The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 20, 2014

Afghans, women gain from U.S. help

As the U.S. winds down its involvement in Afghanistan this year, weary Americans have to wonder if our near 13-year presence there was worth the cost.

The war cost the U.S. about $650 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. More than 2,000 American lives were lost, including those of soldiers from the Mankato area.

But important gains shouldn’t be ignored. The Taliban was toppled from its oppressive position of power. The country developed its own legitimate security forces with our help.

Afghan girls and women finally were given rights to be educated, to vote and to run for office. There is a female on the ticket for vice-president in this spring’s election.

Habiba Sarabia, who served as the first woman governor of an Afghanistan province, now is on running for vice president of the country with presidential candidate Zalmai Rassaoul, the country’s former foreign minister and national security chief.

Women were given the right to vote in the Afghan constitution implemented shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2001. While the Taliban still controls some parts of the country, their influence has been greatly diminished.

The debate on sustaining these gains in Afghanistan now appears to be revolving around the Afghan government signing a security agreement with the U.S. as it draws down troops.

The Obama administration says the agreement is critical for the U.S. to maintain an advisory or training role after much of the 30,000 plus troops have left. Karzai has been stalling signing the agreement, while one of the leading candidates for president, Abdullah Abdullah, has said he will sign it if elected.

Experts say the absence of an agreement and the complete withdrawal of any U.S. troops or advisors may throw Afghanistan back into civil war. That would likely threaten the freedoms women and the Afghan people have secured.

We’ve invested much in Afghanistan. Historians will have to judge if it was all worth hit. But clearly, the people of Afghanistan have more freedom because the U.S. and its allies were there.



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