The Face We Can’t Ignore: Women in Afghanistan

What to do about the war in Afghanistan is posed as a question of military strategy, of defense expenditures, of logistical technicalities; of political climate, secret safe havens and effective counter- insurgency… but almost never a question of women.

In the meeting rooms on Capitol Hill, in seminars held at think tanks and universities around the U.S., and on talk shows where experts dissect the latest in the saga of American warfare, a resolute silence has surrounded the issue of Afghan women. Untouched and neglected, it has lain on the sidelines of a debate on war and exit, marred by the taint of having been used as a pretext for invasion by the neo-conservatives of yore.

Such was the status quo until last Thursday, when TIME magazine released its cover for the week of Aug. 2, 2010. Staring out at the world is the image of a brutally mutilated 18-year-old Afghan girl, her nose severed.  The text reads, “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.”

The story inside reveals that Aisha was “punished” by a jirga headed by a Taliban commander. For being disobedient to her in-laws, her nose and ears were cut off.

The image is as jarring as the questions surrounding it. First to critique TIME‘s cover has been an American Left so committed to troop withdrawal that any pauses for consideration are instantly rejected as ploys to perpetuate occupation. On the Huffington Post, Derrick Crowe, political director of the Brave New Foundation, described the cover as “TIME’s epic distortion of the plight of women in Afghanistan,” calling it “rank propaganda,” and pointing out that Aisha was attacked while U.S forces were still in Afghanistan purportedly providing “security.” The Feminist Peace Network decried the tired use of “protecting Afghan women” as justification for continued occupation.

The Left’s framing is clear: Rescuing Afghan women was a pretext crafted handily by the Bush Administration so it could barge its way into Afghanistan and stay there. And that’s certainly true. Also true, as Crowe points out, is that Afghan women have continued to suffer during the American occupation, enduring both traditional patriarchal practices and newly-minted discriminatory laws. Indeed, assessing the performance of the 10-year occupation in the mutilated-yet-expectant features of a young woman serves as an appropriately graphic visual depiction of our failures in Afghanistan.

The problem with these arguments, however, is that they translate our inability to improve things thus far into a prescription for sudden abandonment of the very projects that women just like Aisha made the mistake of believing in: 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. War is horrific, its misery recorded in lurid detail in the tragedy of Aisha’s mutilation. But withdrawing without a plan for safeguarding the women who chose to believe the American promises of empowerment, however deceitfully those promises may have been made, is to live in denial of a tragedy in which we are roundly imputed.

It also elides the United States’s own role in the initial rise of the Taliban, whose brutality and repression of women was unprecedented in Afghanistan’s history. Today, Afghan women are already retreating behind burqas for fear of Taliban reprisals in a post-U.S Afghanistan where the Taliban control the country. A recent poll shows that nearly 69 percent of Afghans think that the Taliban are the biggest threat to the country and 90 percent prefer current rule over a return of the Taliban.

The binary logic of war and peace that defines debate on the Left is one part of the problem. Another is advocating Afghan women’s self-empowerment in order to sidestep the necessity of committing to their security. Yes, as the Feminist Peace Network critique rightly intimates, the iconography of a maimed Afghan woman awaiting her American saviors is one that negates the possibility of internal resistance by Afghan women themselves. And as a Muslim woman born and raised in Pakistan, I am particularly sensitive to such depictions, and to the implicit condescension in suggesting that feminist awakenings everywhere must always mimic trajectories of the West.

At the same time, I find the sudden elevation of Afghan women’s agency at this juncture to be both self-serving and instrumental in denying just how badly the world has failed them. Saying that women ravaged by war for over three decades, whose capacity for resistance has been depleted by incessant meddling of foreign forces, can now independently empower themselves in the wreckage of the abandoned programs we leave behind is an argument meant only to pacify the travails of our own conscience.

As a recent report from Human Rights Watch recommends, no withdrawal from Afghanistan should be initiated without ensuring that women are consulted and represented in developing the peace and reintegration program. Not only is this a moral imperative arising from our involvement in the region, but it is also good policy reflecting a growing consensus in the international community. As Dr. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said in her testimony before Congress this year, “Neither peace and stability, nor development and security, can be achieved unless human rights and women’s rights are sustained and promoted.”

