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U.S. diplomat quits in protest of Afghan war

| Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009

WASHINGTON — A former Marine who fought in Iraq and became a diplomat in a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan has resigned in a high-profile protest of the Afghan war.

Foreign service officer Matthew Hoh is the first U.S. official known to have quit in protest to the war, according to The Washington Post, which reported Hoh's resignation in Tuesday's editions. Hoh said he stepped down only six months into the job because he believes the war is fueling the insurgency. The State Department said it respected his views but did not agree with them.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," Hoh wrote in his Sept. 10 resignation letter. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

Hoh did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press, but told the Post he had concluded that Afghans resented the presence of U.S. troops in their country and were fighting to drive them out and not for ideological reasons.

Hoh's resignation took effect on Sept. 28, according to State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, who said the government appreciated Hoh's service in Iraq and as a political officer in Zabul, Afghanistan.

"We take his point of view very seriously, but we continue to believe that we're on track to achieving the goal that the president has set before us," Kelly told reporters. "It's a very, very difficult job that we have out there in a very complicated situation, but it's definitely worth the effort."

Senior U.S. officials in Afghanistan and Washington had met with Hoh and "heard him out," noted Kelly, adding, "We respect his right to dissent."

However, Kelly also said that Hoh was a temporary hire whose tour was due to end in March after the completion of a limited one-year assignment and that his resignation was not comparable to those of career diplomats who stepped down to protest U.S. military actions in Bosnia and Iraq.

"Without minimizing the obvious passion and depth of feeling of Mr. Hoh in terms of his perception of the mission in Afghanistan, yes, I would draw a distinction between his situation and somebody who'd been in the foreign service and had a stake in the foreign service for 20 years or more," Kelly said.

Several long-serving career diplomats resigned during the administrations of Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush to protest U.S. policies in Bosnia and the invasion of Iraq.

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