THE PLANK OCTOBER 29, 2009
Andrew Exum flags a Washington Post commenter who took a pretty dim view of the Post's front-pager yesterday about Matthew Hoh, the civilian official in Afghanistan who resigned to protest America's presence there.
First, I am currently serving in a PRT in Iraq. I trained with Matt in northern Virginia in April of this past year before we both moved on to our respective assignments. Matt is a smart young man who has honorably served his country, but by no means was or is he an expert on counterinsurgency, Afghan tribal culture, or U.S. strategic policy.
Second-- this article is riddled with inaccuracies to an extent that almost shocks me, and really makes me question its intent and veracity, coming as it does at a critical time in the debate over Afghan policy.
Matt Hoh is NOT a Foreign Service Officer. This basic fact, central to the article and its headline, is wrong, despite the wording in his letter.
Matt is a "3161" State Department employee, a special category of temporary appointments brought on for 12 month assignments in certain areas of expertise-- engineering, ag, business, rule of law, etc. Some may sign on for a second 12-month tour.
This is a very different thing than being an FSO-- a commissioned, career diplomat who is a generalist and is appointed not as a result of an online job application and single interview (sometimes over the phone), but after a series of competitive oral, written, and physical exams.
Referring to Matt as a "U.S. Official" is about as accurate as referring to a postal employee as a U.S. official.
Hoh seems to have taken a brave risk motivated by his conscience. If this person's complaints are true, you do have to wonder if the media is a little over-eager to celebrate such an event. (Not for ideological reasons, but for sensational ones.) I'll keep an eye out to see whether the Post responds.