As terrible a job as any police or military position is in Afghanistan, it’s worse for those who are female. I don’t know how I’d best describe female Afghan police officers if were to find myself writing about them, and that is unfortunate. Because I am writing about them. Brave, stubborn, quixotic, impassioned, deluded?
Maybe all the above?
There were thousands of casualties in various elements of the Afghan security forces in 2020 in addition to those suffered by Coalition troops. Well over 3,000 were killed; I could not find a verifiable number for those who were critically injured. Among this number were women of the ANP (Afghan National Police). Female Afghan Police comprise a very small minority of Afghanistan’s law enforcement agencies, and dangerous as it is for their male counterparts, they are often at greater risk. Not just from the rather broadly grouped “Taliban” and the criminal elements you’d expect, but from other officers, soldiers, and even their families as well.
The future of professional Afghan women, and not just those of the ANP, is very much a focus of discussion of late. The increasing likelihood of “peace talks” with the Taliban actually happening has brought renewed international attention to the future of females in Afghanistan. Just last month (as of this writing), two female judges from Afghanistan’s Supreme Court were gunned down in Kabul.
Despite two decades of war and vast amounts of blood and treasure spent, the country remains ass-backward, corrupt, poverty-stricken, and in places barbaric. Small wonder people, including many people who served there, want to be done with the place. But it’s hard not to want to help people like Laila Hussaini or the “police orphans” of Zabul Province. How could you not?
Maybe that’s why so many other people who served there don’t want to forget it or continue to go back.
A few months back, RT (Russia Times) published a documentary video on YouTube wherein they interview and discuss some of the “Lady Cops of Afghanistan”, and it’s worth a watch. Happily, they didn’t just focus on the young, physically attractive recruits (though there was some of that) or obviously contrived “success stories” either.
There were a number of things I noticed or wondered about while watching that, things I’ll bet others will focus on too. You’ll likely pick up on things I didn’t.
• None of the women shown on duty were armed, at least not with a visible weapon.
• The academy classes didn’t appear to be segregated (at least on camera), but they’re separated by gender in the classroom.
• Female officers (in this and other videos) don’t appear to drive themselves — this could be due to rank or assignment, it could be that they’ve never been taught how, although basic driving and vehicle maintenance is a part of the police academy curriculum at NATO Training Mission Afghanistan.
• I wish I had a 100% reliable translation of the conversations in the video. Watching some of the facial expressions and body language of those around the women being discussed makes it seem unlikely all of them were particularly happy to be there, including some of the women themselves (justifiably so).
• I hope that “Fazila Azimi”, “Zahra Azimi”, “Laila Hussaini”, and “Khatera” are pseudonyms, though realistically that’s a pretty superficial security measure.
• I’m happy to see that the timely completion of homework is an issue that transcends language, nation, and even continent.
• I’m not sure I’d be at all as ballsy as any of these women under similar circumstances.
It’s a strange mix of infuriating and frustrating to sit through a report like this. It’s been more than 12 years since the murder of Malalai Kakar, the first woman to graduate from the Kandahar Police Academy. Eight since the assassinations of Hanifa Safi and Najia Sediqi. Seven since Islam Bibi was murdered in Helmand Province, and less than seven since her successor, Lt. Negar, was shot in the throat in Lashkar Gar. Not to mention the billions (with a B) spent on nation-building and many thousands of dead and injured who were not female Afghan police. Or even in uniform. Or lucky/blessed/whatever your preferred term.
I’ve heard it suggested that whole battalions of the YPJ be deployed to Afghanistan, maybe backed up by Jegertroppen, perhaps in order to build an entirely female organization along the lines of the Gendarmerie (French or Turkish, there are women in both) or the Carabinieri. On its face, that’s an interesting idea, but in addition to being impracticable, it might just make things worse.
I don’t have a pithy summary. All I have is much respect for the women who put on that badge and a guilty sense of relief that God gave me the gifts he did and made me an American — likewise my sister and all my nieces.
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