Interesting, balanced article in the Guardian today on Afghanistan, propaganda and women's rights. Important to recognise progress as much as impasse.
There are indeed several achievements that cannot be easily disregarded. Under the Taliban girls were not allowed to go to school after the age of eight. Now there are more girls attending school in Afghanistan than at any time in its history. Under the Taliban, women's voices were banned from radio (TV was completely forbidden) and now they take up a leading role in the broadcast media. Before, sports were off-limits to women, now there are female athletes competing in international events. Adultery was punishable by being stoned to death, and women were beaten on the street for anything short of total enshrouding. Now, while the informal dress code remains restrictive, 25% of parliamentary seats are allocated to women.
Clearly there is a very long way to go, and in many different social strata, but in a week (month, year?) of relentlessly negative press, a few positives don't hurt. The reversal of these achievements in the name of a political or military strategy that subjugates women cannot be permitted.
That said, Arianna Huffington's summarial perspectives on Wikileaks shine light on Afghanistan from another another angle. Her chaos approach views the leaks as confirmations rather than informations, but insists they could be the tipping point for public and political opinion with regards to an exit strategy that unable to locate the door, let alone the route to it.
But here is what makes the leaked cables so important: they provide another opportunity to turn the spotlight on the war in Afghanistan, which, despite the fact that it's costing us $2.8 billion a week keeps getting pushed into the shadows -- even in this deficit-obsessed time. The cables are a powerful reminder of what this unwinnable war is costing us in terms of lives, in terms of money, and in terms of our long-term national security.