In the debate over the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan and Obama’s escaltion of the war, one of the more cynical arguments is that the United States must continue its war because it cares for the women of Afghanistan.
The argument is frequently made, and perhaps most surprisingly, comes from supporters of the war on both the left and the right.
However, it’s an argument that is easily debunked when one looks at the reality for women in Afghanistan. As we wrote last week, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has opposed this rationale saying that conditions for women have not improved in Afghanistan.
The international women’s group MADRE is the latest to weigh in on this issue. It writes that the U.S. war has had devastating consequences for women:
The Consequences of US Invasion of Afghanistan for Women
- The Bush Administration justified the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 by pointing to the Taliban’s systematic abuse of women. But subsequent US policies in Afghanistan did not uphold women’s human rights. As a result:
- 1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence
- 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan
- Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth
- 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate
- 30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan
- 44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan
- While school enrollment is high in cities, in the southern provinces the number drops to 20% of children overall–and almost zero for girls.
- In these provinces, where extremist forces crack down on women’s freedoms, the US has failed to fund humanitarian and reconstruction efforts for years.
Moreover, the organization argues that “Taliban-style extremism” is a product of U.S. intervention in the country. It writes that the United States frequently supported Islamists and extremists in order to counter socialists and nationalists who the U.S. feared might ally with the Soviet Union.
MADRE Opposes U.S. Escalation
MADRE has also released a statement opposing the U.S. escalation arguing in part that military force will not eliminate rampant abuses of women’s rights in the country. To support its assertion, it points to the failure of the war to secure women’s rights.
Beyond its failure to secure women’s rights, MADRE outlines other objections to the escalation. It argues that civilian casualties will likely increase and points to the failure of a 2007 “surge” in which the number of U.S./NATO troops were increased by 45% and violence increased dramatically.
MADRE further cites Afghanistan opposition to the U.S. presence and the unpopularity of the corrupt Karzai government as reason to oppose the war.