January 25 2008

IWF Policy Brief #12: Women and Security in Afghanistan: Threats, Challenges, and the Continuing Response

Executive Summary

"Genuine security remains a fundamental prerequisite for achieving stability and development in Afghanistan. Security cannot be provided by military means alone. It requires good governance, justice and the rule of law, reinforced by reconstruction and development." -Afghanistan Compact, January 31, 20061

Two years ago the government of Afghanistan and the international community outlined the terms of the Afghanistan Compact as a framework for cooperation and action to build a stable and secure Afghanistan. Much has changed over those two years-not all for the better-particularly regarding security. In fact, the past year has seen an increase in violence, especially in the southern provinces and in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Recently, amid pressing domestic concerns, and in the shadow of Iraq, attention has re-focused back on the subject of security in Afghanistan given comments by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding troop levels and the need for forces specially trained to combat unconventional forms of warfare, like guerrilla tactics and what has come to be known as insurgent tactics.

Outside nations and NATO allies can debate troop levels and tactics, but the long term solution is to train a sustainable domestic force among Afghans themselves.2 While all acknowledge security as a major priority within the country, much remains to be done with regard to building a viable, domestic security infrastructure. Coordination among donors and international actors is lacking and while enshrined in the Afghan Constitution, adherence to the rule of law and a dedication to international human rights principles are not always manifested in practice. To this day, Afghanistan lacks a functioning judicial system and a truly federal government whose power extends effectively beyond the city limits of Kabul.

All the above factors, especially effective governance and rule of law, are important to Afghan women who have suffered the most due to the lack of a transparent and equitable judicial system and of a society that recognizes their basic human rights.

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