Feminists and Afghanistan

Dana Goldstein has a great reported piece up at the Daily Beast about how even as most liberals think Barack Obama should be bringing troops home from Afghanistan sooner, many feminists feel the problem with his strategy is the reverse—it’s not ambitious enough:

In the wake of the address, a number of prominent women’s and human-rights organizations have declared themselves disappointed—not only by Obama’s choice of words, but, more significantly, by his plan to begin withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan in 18 months, which they say is far too little time to improve the situation markedly and turn women’s rights efforts over entirely to the Afghan government and NGOs.

“It’s more than perplexing,” says Eleanor Smeal, founder and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which runs a Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. “It’s perplexing, disappointing, and I don’t understand why.”

Arguably the message of Human Rights Watch’s latest report on the state of women in Afghanistan is something similar. Ultimately, though, I think that disappointment in US military policy’s ability to advance the status of Afghan women is nearly inevitable. Even a more ambitious strategic commitment wouldn’t alter the fact that this simply isn’t—and isn’t going to be—the main priority of the American military. People in civil society looking to help Afghan women should probably be trying to look past the Pentagon and see what else they can do.