Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Code Pink: Reality check in Afghanistan

Code Pink rethinks its call for Afghanistan pullout
US women's activist group finds that their Afghan counterparts want US troop presence and more reconstruction.

By Aunohita Mojumdar
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Kabul, Afghanistan

When Medea Benjamin stood up in a Kabul meeting hall this weekend to ask Masooda Jalal if she would prefer more international troops or more development funds, the cofounder of US antiwar group Code Pink was hoping her fellow activist would support her call for US troop withdrawal. She was disappointed.

Ms. Jalhal, the former Afghan minister of women, bluntly told her both were needed. "It is good for Afghanistan to have more troops---more troops committed with the aim of building peace and against war, terrorism, and security---along with other resources," she answered. "Coming together they will help with better reconstruction."

Rethinking their position

Code Pink, founded in 2002 to oppose the US invasion of Iraq, is one of the more high-profile women's antiwar groups being forced to rethink its position as Afghan women explain theirs: Without international troops, they say, armed groups could return with a vengeance---and that would leave women most vulnerable.

Though Afghans have their grievances against the international troops' presence, chief among them civilian casualties, many fear an abrupt departure would create a dangerous security vacuum to be filled by predatory and rapacious militias. Many women, primary victims of such groups in the past, are adamant that international troops stay until a sufficient number of local forces are trained and the rule of law established. (More about Afghan women's concerns here.)

During their weeklong visit here, in which they met with government officials, politicians, ministers, women activists, and civil society groups, the small team of Code Pink members had hoped to gather evidence to bolster their call for US troop withdrawal within two years, and capitalize on growing anxiety back home about the war.

While the group hasn't dropped its call for a pullout, the visit convinced them that setting a deadline isn't in Afghanistan's interests, say Ms. Benjamin and fellow cofounder Jodie Evans.

"We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline," says Benjamin. "That's where we have opened ourselves, being here, to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, 'If the US troops left, the country would collapse. We'd go into civil war.' A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that."

Code Pink says it will continue to oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan---a move facing heated debate in Washington---and advocate for more funding for aid and humanitarian projects instead.

The group's visit coincided with a "peace trialogue" organized last week by the Delhi Policy Group that brought together women of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Some participants of the meeting, who have traditionally seen demilitarization as a key to peacebuilding, also faced strong opposition from local activists when they tried to include demilitarization in a statement published at the end of the gathering.

"In the current situation of terrorism, we cannot say troops should be withdrawn," Shinkai Karokhail, an Afghan member of Parliament and woman activist, told them. "International troop presence here is a guarantee for my safety."

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At 10:23 AM, Blogger missiondweller said...

And of course this new found due dilligence is discovered now that our President is a Democrat. How convenient.

At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the reason World War I was fought was to prevent the Hun from lopping the breasts off of Belgian women.

P.T. Barnum, white courtesy telephone, please . . .

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Instead of trying---and failing---to be clever, let's have your argument.

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The argument, since you seem to have missed it, is that the same old tired rhetoric - bullshit, basically, to use one of your favorite terms - gets trotted out time and time again to justify foreign invasions and occupations.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That's not an argument; that's just hot air. Why would the US want to occupy Afghanistan? It doesn't even have any oil.

At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would the British and the Russian Empires fight the 'Great Game' to control Afghanistan? Why did the Soviet Union invade and occupy it in the last century? Why did the U.S. arm and finance the Taliban? I'll hang up and take your response off the air.

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're the know-it-all. Don't keep us in suspense. Why is the US in Afghanistan? The same reason as the Brits and the Russians?

At 9:43 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Because the Afghans tried to raise parking meter rates and extend enforcement hours?

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't pretend to know the answers to those questions, but I'm fairly certain that protecting the well-being of the women of Afghanistan isn't near the top of the list. I would hazard a guess and say that the desire for world military, political and commercial domination is.

Your category for this post is 'Islamic Fascism.' Mine would be 'Wartime Propaganda.'

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Of course the US didn't go into Afghanistan to protect womens' rights. It went in because that's where the 9/11 attackers were trained and where Osama Bin Laden was based. But now that the Afghanis are trying to build a civil society, it would be unconscionable to abandon them to the Taliban, not to mention reinstating a fanatical regime---where women wouldn't be allowed to go to school---that would again also become a security threat to the US and the rest of the world.

At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it is the women who are the ultimate losers in most countries in turmoil. Sometimes i feel naive in my hopes that groups like Code Pink and other women involved in Middle East politics would truly understand what the life of now or would become should Taliban or fundamental religions (of any sort) assume daily control.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Code Pink's anti-American ideology requires that they see the US as the real enemy, not the Islamic fanatics. The Taliban controlled Aghanistan in the past, which led to 9/11 and the complete eradication of womens' rights.


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