Women's groups want long-term US presence in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - Women's rights activists on Tuesday backed a US troop surge in Afghanistan but warned that hard-fought gains in women's rights will vanish without a long-term commitment to develop the country.
"If the US left, women would be back in their burkas," said Esther Hyneman, a member of Women for Afghan Women (WAW), a rights group advocating for Afghan women in the United States and Afghanistan.

Her comments came just hours before President Barack Obama's long-awaited announcement on Afghanistan, during which he was set to announce an accelerated deployment of 30,000 troops within six months to the war-torn country and a US drawdown to begin by July 2011.
While a troop surge would help to bring much-needed security to Afghanistan, "the platform on which everything else can be built," the United States must meet its pledge to Afghan women, said Afghan-born Masuda Sultan, who serves on WAW's board.
"When the fall of the Taliban happened, we said, 'Go to school, take jobs.' Afghan women risked their lives, they did it," said Sultan, who has moved back to Afghanistan and works as an advisor to the Finance Ministry in addition to her advocacy work for WAW.
"We have a moral obligation to continue to follow through for Afghan women who have put themselves at risk over the last eight years," she told reporters.
Afghan women have made modest rights advances since the US-led invasion of 2001 toppled the Taliban, but those gains will be wiped out "if the US and other international forces do not maintain a presence in Afghanistan and a level of security," said WAW's Sunita Viswanath.
"America must make a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. Countries cannot recover overnight from 30 years of war, chaos, destruction, subjugation."
Obama was set to deliver his prime-time, televised address on Afghanistan to a group of cadets in the symbolic venue of the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, at 8:00 pm (0100 GMT).

Wednesday, December 2nd 2009

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