Why Is the Feminist Majority Foundation Refusing to Abandon the Women and Girls of Afghanistan?
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After 9/11, the U.S. bombed Afghanistan, the Taliban were deposed, and the George W. Bush administration promised a Marshall Plan to rebuild Afghanistan.
As long-time peace activists, we did not support the bombing of Afghanistan after 9/11. As a member of Win Without War, we opposed the war in Iraq for many reasons. But let's be clear -- it was directly after the Bush administration abandoned Afghanistan to invade Iraq that conditions further deteriorated into the mess we're facing today.
Given that nonviolence is part of our mission statement, we, at the Feminist Majority, never expected to be asking for more security in the form of international peacekeeping troops (ISAF) back in 2002. (It is this outdated fact sheet that Sonali Kolhatkar and Mariam Rawi cite, and we thank them for reminding us how important it is to keep our Web site updated.) But when we traveled to Kabul after 9/11 to find out what the U.S. could do, security is what Afghan women wanted first and foremost.
The Afghans we spoke with were more than gracious considering what our government had put them through. We were heartsick over the conditions we saw, inspired by the stories of struggle and devastated by one question that we kept hearing over and over: "Where were you (U.S.) after we defeated the Soviets?" They had not forgotten the first time the U.S. abandoned them.
Early in 2002, the Afghans were also extremely worried that if U.S. focus turned to Iraq, their needs would be forgotten again. Their fears were well founded.
After Bush invaded Iraq, NATO and the U.S. did not adequately fund the redevelopment effort. Instead, the U.S. hired contractors who overcharged, botched projects and did not come close to meeting their goals.
Moreover, humanitarian aid was dispensed mostly through large international nongovernmental organizations with high overhead costs and relatively high Western salaries, with little actual aid [going] to Afghans.
In the last seven years, there have been some successes. In 2000, girls were not allowed to attend school; last year, the U.N. reported that 6 million children attended school and more than one-third were girls. Forty-nine percent of health care workers are women. Women comprise 25 percent of civil service workers.
But make no mistake. Afghanistan is in terrible shape. The Taliban has gradually returned. Nothing is as it should be, which is why we are asking for no less than a Marshall Plan to rebuild Afghanistan, the same way we did for Germany and Japan after World War II.
Afghanistan's water, sewage, electrical, and their once-proud hospital systems have been all but destroyed by 30 years of war. We bombed it. We have an obligation to rebuild it.
Though we'd prefer that all U.S. funding be spent on development aid, we cannot in good conscience advocate the immediate military pullout that some are suggesting. The 2009 U.N. Humanitarian Action Plan noted that in 2008, "Approximately 40 percent of the country, including much of the south, remains inaccessible for most humanitarian organizations."
Last year, 92 aid workers were abducted and 36 were killed, double the number from 2007. In recent public opinion polls, Afghans put security in their top three concerns right after food. Without stabilizing the country, there can be no significant redevelopment effort.
In March, President Barack Obama announced a significant change in the Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy. He shifted the focus from Iraq to this troubled region not a moment too soon. The Taliban had taken over the Swat Valley in Pakistan and were within 100 miles of its capital.