First things first. There is no question that, if and when U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the biggest security issue will be protecting women who have taken modest steps to move into public life in recent decades.
Thus, it is totally appropriate that information about women’s rights received the lion’s share of attention in the recent New York Times report on the sobering behind-the-scenes realities in that troubled land. You can see that right in the headline: “Afghans Wonder ‘What About Us?’ as U.S. Troops Prepare to Withdraw,” with its subhead mentioning fears that the “country will be unable to preserve its modest gains toward democracy and women’s rights.”
Again, this news hook is totally valid. However, I think that this story needed some information — at least a paragraph of two — acknowledging the serious concerns of members of minority religious groups in Afghanistan. These range from Islamic minorities (and more moderate forms of that faith) as well as small, but historic, communities of Baha’is, Sikhs, Jews and Christians. And then there are the reports about growing underground networks of secret Christian converts.
This is, literally, a life-and-death situation for thousands of people. Might this human-rights issue be worth a sentence or two?
Hold that thought. First, here is the overture in this otherwise fine feature:
KABUL, Afghanistan — A female high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan’s war-scarred capital, is worried that she won’t be allowed to graduate. A pomegranate farmer in Kandahar wonders if his orchards will ever be clear of Taliban land mines. A government soldier in Ghazni fears he will never stop fighting.
Three Afghans from disparate walks of life, now each asking the same question: What will become of me when the Americans leave?
President Biden on Wednesday vowed to withdraw all American troops by Sept. 11, 20 years after the first Americans arrived to drive out Al Qaeda following the 2001 terrorist attacks. “War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking,” he said, speaking from the White House.
The American withdrawal would end the longest war in United States history, but it is also likely to be the start of another difficult chapter for Afghanistan’s people.
Further into this story, there is some summary material that — as you would expect — focuses on basic political questions and, again, points to issues affecting women in Afghanistan.
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