An urgent and unshakable responsibility lies on American shoulders to ensure that the very Taliban commanders who burned girls’ schools and ordered beatings and mutilations of women like Aisha aren’t installed as leaders–even if it impedes our timeline for withdrawal. And finally, mutual respect demands that we value Aisha’s immense courage in exposing her pain in a manner that forces us to contend with failures we are eager to abandon.

TIME magazine cover, week of August 2, 2010.


  1. Kelly Patrick says:

    thank you Rafia for a EXCELLENT article!! I honor Aisha's courage in trying to escape the abuse from her husband (and family), having been put there by a practice that so completely negates a woman's value, and in allowing us to witness her story.
    There are several bills in the US congress that will help to address violence against women and ensure that the US takes responsible action for women in areas of armed conflict:
    International Violence Against Women Act (S.2982 and H.R. 4594), the EQUALITY Act (S. 2131). None of these has been passed in entirety, so urging elected officials to push these through will go a long way in holding the US accountable for the safety of the women in areas of conflict- Afghanistan being a prime example.
    What each of us can do is contact our elected officials to insist that they move this forward. S 2984 is sitting in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and may be considered by the Senate in coming months, I was told. This needs some constituent voices behind it!

  2. GoodReason says:

    Yes, yes, yes! It is especially ironic that this studied silence takes place in an administration with Hillary Clinton as its Secretary of States and a newly-minted Office of Global Women's Issues.

    We Americans are succeeding in making the world LESS safe for women . . . what kind of track record is that for a nation that believes itself the world's foremost democracy? And what does that say about the relationship between democracy and women?

    Women should have made up a full 50% of that blasted peace jirga that rationalized the reintegration of "moderate" Taliban. Where were the Americans when women were completely excluded from it? Where, in particular, was Hillary Clinton?

    What Bush did in using the women of Afghanistan pales in comparison to what Obama is contemplating doing to them now!

  3. Rafia, this is one of the best posts I've read on this blog.

  4. "the sudden elevation of Afghan women’s agency at this juncture…" Sudden? Some of us have been making that argument from the start of that invasion. Why is there no mention of Malalai Joya, who has consistently argued that US meddling has done the women of her country more harm than good? What about RAWA? Some of the leaders now in power there from the Northern Alliance are just as brutally misogynist as the Taliban. The author speaks as if that war is not already hopelessly lost, as if foreign forces can dictate the future leadership or policies of Afghanistan. That optimism is not well founded. It is not for nothing that Hamid Karzai, by no means a reliable ally of the rights of women, gets called the mayor of Kabul. The President should realize that war is a total disaster, for the people of Afghanistan as well as this nation, and the only way to stop making the situation worse is to get out. USA can offer assistance to rebuild the country, but as long as Afghans see USA as an occupying army, let us not kid ourselves, we are helping nobody besides the warlords while we make more and more enemies.

    • Based on what evidence does Malalai Joya make these statements? None. Her statements are not based on statistical evidence of any kind. They are fabricated either out of thin air. To know what Afghans really believe, check out this poll from the Kabul based Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research:

      As for RAWA: I've never met an Afghan who doesn't prune up their face at the mention of that organization — an organization whose headquarters is in the same Pakistani town as the Taliban's. Coincidence? No.

      • Ms. Roddy, do you work for the State Department? If not, perhaps you should consider it, since you are doing quite a job of defending the indefensible. Are you implying RAWA is allied with the Taliban? You cannot be serious. So Ms. Joya is fabricating her statements? That is an astonishing accusation against a member of the Afghan Parliament expelled for no good reason by our erstwhile supposed friends there, especially since you think it is such a big deal women are allowed in that Parliament. Not that they have any power. Was that paradigm shift you tout represented by that Shia Family Law?

        Some things have changed for the better for Afghan women, although I venture to say they had it better under the Soviet regime than ours. Nobody is saying Afghans long for the return of the Taliban, but the actions of the occupation force (which is multinational mostly in name, not in numbers, and becoming more so as more of our allies realize the endeavor is hopeless) make a lot of Afghans, especially Pashtuns, sympathetic to the insurgency. Nobody likes being occupied, and ours is far from benevolent. The invasion was immoral and illegal under international law; it was not self-defense as required by the UN charter. You suggested, “the Left can make an important contribution to our efforts in Afghanistan by holding our government accountable for actions which are essentially un-American in nature…” Those actions are not just factors undermining our efforts. They are war crimes, speaking to the moral bankruptcy of the occupation. There is no moral high ground to uphold. Depleted uranium is not a minor issue. It has caused myriads of birth defects and rare cancers in Iraq, and who knows what is in store for Afghans. Your statement that “pursuit of the enemy without careful consideration of the consequences to civilians” is a factor that “has actually improved greatly in the past year” is just propaganda. General McChrystal was concerned about civilian casualties, but his concern did not create any great improvement, if any, and it appears General Petraeus is going to disregard that concern, because the perception of the occupiers is that concern was endangering their lives. Do you think the current situation for Afghan women is not a catastrophe? Certainly it could get worse, and it will, and the current policy will guarantee that.

        You say on your blog, “The mission of our military is to stabilize the country and assist in reconstruction.” Really? The region is chock full of fossil fuels which this country wishes to control. I suppose you are aware of the famous allegation that in negotiations with the Taliban for a pipeline across Afghanistan, the Taliban was threatened, “either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.” Lately it was revealed Afghanistan itself may be a treasure trove of valuable minerals. Some found it very curious the way the media reported that, as if it were news, when it was based on Soviet surveys done during their attempt to occupy the country.

        What was the point of repeating your second response to NicoleBelle (about the “Afghan Resistance”) virtually word for word a day later?

        • msmagblog says:

          Jessica here, one of the moderators — that duplicate comment was my fault, not Melissa's — apologies!

  5. 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.

  6. Time's cover smacks of insidious psy-ops work to generate flagging support for our continued occupation of
    Afghanistan. While what happened to Aisha is barbaric and inexcusable, the American presence in Afghanistan did nothing to stop it.

    And while it is graphic and powerful, so too would a photo of a baby suffering from depleted uranium exposure or abandoned at the side of road in China for being female (as my cousin was), or a starving woman deprived of sustenance by warlords in Somalia, or Liberia or any number of other nations around the world. Is the thesis that American interference is needed to right all these wrongs as well?

    I fail to see how the US can bring about a paradigm shift in the Afghan views of women at the end of a gun. There are absolutely things that the US–in conjunction with other countries, because this is a human concern, not an American concern–can do to raise the world consciousness about the plight of women, but they cannot be done militarily.

    • Dear Nicole,

      Crimes against women happen in American cities every day. By your logic, all police forces should be disbanded for failing to always prevent them. Further following your logic, that Afghan women cannot be protected "at the end of a gun," you would also disarm the people charged with protecting women, which would put them at a disadvantage in their efforts to do so, especially considering the vast array of weaponry in the hands of Pakistan's paramilitary forces in Afghanistan – for that is what the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami and the Haqqani Network are. They are NOT an anti-American insurgency. They are an invading army – trained, paid and supplied by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.

      Additionally, your statement that the U.S. should be working "in conjunction with other countries" implies that you are unaware that we are part of an international coalition in Afghanistan, including military and civilian personnel from over 26 nations. The U.S. is the largest contributor, but it is critical to recognize that, if the American military abandons Afghanistan, the rest of the coalition will follow suit. Not just the progress of Afghan women, but their very survival, is dependent on an energetic and adequately-resourced American presence in their country, for as long as it takes to restore the health of Afghanistan as a nation.

      It took 20 years to demolish Afghanistan, and its neighbor to the east is determined to keep it in ruins. The feudal lords of Pakistan are committed to a policy known as "strategic depth." Strategic depth refers to the notion that Pakistan needs to control Afghanistan for purposes of fall-back depth to its west, in case India attacks from the east. However, a more important aspect concerns the very makeup of Pakistan, which is an unstable mash-up of four ethnic regions (Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the Pashtun territories), controlled primarily by the Punjabi dominated military. The other three regions have been fighting against Punjabi domination for centuries, yet Punjabi domination is the situation in which the British left them when they created Pakistan in 1947.

