October 29, 2009
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR


   

FORMER U.S. OFFICIAL MATTHEW HOH TELLS NPR NEWS WHY HE RESIGNED,
SAYS AFGHANS FIGHTING "ONLY BECAUSE WE'RE OCCUPYING THEM"
IN INTERVIEW TODAY ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED


HOH TO NPR: "AL-QAIDA CHANGED, THEY EVOLVED...WE NEED TO DO THE SAME."

EXCERPTS BELOW AND AT NPR.ORG; FULL AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE AT 7PM

October 29, 2009; Washington, D.C. – In his first studio broadcast interview, Matthew Hoh, who last month became the first U.S. official to resign in protest over the war in Afghanistan, talks with NPR News' All Things Considered about his decision to leave the Foreign Service, and why he believes fighting in Afghanistan will have no impact on defeating al-Qaida. Hoh tells NPR's Melissa Block during the interview, airing today, that the U.S. is "losing soldiers and Marines in combat to people who are fighting us, really only because we're occupying them."

The interview is airing this evening on All Things Considered; complete audio of the interview will be available at 7PM (ET) at NPR.org. Excerpts are currently available at NPR's news blog The Two-Way.

On his disagreement with U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Hoh says: "I'm not so much concerned about 'the how' of the war. I'm not so much concerned about debating General McCrystal's views or any of the views of the folks here in D.C., the think tank crowd. I'm more concerned about why we are in Afghanistan. Why are we losing soldiers and Marines in combat to people who are fighting us, really only because we're occupying them. Why are we supporting an Afghan government, who, if we are successful in stabilizing it, that stabilization won’t defeat al-Qaida. And if Pakistan is a priority, because of its nuclear weapons, then why do we have 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, and why are we not fully supporting Pakistan. ...The losses of our soldiers do not merit anything that comes in line with our strategic interests or values."

Asked if five months spent in Afghanistan is enough time to understand the situation there, Hoh says: "Yes I do, because I was fortunate to have served time in two different parts of the country. …Most importantly, the position I had, as a political advisor, my job was to work with local Afghans on a daily basis. And I did, and I was able to get out and meet with local Afghans throughout the east and the south of the country. And they're the ones who really codified my thoughts on this; listening to local people. And most importantly, there are people – I think we have a problem at our headquarters, because we only talk to Afghans who come into our headquarters and talk to us. And we don't get out and talk to the people who live in the villages and the valleys. And you realize that what they want is to be left alone. They don't want a central government, they want to be left alone to try and raise their families and to live in peace. They haven't had peace in 35 years, and I think that’s what they want most."

Whether al-Qaida will be able to return to Afghanistan if the U.S. leaves, Hoh says: "Um, I don't believe that's correct. I believe that after 2001 when we disrupted al-Qaida and removed the Taliban from power and chased al-Qaida and Taliban out of Afghanistan, that al-Qaida evolved. And al-Qaida became, basically, an ideological cloud that exists on the Internet. I don't believe that al-Qaida will ever again tie itself to a geographical or political boundary. I believe they have evolved, and that they get recruits worldwide. They're not looking for a safe-haven in Afghanistan – they don't need that, they've already got safe-havens in half a dozen other countries. ...We have an approach where, we haven’t evolved ourselves. We’re still set up to do our foreign policy and our defense operations like we were in 1991, and we need to change. Al-Qaida changed, they evolved. They got smart about how they're going to do their operations. We need to do the same."

All excerpts from the interview must be credited to NPR News All Things Considered. Television usage must include on-screen credit with NPR logo.

All Things Considered, NPR's signature afternoon newsmagazine, is hosted by Melissa Block, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel and reaches 13 million listeners weekly. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org/stations