USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog
Women Have the Power in COIN: Female Engagement Teams
In 2005, I was sitting under a tree at Shira, in Kapisa Province with Minister Stanakzia who was in charge of the Disarmament of Illegally Armed Groups (DIAG) program. I was struck by the fact that there were no women to be seen anywhere. I mentioned this to the Minister and he explained to me that although there were no women present, in Afghan culture they were quite powerful in the home. He said that the great interest in cell phones and the riots that had taken place because of a lack of phone cards was generated by Afghan wives pushing their husbands to keep up with the Jone’s, or in this case, the Barakzias. Being married, I knew exactly what he was talking about. In spite of the fact that I was a rough, tough army guy, I too seemed to make very few decisions at home. It seems gender dynamics were not that different even in the backwaters of Afghanistan.
After eight years of engagement with the Afghans, someone has finally realized that we have been missing out on 50% of the population who have an enormous influence within the family and especially on adolescent males who make up the recruiting pool of the insurgents. Best of all, the Taliban by culture cannot talk to Afghan women and therefore, we have a monopoly.
The best way to exploit this is the Female Engagement Team (FET). A FET is a small, all-female element, 4-6 members, with the task of engaging the Afghan female community. This construct needs to be better exploited in order to communicate and win the support of the most influential part of the population. We should start integrating this more into our training and TTPs. Your thoughts?
LCol JJ Malevich (Canadian Exchange Officer), Director of COIN, US Army/USMC Counterinsurgency Center
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