but he says that's no longer the case.

"Nine years later, we find ourselves entangled in that same civil war. Al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan; they've evolved into an organization that's decentralized. I believe that our policy there is making us less safe in many regards."

While he does not believe that the U.S. should abandon Afghanistan, he says our strong military presence gives credence to Al Qaeda's message that they are protecting the Muslim world from Western invaders and occupiers, which serves as a powerful recruiting tool.

Hoh is now the director of The Afghanistan Study Group, a Washington, D.C., task force consisting of policy experts, former government officials and academics. His group has released a study about a different approach in Afghanistan, which he will speak about tonight at an event hosted by New Hampshire Peace Action. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main Street.

The Obama Administration plans to review the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan this December.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH