Why not arm Afghan women?

Western media has published very little about Afghanistan since Friday’s newsletter (Taliban begins choking off Afghan government.)

The assassination in Haiti and the unrest in Cuba have shoved the despair and terror in Afghanistan straight off the front pages of American newspapers and cable news.

Besides other news overpowering the war happening, it’s also extremely difficult to discern the truth of the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan armed forces in the rural provinces.

In many ways, the Taliban threat torments the mind of Afghan residents as much as it presents a physical menace. That’s not to say that the real threat doesn’t exist. It certainly does.

But from news reports and twitter accounts of those who live there, it seems a kind of fear runs through Afghanistan as its military forces either melt away or surrender in mass.

Women are already paying the price as territory is lost. CNN reports that areas taken over by the Taliban have had postings put up with new, harsh rules for women. (Or I suppose you could call them “old” harsh rules.)

“Women must stay home,” said CNN reporter Anna Coren, broadcasting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Coren added that a journalist had witnessed a female in a burqa (full head covering/dress) on the phone, who was whipped as punishment for being outdoors and using the phone. (See her reporting below.)

The Taliban has also been caught on video executing surrendering Afghan Commandos. (Also in video below.)

All of this has me thinking that the Afghan Army, and possibly local leaders in towns and villages, should seriously consider arming and training women to take up the fight in much greater numbers. (Or at least be prepared to defend themselves.)

The Kurds in Northern Iraq have used women in their army for almost forty years, and the women there recently distinguished themselves in fighting against ISIS. (Let’s not forget that these ISIS forces were so terrifying and blood-curdling at the time that Iraq had two divisions of Iraqi soldiers — roughly 30,000 men, including tanks — surrender and lose hundreds of prisoners and nearly $500 million in Mosul.)

Oh, and these 30,000 Iraqis ran from only 800 fighters. (See previous link to Guardian article.) Yeah, I’m not making that up. Insane, right?

But back to my point.

Not only did the Kurds use women to fight ISIS, but Yazidi women picked up weapons, as well, following the Sinjar massacre in 2014. After ISIS executed hundreds of men and forced their wives to marry ISIS fighters, female Yazidis who had escaped capture decided to fight back. They formed a battalion of women to help fight ISIS.  

But I don’t want to overplay my hand. Even in Iraq, however, it was never large-scale forces of women actually fighting (or even being armed).

Nonetheless, the ISIS fighters were afraid of female fighters, largely because of long-term religious customs that they believed in.

“They think they're fighting in the name of Islam,” said 21-year-old Telhelden. “They believe if someone from Daesh [Isis] is killed by a girl, a Kurdish girl, they won't go to heaven. They're afraid of girls.”

I’m no expert on Islam or even the Taliban who are fighting in Afghanistan, but I’m betting the Taliban have their own superstitions that would affect them if they ever had to fight women. After all, if the Taliban loses its mind at a woman being outside a home or on a cell phone, then I’m pretty sure an armed woman firing at them would have quite an effect. (Even in America, men have a stigma about being beaten in physical contests by a woman. See Billie Jean King vs Bobbie Riggs; the infamous woman vs man tennis match in 1973.)

No matter how you spin it, I think we can all agree that women will likely pay the highest price should the Taliban continue to gain territory.

As such, I think the Afghan government would be wise to arm and train more women to prepare for what will likely be the Taliban advance on Afghanistan’s cities. Currently, they’re only doing so at less than 1 percent in their army.1

Could anyone make a compelling argument, given recent results, that women would do worse than the Afghan men have to date?

Okay, this was a heavy and not-very pleasant post today, so I thought I’d leave you with two great quotes below!

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Stan R. Mitchell

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As of 2020, 3.25% of uniformed Afghan police and less than 1% of the uniformed Afghan army were women, according to VOA News.