You can bet this won't be the last time we hear Ismail Khan's name....
Report: Afghan Women Still Face Violence
By TODD PITMAN
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 6, 2003; 6:47 PM
Intimidation and violence against women continue "unabated" in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, a new U.N. report says.
Although Afghan women returned to work after the fall of the Taliban, they continue to be forced into marriages and fall victim to domestic violence, kidnapping and harassment, according to a copy of the United Nations Economic and Social Council report obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.
"Women are reported to restrict their participation in public life to avoid being targets of violence by armed factions and elements seeking to enforce the repressive edicts of the previous regime," it said.
The report cited incidents of self-immolations by women to escape domestic violence and forced marriages - sometimes at young ages.
"In impoverished rural areas, families have been reported to sell their daughters to escape desperate conditions or to settle bad blood between families," it said.
The 18-page U.N. report, titled "The Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan," said women have come a long way since the 2001 U.S.-led war overthrew the hardline Taliban regime, which banned girls from school and prevented most women from working.
Today women work, study and even hold some government posts, but "in rural areas, especially the more conservative tribal belt, the situation of women has not changed to any great extent since the removal of the Taliban."
Islamic scholars say little has changed because many of the restrictive practices are tribal in origin.
The report said the government also was partly to blame.
It said the Department of Islamic Teaching in the Ministry of Religious Affairs had "trained and deployed women to stop 'un-Islamic' behavior among Afghan women in public institutions and places, and to monitor women's appearance and views."
The report said the country's lack of security is also impeding women's advancement.
"Despite positive developments regarding women's rights, intimidation and violence by regional and local commanders against women continue unabated," the report said.
Most of rural Afghanistan is ruled by regional warlords with their own private militias. The central government's authority is largely limited to the capital, where an international peacekeeping force is maintaining security. The government is still building its army.
Human Rights Watch has complained bitterly about the treatment of women in Herat, a western region run by Ismail Khan, a powerful warlord who is part of President Hamid Karzai's government.
Last year, girls accounted for 30 percent of the three million children who attended school in Afghanistan, while 28 percent of the country's 70,000 teachers were women, the report said.
Girls' schools in at least five provinces were attacked with rockets or set on fire by unidentified assailants late last year.
The report also said health care for women remains inadequate in the country, which has the world's highest maternal mortality rate.
Â© 2003 The Associated Press
U.S. Urges NATO to Expand Role in Afghanistan
By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 21, 2003; Page A20
Just days after NATO ended a bitter, monthlong dispute over military aid to Turkey, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell proposed yesterday that the alliance play a much more "active role" in the operations of an international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.
Powell floated the idea at a meeting with NATO Secretary General George Robertson, who told reporters afterward that NATO would consider a greater role in Afghanistan "because we're interested in stability." He noted that two NATO members, Germany and the Netherlands, currently command the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan with logistical support from NATO.
Powell said he was "very pleased that NATO is willing to play this more forward-leaning role" and called it "a sign of the vitality of the alliance and the continuing relevance of the alliance."
NATO's relevance had been threatened for weeks when Germany, France and Belgium blocked a formal request by fellow member Turkey for military aid to protect it in the event of a U.S.-led war with Iraq. The three nations, which oppose U.S. plans for an invasion if Iraq fails to disarm, saw the defense of Turkey as endorsing "the logic of war" without an authorizing resolution by U.N. Security Council.
NATO finally broke the deadlock by moving the discussion to the alliance's 18-member Defense Planning Committee, which does not include France. By then, Germany and Belgium had given in to pressure from Roberston and others. The committee's decision Sunday allowed NATO to begin deploying AWACS radar surveillance planes, Patriot missile and chemical and biological defense units in Turkey.
During a speech yesterday at the European Institute, Robertson said NATO had been damaged by the deadlock over Turkey's defense.
"But this is damage above, not below, the waterline," he said, "because the alliance, now coming through a crisis which could have been profoundly damaging, is in much better shape than the pundits would allow."
Ivo H. Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he found it "very odd" that Powell would float the NATO peacekeeping idea in the immediate aftermath of a crisis in the alliance triggered by the Bush administration's hawkish stance toward Iraq.
"To suggest that the U.S. feels there might be other missions for NATO at this time might not sit too well," Daalder said.
On the other hand, he added, NATO control over the Afghan mission is "not a bad idea," since NATO has already performed planning duties for Germany and the Netherlands before they assumed command of the peacekeeping force.
Last year, NATO ended a decade of wrangling over "out of area" operations and agreed that, with threats shifting away from Europe and the United States, it must deploy forces beyond its members' borders.
The current peacekeeping force has been confined to Kabul, the Afghan capital, from the outset, with U.S. forces now establishing civil action teams in regional cities while continuing combat operations. One senior administration official said an expanded role for NATO could mean anything from greater assistance than it now provides to the alliance actually taking over the peacekeeping mission.
Daalder said he hoped a greater NATO role would mean extending the peacekeeping mission beyond the Afghan capital and expanding the force. But he questioned whether NATO has the resources to mount a major peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan and contribute to similar operations in postwar Iraq.
Robertson, asked whether NATO peacekeeping operations could be a model for those to follow in Iraq, said, "It is premature to talk about post-conflict Iraq."
Â© 2003 The Washington Post Company