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First U.S. diplomat resigns over Afghanistan, sending ripples through Obama White House

October 27, 2009 | 10:15 am

A U.S. Marine points his rifle at Afghan men ordered to raise their arms to show they're not carrying explosives in Farah Province, southern Afghanistan
He is a former Marine captain with combat experience in Iraq, a former uniformed officer at the Pentagon, a civilian in Iraq who joined the Foreign Service to make a difference.

Now, Matthew Hoh has resigned, the first official protest resignation over the Afghanistan War. In a letter to the State Department's personnel office last month, the 36-year-old diplomat wrote:

I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan...To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war.

The Atlantic has an embedded copy of the resignation here.

According to the Washington Post, which broke the story this morning, senior officials reacted quickly to the defection. The U.S. ambassdor to Afghanistan offered Hoh a job. He declined. Then Richard Holbrooke, the administration's go-to guy on the region, sat Hoh down for a chat, and offered him a job on his staff in D.C.

"We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke told the Post. "We all thought that given how serious his letter was, how much commitment there was, and his prior track record, we should pay close attention to him."

First Hoh accepted the job, then changed his mind. "I recognize the career implications, but it wasn't the right thing to do," he told the Post in an interview Friday, two days after his resignation became final. "I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," he added, calling Afghanistan essentially a far-away civil war.

President Obama meanwhile continues to weigh Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for more troops. Addressing 3,500 military personnel and their families in a naval air hangar in Florida yesterday, Obama seemed to answer critics of his deliberative process, saying:

I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way. I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: A Marine points orders Afghan men to show they're not carrying explosives. Credit: David Furst / AFP / Getty Images.

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