WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) – Daily we see the images of desperate people trying to flee Afghanistan.
Thousands who helped the American cause fear that because they did so, they will be tortured or killed by the Taliban.
They are scenes Matthew Hoh says were avoidable.
“Veteran groups and human rights groups have been jumping up and down about the translators and other folks who have worked for us over there for at least eight years. Maybe even longer. This is not a new issue. This is something people have been raising to the U.S. government for nearly a decade now,” he said.
Now living in Wake Forest, Hoh served in Afghanistan as a Marine captain.
He returned as a U.S. foreign service officer but very publicly resigned that post in protest.
He said the final straw was when he saw Afghan soldiers stuff ballot boxes in the 2009 election.
“So no, I am not surprised of the fact that the Afghan government collapsed and many people in the U.S. government were surprised by it because they have simply either chosen not to understand the situation in Afghanistan or they have willingly gone along with the lies, misrepresentations, myths, etc. about the war.”
There are the immediate questions for the Biden administration.
Why we did we close Bagram Air Base and not have control of the airport in Kabul before getting civilians, embassy workers and Afghan allies out?
But, Hoh said the fact the Taliban has taken control lies with every administration and Congress since the war started 20 years ago.
“Congress has done very little to support this. There were requests to increase the quota for visas. Congress did not do that. There were requests to bring refugees to the U.S. Congress said no. As well as my favorite excuse is when people in Congress or anyone on the elected level say they can’t do something about a problem involving another government institution when they are the ones controlling the money,” Hoh said. “So the fact that the U.S. Congress gives the State Department $50 billion a year or so you’re telling me the U.S. Congress wouldn’t say to the State Department hey figure this thing out with the Afghan refugees or you’re not getting your $50 billion. There’s a lot of trying to wash your hands of responsibility when there’s lots of responsibility to go around.”
That includes the strategy on the ground.
“For two decades we’ve given the Afghan people two choices. You can either support the Taliban or you can support this corrupt predatory kleptocracy. What’s really been astonishing is part of that strategy was a divide and conquer strategy. Similar to in Iraq where the U.S. pitted the Shia versus Sunni same in Afghanistan,” Hoh said. “The U.S. pitted most of the ethnicities in Afghanistan against the Pashtuns. But what we’ve seen particularly in these last months is that non-Pashtuns supportive of the Taliban. Which shows how despised and how brutal and how predatory the Afghan government has been. As long as the U.S. pursued these policies, these goals this was inevitable. But if the US had chosen to do things differently in Afghanistan it was not inevitable.”
In the long run, only time will tell how history judges the war and how President Joe Biden ended it.
It starts with whether there is another attack on U.S. soil but goes further than that.
“I think if the United States holds its nose, swallows its pride, works with the Taliban, and rebuilding and reconciliation occurs there then yes, I think people will say, ‘yes, Joe Biden did the right thing.’ He got us out of Afghanistan but he honored American commitments to the Afghan people and he helped Afghanistan rebuild and reconcile. If the choice is to try and overthrow the Taliban via the CIA and warlord allies then of course not. Because Afghanistan will look like Afghanistan has looked over the last 40 years,” Hoh said.