      Moreover, because the Baloch and Pashtun ethnic regions are divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the feudal lords of Pakistan operate under the principle that, if Afghanistan is not kept weak and unstable, the Afghans will demand a renegotiation of the border, and that could result in the loss of over half of Pakistan's territory, either to reunification with Afghanistan (a strong possibility for the Pashtun region) or independence (a strong desire among the Baloch). Therefore, to keep its territory in tact, Pakistan has been dispatching militants to destabilize Afghanistan since the 1970s.

      For the most part, NATO military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan are risking their lives and doing everything conceivable to rebuild and protect Afghanistan. However, Nicole, by mentioning the issue of the effects of depleted uranium, you have raised an important issue. I believe that the Left can make an important contribution to our efforts in Afghanistan by holding our government accountable for actions which are essentially un-American in nature, including: (i) the reckless use of weapons which leave the environment unfit for human habitation; (ii) pursuit of the enemy without careful consideration of the consequences to civilians [this factor has actually improved greatly in the past year]; (iii) the use of secret prisons and torture of detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions; (iv) the empowerment of corrupt warlords, who operate under the aegis of ISI, and who, together with the Taliban, were responsible for the massive destruction of the 1990s. These are all factors which undermine the hard work of our own people. They have contributed to a situation which encourages caring people like yourself to pessimistically throw up your hands in defeat. But please bear in mind, military withdrawal will result in a catastrophe for Afghan women.

  7. Aisha case is not the only one happened in Afghanistan,there are many untold and undercovered mistreatment of women in Afghanistan. I think the international community and the US has failed to give any kind of protection to Afghan women. The Afghan government has always turned a blind eye on the domestic violence and other mistreatment of women. The protection needs to come from within the Afghan government itself and unfortunately, the Karzi government has proved to have no control in most parts of Afghanistan where Taliban are still carrying these kinds of horrendous activities against women.

  8. Amy Williams says:

    I’m not entirely sure what to make of a discourse which conceptualizes Afghani women as victims and American bureaucratic structures as potential saviors. This line of reasoning is problematic in the sense that it limits our ability to consider the larger implications of the U.S.‘s expanding military power abroad.

    On the one hand we cannot ignore women like Aisha – at the same time, how can we possibly weigh the Taliban’s violence against women against the violence that is committed by US military forces (by soldiers and drones alike) against Afghani civilians? (Not to mention the implicit violence that is committed against the poorest Americans as policymakers cut domestic programs and increase spending on the war).

    The argument for continued occupation (we must protect the human rights of Afghani women) is appealing because it allows us to imagine that America has the moral authority to solve these kinds of serious problems. I’m skeptical, simply because I’m not confident that the U.S. has the capacity to intervene in a truly selfless manner.

    • Hi Amy,

      Please see my comments below. I have learned volumes since last we met.

      Best wishes,

      • Amy Williams says:

        In his 1995 Nobel Prize lecture, Harold PInter explores the question of why the U.S. continues to imagine itself to be a “good” humanitarian force even though it has, as he observes, “supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War.” Hundreds of thousands of civilians have died at the hands of the United States. Why then does the U.S. – its military and government – persist in the popular imagination as a benevolent force?

        In his book The Limits of Power Andrew Bacevich argues that a widespread belief in American exceptionalism – that is, the idea that America is a “noble experiment in the history of the earth” – underwrites “common sense” ideas about how American juridical power functions (and should function) at home and abroad. Many people have accepted commonsense ideas about America: That its global dominion is benign; that U.S. military power is necessary in the maintenance of global order; that America need not adhere to international laws.

        I post this simply to suggest that we should consider how our own ideas of American exceptionalism factor into this debate.

