As part of its mission to highlight and promote the stories and perspectives of Afghan women, CODEPINK has launched an ongoing series of print, audio and video interviews "Afghan Women Speak Out," conversations with leading international women activists and policymakers.
In light of the current debate in Congress over a $94 billion war funding supplemental bill, the great majority to be spent on military needs rather than that for humanitarian aid or training of Afghan forces, our fourth interview in the series which focuses on security needs in Afghanistan, is particularly pertinent. CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans interviews Malali Bashir, an Afghan-American Fulbright Scholar pursuing her MBA in International Business at Brandeis University. Prior to receiving the Fulbright award for pursuing her masters degree in United States, she has worked with Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics. Bashir also writes poetry, paints and instructs English with the British Council.
This interview also includes a powerful new video from Brave New Films documenting the civilian casualties of war.
Jodie Evans (JE): What are people saying could make women (and men and children) safer?
An organized judicial and law enforcement system can provide people security and a sense that they are living in their own peaceful country and not in a jungle that has no rules. A stronger national army can create security for people, (and) the right to live as a sovereign nation would give them a sense of living, free of being used, inside their own country and not in a battle field for terrorists, warlords, Taliban, and other countries that experiment on Afghans and Afghanistan.
Talks among the Afghan government and its neighboring countries, with the goal to end their influence and interference in Afghanistan through warlords and other agents in higher education institutions and government departments, could peacefully help provide safety and security to the Afghans lives, identity, culture, civilization and languages.
Education is very important in raising a civilized nation that can prove to be very helpful in future in securing women's rights to education, work, health services and such. It can also help decrease the level of domestic violence against women.
JE: Do you believe that the presence of US/NATO troops is helping with this or not?
The basic problems Afghans face now are security and suffering from the influence of other countries in various aspects as a society. Security threats are imposed by the Taliban, warlords, drug lords, and the attacks of peacekeeping forces that strike and kill dozens of civilians each time in the name of "war against terror". This is pushing the Afghan society towards turning into a completely uneducated and isolated nation with no hope, being butchered with different experiments.
After the arrival of International forces in Afghanistan, Afghan society divided into two parts, rural and urban. There are great differences between the rural and the urban societies in Afghanistan in terms of understanding each other and the world, differences between their civilizations and cultures and in terms of their access to accurate information, global networking and education. Rural people are disconnected from the rest of the world and are unable to use the facilities that might be available in cities. For example, in many of the Southern provinces; the telecommunication system is stopped in the evenings until the next mornings on the name of "security measures".
Kabul is not the whole of Afghanistan - it was mistakenly thought so by the Communists, now by the international community, as it tried to show the world that Afghanistan was developing by making Kabul the example. US/ NATO troops neither helped fill the gaps by connecting the Afghan societies, nor did it help measure and bring the development by focusing on the whole country, keeping real peace and securing the lives of the civilians, cooperating with Afghan government to peacefully free its society from the raising indulgence in racial prejudices, and help the Afghan government in securing schools so that the new generation could come out of the darkness.
NATO/Coalition forces' blind bombardment is doing no good for peace in the country. Most of the times, they bomb civilians and that feeds into insurgency. People who lose their dear ones for no reason eventually take the opposite side and try to take revenge by being used in planting road side bombs, becoming suicide bombers and armed fighters against the Afghan and International Forces.
JE: Will building up the Afghan National Army help make people safer? Is this something you look forward to? Do you think the US and it allies should be training them, or should some other body do it?
It will obviously be a moment of pride and happiness for Afghans to have a well trained national army that can protect them from every evil. Afghans will obviously feel safer under that shield than hiding under the shadow of outside forces that need to and should leave after completing their responsibility sincerely. Moreover, Afghan national army would not kill and bomb their own innocent people in search of some criminals.
It is not important who trains the army but it is important how well and how soon is it trained so that it can take the charge and start training others on its own.
JE: What can be done to make the Afghan National Police into an effective force for law and order under the Afghan Constitution? Do you think the U.S. and its allies should be training the police, or should some other body do it?
Some would argue that US' training our national police could raise many eyebrows. The most important question however is who recruits the police force. One of the biggest problems with our security forces is that the majority of them are the militias associated with warlords. In fact, whenever the Afghan central government appoints a police chief, they allow him to take his own people with him. Thus, he takes his former fighters with him who then undergo a short period of government training by the government. Changing their uniform won't change their views and six-months training won't decrease their loyalty to their bosses. Most of the police men don't trust the stability of Afghan government and think they may need to return to their commanders if anything goes wrong with the government. That's why they are more loyal to securing the benefits of the warlords and not the ordinary people.
I believe the Afghan government should do a campaign at the grassroots level about the recruitment of police personnel. They should continue hiring ordinary Afghans and give them incentives for their commitment and confidence in joining this force. The police academies should be strengthened in the provinces and security forces should go under proper and complete professional trainings.
JE: The US is talking about "peeling away" "reconcilable Taliban" from the hardcore by negotiations between US and NATO military forces and local leaders or foot soldiers. Do you think this is a good idea? Would it work? Could it undermine the government's process?
We have continuously been hearing about these terms of "Moderate Taliban", "Reconcilable Taliban", etc. The point here is that if there were any reconcilable/ moderate Taliban, why were they not given a chance to take part in the government process from very beginning?
If we all agree that there are moderate and extreme Taliban, extreme Taliban are the ones that are sabotaging the stability of our country. We should be concentrating and working hard on engaging the extremists and not those who are not a threat. Bringing "moderate Taliban" into the government and keeping the rest away won't help secure Afghanistan. All should be free to join the democratic circle.
Giving them titles will only divide them into different sects and provide them with an excuse or an opportunity to remain in government with the name of "Moderate" and continue with their current activities of insecuring the lives of ordinary Afghans with the name of being "Extremist Taliban".