Attrition: Afghan Women Join The Army


September 30, 2010:    For the first time since the 1980s, the Afghan Army again has female officers. The first class of 27 female officer cadets recently graduated, and will serve in staff and other non-combat jobs. Many Afghans oppose women working outside the home, but a growing number of Afghans have noted that the better lives so many see in the West would not be possible without educating women and having them in the workforce. This is one of the issues that caused the civil war in the late 1970s, which the Russians intervened in to help the pro-Russian, and pro-reform Afghan government. That did not turn out well. But now the social conservatives are on the defensive, and do not seem likely to make a comeback.

Meanwhile, the Afghans have encouraging examples in neighboring Pakistan, where the air force there even has female fighter pilots. OK, there are only seven of them ,and they fly the older F-7s, a Chinese version of the Russian MiG-21. None have been in combat yet, despite the heavy use of jet fighter-bombers in two years of fighting in the tribal territories. There, the more modern F-16s are doing most of the bombing of Taliban targets.

The Pakistanis are recruiting women as fighter pilots because they cannot find enough qualified men. This despite the fact that it costs over $2 million to train a fighter pilot, and the air force needs 10-15 years of active service to get that investment back. But women tend to leave the air force to have children, thus making them much more expensive fighter pilots than their male counterparts. But the Pakistanis have noted the success of female fighter pilots in the West, and the fact that pilot quality is more important than having the latest aircraft technology. The Pakistanis recognize that educated women are an essential element for economic growth.




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