        Here's the link to Pinter's lecture:

  9. I am an Afghan woman currently studying in the United States. The image posted on the Time Magazine was a heartbreaking one and Aisha’s story is definitely an unfortunate one especially when foreign troops are still present in Afghanistan. We should think for a moment and ask ourselves what will happen if the NATO and the US forces completely pull out of the country. Don’t you think it will get worse???
    We do know that the military presence is not the only solution in a war torn country like Afghanistan but, we must remember that the conditions women faced during the Taliban role. It was a nightmare for any Afghan woman regardless age. Most Afghan women, especially those who had to live under the Taliban support the presence of foreign troops.
    When I visited Afghanistan last summer, I was encouraged to see how many girl’s schools have been operating not only in Kabul but in most parts of the country. At least girls are not required to go to underground schools as they were under the Taliban. There are numerous women’s NGOs operating in different parts of Afghanistan that are helping empower their Afghan women. Women are now able to participate in the work force and support their families without the fear of being persecuted. I think we should not ignore over all progress of the US presence in terms of the women being more confident and able to participate in social arenas.
    Yet, a lot more needs to be done and the international community and the US government should not forget that women’s rights and equal opportunity in the political process are very vital as well. Women make up as more than half of the Afghan population and unfortunately they are still underrepresented which is something the US government needs to notice. The Afghan government has failed to give the chance to Afghan women to voice their opinion in the political decisions. Afghan women intellectuals and politician were frustrated during the recent peace negotiations with the Taliban. Neither the Afghan government nor the US government bothered to ensure women’s participation. At the end of the day if the Taliban agree to come and join the Afghan government its quite obvious that the lives and rights of Afghan women will be at risk and they will end up to suffering again.
    My whole point in writing this comment was that the presence of US troops are very vital not only for the peace and security but also in rebuilding the country and ensuring women’s rights protections.

  10. Mohammad says:

    This is an excellent piece. Our policies are unfortunately driven by alternative bouts of messianic megalomania and hand-wringing claims of powerlessness. We need lon-term engagement based on both a much more modest sense of ourselves but one that is grounded in an equally committed sense of determination based on common humanity.

  11. The May 31, 2010, article in The New York Times titled “Afghan Child Brides Escape Marriage, but Not Lashes” implicates the U.S. in child abuse if we fail to provide safe haven for the Afghan girls who flee from forced marriages. If anyone deserves political asylum in America, it is the girl from a traditional Muslim culture who is willing to risk her life in a run to freedom. If such a girl is able to make her way to the protection of the U.S. military, she should be granted non-revocable asylum upon voiced request. Without prior review by Afghan officials, she should be evacuated to a stateside military base for temporary care as she prepares for her life as a U.S. citizen.

    Yes, the solution is extreme, but there is no going back for a runaway Afghan girl. To think otherwise is to certainly participate in child abuse — and to possibly participate in murder.

    * * *

    The above letter was submitted to on May 31, 2010, but was not selected for publication.

    A version of this article appeared in print on May 31, 2010, on page A4 of the New York edition.

    * * *

    Please resolve the stark differences between these two news reports:
    and the following three links as one:
    which are the three "Afghan orphan" stories reported by Brian Williams on the August 2, 2010, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS:

    If the U.S. can provide Disneyland summer vacations for wounded Afghan girls, then the U.S. can provide permanent asylum to Afghan girls who are fleeing from slavery in the form of intolerable marital abuses.

  12. Good blog

    One can imagine the taliban comeback: images of girls killed by airstrikes, night missions, or at check points which so populate the wikileaks.

    The whole issue of honor killing across the islamic world, not to mention genital mutilation in Africa, is vexing and depressing to say the least.

    Our own rape stats and child molestation issues are not great either.

    In short, the TIME piece is propaganda pure and simple.

  13. During the 1980s, Pakistan insisted on controlling distribution of U.S. aid (military, financial and even humanitarian) to the "Afghan Resistance," an ISI term which Robert Greenwald has sickeningly just resurrected. ISI intentionally created the "Afghan Resistance" in the form of a 7-headed hydra of fundamentalist militias, murdering all moderate leaders and anyone who tried to unite the effort into a single coalition. The intended result occurred. When the Afghan communist government fell in 1992, the 7 heads of the hydra fell upon each other, causing enormous destruction across Afghanistan.

