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U.S. Strategy: Put More Women in Afghan Army

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
When NATO published a "media backgrounder" on Afghan security forces in October 2010, the U.S.-led alliance was adamant that as the Afghan National Army (ANA) grew to the point where it would be able to defend its own country, it would also need to increase the women in its ranks.

"This growth must result in an inclusive army," said the NATO document. "This requires future effort in building a cadre of female soldiers, as well as ensuring an ethnically balanced army. Currently there are 301 women in the ANA, of which 166 are officers."

A year later, The New York Times ran a story about a female cadet training to be an officer in the ANA.

"She said she did not feel well because two days before, her fiance had threatened her with (a) knife and told her he would kill her if she did not leave the army," reported the Times.

"He says to me from Saturday to Wednesday (when the training school is in session) you are sleeping among American men," said this Afghan cadet.

Sequential Defense Department reports on progress in the Afghan War describe the department's efforts to integrate women into Afghanistan's army.

DOD's June 2008 "Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan" said that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was conducting a project called "Women's Rights Under Islam, which increases knowledge of women's rights under Islam."

DOD's June 2009 report said. "USAID's Women's Rights Under Islam Program held its final seminar in January 2009."

The same report said: "The Supreme Court of Afghanistan upheld the conviction and 20-year prison sentence of Sayed Pervez Kambakhsh, the student originally sentenced to death for distributing information questioning the treatment of women under Islam. The Supreme Court justices issued their decision in secret, without hearing an argument from the defense."


DOD's April 2010 report said: "We are also expanding women's participation in the security sector through recruitment and protection of women, as well as training on gender-related issues for the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army."

DOD's November 2010 report said: "The inaugural female Officer Cadet School class of 37 female cadets began in May 2010. There was significant attrition, but 29 cadets graduated on September 23, 2010."

DOD's April 2011 report said: "The ANA's second female Officer Cadet School class began in December 2010. Currently, there are 19 Afghan women cadets in the course."

DOD's October 2011 progress report indicated that despite a then-decade-long U.S. occupation, Afghanistan still treated women with an outrageous disregard for their God-given rights.

"The condition of Afghan women continues to be one of the worst in the world," said this report. "In general, traditional gender biases, lack of security, weakness of government institutions, and women's subordinate positions in Afghan society continue to impede women's exercise of rights and freedoms. Women in Afghanistan still face widespread threats, including baad, forced marriages, child marriages, honor killings, and self-immolation at alarmingly high rates."

Baad, according to DOD, is "the practice of using women as compensation to settle disputes among practitioners of traditional dispute resolution."


The April 2012 DOD progress report said: "NTM-A (NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan) continues to work with the ANA to increase female recruitment, as female security forces play a key role in enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces). However, the effort to integrate women into the ANA has been largely ineffective. Currently, there are 350 female members of the ANA, which is only a fraction of the ambitious goal of 19,500."

The report also said: "Nonetheless, the issue of women in the ANA remains a focus."

DOD's December 2012 progress report said: "Currently, there are 379 female members of the ANA, which is only a fraction of the goal of 19,500. Nevertheless, training capacity continues to be set aside for female recruits."

In two years, the U.S. and its allies were able to increase the number of women in the Afghan army by 78 -- from 301 to 379.

Meanwhile, according to a report released this week by the Government Accountability Office, the Afghan War has become more violent in recent years. "The security situation in Afghanistan, as measured by enemy-initiated attacks, has deteriorated since 2005," said the report.

Each year since 2010, according to the report, Afghan forces have approximately doubled the number of insider attacks they perpetrated on the U.S. and NATO personnel training them. In 2010, according to a GAO chart, there were about 10 insider attacks; in 2011, there were about 20; and, in 2012, there were more than 40.


"According to one ISAF and several DOD officials," said GAO, "as the United States and ISAF continue to shift their focus from combat to an all advise-and-assist mission, larger numbers of personnel may be exposed to a possible insider attack."

The United States rightly went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 because al-Qaida had used that country as a base of operations to plan and launch an attack on the United States. Our war aim was and should have been to protect our security and our liberty.

We have stayed in Afghanistan for more than 11 years pursuing goals such as integrating women into the Afghan army.

Today, Afghanistan remains a horrible place not only for indigenous women, but also for the Americans sent by our government to teach them to be soldiers.

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