Hasty Troop Withdrawal Endangers Afghan Women

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Osama bin Laden's death has spurred talk of U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer. But if troops go away before a true re-integration process for the Taliban, commentator Jeanne Bryer wonders what chance women will have.

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No Clear Consensus

When asking for Afghan women's opinion on whether there should be negotiations with the Taliban and foreign troop withdrawal, Wazhma Frogh, a leading women's activist and an executive board member of the Afghan Women's Network, told me that among Afghan women there is no clear consensus. But there is a common call for ending all forms of violence.

Wazhma says it doesn't matter to a mother whether an international air operation or a suicide bomber killed her child. The pain of loss is the same and she must endure her suffering under cover and in silence.

General James Bucknell, second in command of the International Security Assistance Force--the NATO-led security mission that has been in Afghanistan since 2001--says "now is not the time to blink."

Major General Phil Jones, director of International Security Assistance Force's Force Reintegration Cell, believes that the sight of bin Laden's picture--as a hunched, forlorn figure instead of a charismatic leader--will weaken his following and that now is the time to capitalize on this. Many foot-soldiers may turn away from al-Qaida and the Taliban, which could have a positive impact for reintegration.

Unless the perpetrators of cruelty and inhumane actions–whether they are Taliban or criminal warlords--are stopped, the misery for women will undoubtedly continue. If the military chiefs' advice is taken--to keep troops in there to press the advantage--then there is a chance they will achieve true security for all Afghans.


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Britain's Jeanne Bryer has freelanced, specializing in Afghanistan, for over a decade. She traveled to Kabul when the Taliban were in power, interviewing women and getting their stories. She worked for the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group for four years producing security and humanitarian reports, working with the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief in Kabul. She produced the AfghanLinks e-newsletter for four years (now discontinued) and has been a member of the Front Line Club for independent journalists since its opening in 2003. She can be reached at: afghanlinks@aol.com.



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I've always had a lot of sympathy for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. They disliked Taliban rule, but didn't support the liberation of Afghanistan with the help of US/NATO allies the drug/war lords. Apparently because they didn't have any guns, they were totally excluded from any part in the democratic government installed by US/NATO. I wish I had seen more quotes from them and less from US/NATO generals.
Personally, I'm torn between supporting US/NATO continued laying waste to Afghanistan and supporting misogynistic, corrupt drug dealing puppet government and allowing the Taliban back, which US/NATO is getting ready to do.
I'd like to see US/NATO money not spent on bribes or bombs but a dozen engineer battalions building wells, roads, schools and hospitals.

A very well written piece that starkly sets out the plight of the marginalised women there. I worry about sustainability too. Even if women were to be included in the negotiations how would a guarantee be extracted that women would always be given a voice?

This is an excellent and well written reminder that wars are sometimes about noble causes, and to not fight for the people who are being trodden upon, is, in a part of you, to give up on what you believe in, yourself. The question is how, peacefully, can this war be fought? If fought peacefully, are you only leaving the potential victims to be killed more readily, or are you giving everyone a chance to peacefully work out their differences? The world's experience with the Taliban and Al Qaeda is that they kill with religious fervour and belief, so waiting to see if they will choose another path the next time, has not in the past been successful. At such times, I think about Gandhi, and wonder what would have happened to him if he were here in Afganistan today, if he would be able to peacefully accomplish what others have not? He was more singularly dedicated to peaceful ways than any other stateman of the 20th century, and maybe we need another such leader.