    Over 400,000 Afghans died during the chaos of the 1990s, both the warlords and the Taliban targeted and committed wholesale massacres of civilians. The Taliban is currently terrorizing and killing civilians across the border in Pakistan, and the stage is set for a repeat of the 1990s, if U.S. and NATO military forces withdraw before Afghanistan is strong enough to defend itself against the ongoing attacks by Pakistan's proxies. In fact, Afghans consistently express the fear that a premature military exit will result in even higher casualty rates than the 1990s.

    Surely none of us wants to see that. The U.S. and NATO are bringing a paradigm shift in Afghanistan. While the process is slow going in some parts of the country, nevertheless, there are now women in Parliament, clinics for women, education, entrepreneurial programs, women on Afghan TV and radio, shelters for battered women and many non-governmental organizations working across the country to assist the women of Afghanistan in their quest to lift up their own lives and to rebuild their nation. None of this was possible under the Taliban! In the past week, the Taliban has issued orders to target and kill government officials in Afghanistan. Chaos and oppression, not order, is their mission.

    There is still much work to be done. But anyone who publishes the notion that the U.S. and NATO have made things so bad that Afghans long for a return of the Taliban is under the influence or control of ISI, and is simply not telling the truth.

    One last point, no doubt Rafia has family back home in Pakistan, who are vulnerable to reprisals. Therefore, I wish to acknowledge her for the courage she has shown in publishing this important article. Brava!

  14. Kathy McNeil says:

    This 18 year-old is brave in ways I can't even imagine. There are many more like her. When are we going to get serious about protecting these women and the families who support them? When will Afghani men who cut off noses and ears, and throw acid at elementary schoolgirls, going to be held accountable for their actions and revealed as the cowards that they are? I am glad that the editors of TIME had the courage to publish this image. Every American needs to be confronted with it.
    Stop finanacing trips to Disneyworld. These women and girls know what they need and want-safety, an education and the opportunity to support themselves and their families. They are the real radicals in Afghanistan.

  15. The Taliban gained power on two fronts, one is the change in domestic power structure (from community to religion) because of the US provisions of guns and training during the Soviet Afghanistan. But the other is the clear lack of a strong economy. If the U.S. were to use a decentralized model to provide (and protect) actual economic and physical infrastructure the Taliban's power would recede. Which is why they destroy any improvement in Afghanistan…it is a direct threat.

    Once a basic level of economic success is acquired, women's rights should begin a move towards more education, literacy, health etc. The threat felt by some men when women gain ground is exacerbated when the men themselves have such trouble providing for their families and are losing ground.

    • candice123 says:

      Considering that the United States installed the Taliban, I sincerely doubt that the United States wants women’s rights in Afghanistan.

  16. The Feminist Peace Network blogged today about a story in the New York Observer, exposing that it appears the author of this Time story has a substantial conflict of interest due to certain business dealings by her husband in Afghanistan, and it is also questionable whether the Taliban is responsible for this maiming. They have denied responsibility and denounced the maiming as un-Islamic. But of course, Time is sticking by its story and denouncing these allegations.

  17. Thank you for a wonderful article that highlights the complexity of these issues rather than negates them. You've certainly given me something to think about.

  18. I dont think anyone at this website realise how bad the situation is here for the NATO forces.

    The international military and the afghan government are progressively loosing control of the entire country. There is hardly a highway left which is safe to travel on- for Afghans or for foreigners.

    You all saw what happened with the stoning in Kunduz, which authorities were powerless to stop.

    Thus, unfortunately, the question of whether internationational forces should stay to protect Afghan women is becoming largely a theoretical one. Even if they do stay and were indeed committed to womens rights, they would be able to achieve very little.

  19. AWID Statement on the Post-Floods Humanitarian Crisis in Pakistan, August 2010
    (Click on the links at the top right for French and Spanish versions)

  20. The problem is less that this needs to happen and more that this was never a real goal of the US in the first place, and remains not to be. It will not become a goal. It is just a convenient excuse to go in and stay. But, there have never been and will never be any real help to Afghan women on the part of the US. Anything that has helped empower the Afghan women at all since we've been there is simply a side-effect. I think that's what people are trying to point out. The TIME magazine cover is just another scare tactic, using and exploiting this young woman without any intentions whatsoever of actually helping her or any of the Afghan women.

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