Last week the Bulletin published an analysis of the proposal for a two-year de-escalation of the Afghanistan War made by a group of 50 national security experts: A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Study Group’s director, Matthew Hoh, who resigned from the State Department over US policies, responded with this letter to be shared with the Bulletin’s readers:
“The ASG's report was a consensus report with over 50 signers and non-signers contributing, so my personal views don't necessarily line up with the consensus, nor does probably anyone's views. That said, with regard to the paragraph on the troop numbers suggested by the report, as you suggest we take into account political realities in the US, but we also recognize political realities internal to Afghanistan and its neighboring nations (not to mention just the logistical and operational reality of removing 150k of foreign troops from a landlocked country in the midst of a three decade long conflict). One of my concerns is that a too rapid withdrawal of US troops from the country would scare the hell out of the Northern Alliance and would weaken the already weak and fractured coalition supporting Karzai. If that coalition fails, then I don't see the possibility of a negotiated settlement or getting the Indians or Pakistanis to support an agreement.
“As for combat operations, I have advocated for an immediate ceasefire and for a withdrawal of foreign forces and Afghan army forces out of many rural locations, to include not just the South, but parts of East and North Afghanistan. My view is to pull troops back to those areas of Afghanistan where their presence is supported or is tolerated and to not be a catalyst for Taliban support in other areas.
“With regards to residual bases, I don't believe that is in our best interests and I believe we should be out (and can be, I like Sig Harrison's ideas: How to Leave Afghanistan Without Losing), as our presence destabilizes the region more than it stabilizes it and provides a larger propaganda story for al-Qaeda than does our "losing" in Afghanistan.
“I thought your last two paragraphs were simply great, as well as your well-needed reminding of our moral failing in not just supporting, but creating and propping up a kleptocracy.”
September 12, 2010