Back in 2002, onlookers would often gather outside the U.S. military headquarters in Bagram in Afghanistan, watching women soldiers in full battle gear sitting on top of vehicles on guard duty at the entrance to the base.
For a deeply conservative society such as Afghanistan, it was a novel sight to watch women in such a role, more so coming soon after the harsh regime of the Taliban. From time to time, the women would get a trifle annoyed and holler to the men hanging around and staring at them: “Back off. Haven’t you seen a woman ever?”
Iraqis are voting today for a new parliament and despite the bombings in the run-up to the election, the over-all trend is down, according to the Brookings Institution. Not so in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, America ‘s other war, which remains red-hot according to a country index that the Washington-based thinktank puts out for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The index is a statistical compilation of economic, puiblic opinion and security data.
It’s quite instructive just to look at the numbers in the three countries. Weekly violent incidents in Iraq are about 90 percent less frequent than in the months just before the surge. Violent deaths from the vestiges of war are in the range of 100 to 200 civilians a month, meaning that mundane Iraqi crime is probably now a greater threat to most citizens than politically-motivated violence, Brookings says in its latest update.
Afghanistan’s Taliban have condemned a government plan to ban live coverage of their attacks, saying the measure was a violation of free speech. For a group that had itself banned television, not to mention music during its rule from 1996 to 2001, that’s pretty rich irony.
On Monday, Afghan authorities announced a ban on filming of live attacks, saying such images emboldened the militants who have launched strikes around the country just as NATO forces are in the middle of an offensive. A day later, officials promised to clarify the restrictions, and hinted they may row back from the most draconian measures.