Thursday, March 12, 2009

Moderate Taliban = Muslim Feminist?

The devil (shaitan if you are Muslim) is always in the details.

In this case, the details of changing Afghanistan strategy in a war we are not winning, involved talking to moderate elements of the Taliban, whom VP Biden assures us constitute 70% of our enemies, even though a lot of Afghanis on our side are not sure really exist.

Of course, if they do exist, they're apparently going to have moderate themselves enough to negotiate with women:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Advocates for women's rights in Afghanistan urged world leaders to move forward with talks with the Taliban and insisted that women have a place at the negotiating table.

"We need to talk with the Taliban," Najia Zewari, the Gender and Justice Unit Manager for the Afghanistan branch of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) told scores of US lawmakers, rights workers and reporters at a briefing in Washington.

"Our worry is that so far we have not received any message if women would be part of the discussions or if women's issues are part of the agenda of the Taliban," she added....

"We don't know if women's participation or women's rights are preconditions for the talks," Zewari said. "But what we do know is what we want: women want peace, and we need to talk with the Taliban to bring peace."

Afghan women want "a peaceful transfer of power, away from the men with the guns," said Wenny Kusuma, head of UNIFEM Afghanistan....

Democratic lawmaker Jan Schakowsky called for women to not be left on the sidelines if talks do get under way.

"We don't want to see women's issues as a separate issue in Afghanistan, sliced off from the core of the problem. When we solve problems in Afghanistan, women need to be front and center in the considerations of how we move forward," she said.

Women were denied many basic rights, including access to education or jobs, during the five years that the hardline Taliban ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 until 2001....

"After the fall of the Taliban, we had good progress in developing women's status. We have a constitution that finally recognizes women's rights, we have a 25 percent quota in parliament, so women participate in parliament," said Noori.

But she urged that the gains not be taken for granted, especially in the light of the re-emergence in 2006 of the Taliban, which continues to launch attacks on US and other Western forces under NATO command.

"Afghan women are targeted, threatened by warlords," said Noori.

"Fliers are delivered in the middle of the night to their houses telling them to not run for office, not go to polling places to vote. Their families are threatened," Noori said.

This presents the Obama administration with an interesting conundrum. We have said publicly through SecDef Gates and other high administration officials/generals that we know we can't impose a western-style democracy in Afghanistan.

And during the surge and Sunni uprising in Iraq we proved that we're quite willing to look the other way during neighborhood ethnic cleansing if it would facilitate our military strategy.

Women being among the very few beneficiaries of our invasion of Afghanistan, and among the individuals most likely to be victimized by any sort of Taliban-infested regime, do we dump the Afghani women back into Muslim hell just to get our asses out of the country with a declared victory?

Chinese folklore suggests that if you save somebody's life you become responsible for them.

President Obama adopted Afghanistan as his war during the campaign, and signed orders sending 17,000 more American troops into the country, even as our supply routes into the country were collapsing and our generals admitted they had no strategy to win.

I'm personally having trouble seeing even Biden's hypothetical moderate Taliban representatives being willing to sit down at a negotiating table with women, because that moderate a Taliban, well, would be ... Taliban.

Can't wait to see how we handle this one.

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