Women Assume Pivotal New Role in Afghanistan
NPR recently reported on the use of Marine Female Engagement Teams (FETs) to interact with a segment of Afghan society previously inaccessible to US forces: women. Due to a strict tradition and culture which prohibits any man from speaking to a unrelated woman, the US military has begun using women in more active frontline roles. An internal summary of these units has revealed their success thus far. FETs have been able to affect the recruiting efforts of the Taliban by interacting with women who wield a significant amount of influence over their husbands, brothers, and sons. Moreover, the FETs have found Afghan women to be extremely hospitable, often inviting them to return for second visits.
Thomas Ricks of Foreign Policy’s military blog The Best Defense has noted that FETs could be utilized to more effectively distribute humanitarian aid. This could affect the dynamics within local villages where the most feared men usually become recipients and distributors of humanitarian aid, therefore the gateway to allied goodwill. By using FETs, humanitarian aid could be directly provided to women in remote compounds or villages, allowing for them to create their own, hopefully positive perception of international forces. While women’s rights activist continue to lobby for equal roles on the battlefield, FETs provide the Pentagon with a unique opportunity to utilize satisfy this request while also utilizing unique capabilities US forces desperately need.