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221 weeks ago @ Ms Magazine Blog - The Face We Can't Igno... · 0 replies · +2 points

Rafia:

Thank you for a thoughtful article and for including my arguments among those discussed and critiqued above.

While you are correct that the West is complicit (and therefore morally culpable) in the rise of the Taliban, the same can also be said of the regressive warlords comfortably nestled inside the government. As Sonali Kolhaktar told us while Brave New Foundation was filming Rethink Afghanistan, our backing of the most fundamentalist warlords as pawns vs. the Soviets was really the beginning of the end of women's political equality in Afghanistan.

We do share several points of agreement - the most critical of which is, as you say, "no withdrawal from Afghanistan should be initiated without ensuring that women are consulted and represented in developing the peace and reintegration program." I say this in the article you cite.

What I think you've neglected in the above is that this neglect of the inclusion of women in the process is happening right now, under current policy, and the bad framing behind TIME's cover (keeping a massive U.S. military force is "helping," while withdrawing troops is "abandoning") provides cover for this neglect. The Amnesty Law that wipes the slate clean on Kabul-connected warlords' crimes against women during past conflict and the exclusion of women from the the High Level Peace Council and the Joint Secretariat for Peace, Reconciliation and Reintegration Programs happened or is happening right now with tacit U.S. approval.

Even if we follow TIME's lead and narrow our alarm about anti-women groups to the insurgency, the U.S. military strategy is still not "helping." War always disproportionately affects women in general, but specific to this conflict, every indication we have, including official military reports, show that as we've added troops, the level of violence has increased and the size and capability of the insurgency has increased. At the very least, current policy is failing to arrest the growth of the insurgency. At worst, it's directly driving its growth by alienating Afghans and legitimizing insurgents as defenders of Afghanistan against foreign forces.

Nowhere in my article do I question the importance of programs like "literacy and entrepreneurship initiatives for women, civil society seminars designed to encourage women’s participation and midwifery training projects to reduce Afghanistan’s sky-rocketing rates of maternal mortality," nor do I suggest abandoning them. However, as Nicholas Kristof explains in his recent op-ed, these programs are not synonymous with the military strategy the U.S. pursues in Afghanistan, nor is it true that aid and education programs cannot be run without the umbrella of U.S. military occupation.

I agree Aisha and the other women of Afghanistan deserve our empathy and our best efforts to support their struggle for political equality in Afghanistan. However, I strongly disagree with the notion that foreign military force in general or the current U.S. military strategy in specific represent the best we can do.