A U.S. Army soldier contributes to the coalition forces-led Female Engagement Team conference at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Dec. 18, 2012. (Photo by Staff Sgt. David J. Overson)
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Some say Afghanistan’s way forward is through its women. To that end, the coalition forces-led female engagement teams still have their hands full. To compile lessons learned and discuss how to improve the teams’ effectiveness, the first-ever Regional Command-East FET conference was held at Bagram Air Field from Dec. 18-20.
The objective of the conference was to develop a unified plan to recruit women into the Afghanistan Uniformed Police and develop a support strategy, which would help the teams’ future success rate.
There are four task forces in RC-East with five to 10 teams each, whose mission it is to reach out to Afghan women. Each task force with FETs was represented at the conference, bringing first-hand knowledge of the successes and failures that the teams have experienced to date.
RC-East deputy chief reintegration officer, Lt. Col. Scott Perrenod, feels the largest hurdle they have encountered so far has been attaining support from the provincial key leaders, the governors and chiefs of police to endorse and establish these training programs Influencing the police leaders that having female officers with enhanced skills will help them to gain access, influence and intelligence within their areas of operation and be a significant tool for them, he said.
“This conference enabled us to draft a basic training instruction plan, which was based upon an already established plan that has been used at the national academy. We added very important elements to include literacy, tactical questioning, evidence-based operations and witness statements, and an Afghan peace and reintegration program,” Perrenod said.
RC-East and Combined Joint Task Force-1 senior development officer and deputy senior civilian representative, Nadereh C. Lee, attended the conference to ensure a civilian perspective was represented.
“I think the most important thing from the civilian side is to see that the military is thinking about all the same issues as we are on the civilian side, and I think we can bring everybody’s lessons learned to bear,” said Lee.
Lee added, “It’s critical to have women involved in everything here to be able to move forward in Afghanistan. We need to start thinking of women differently, as powerful actors economically, in security forces and in every aspect of Afghan life.”
The conference not only had civilian and military perspectives and experiences to draw from, but it also had the Muslim perspective. The Jordanian army provides what is referred to as the Jordanian Engagement Team, which was in attendance as well. In fact, coalition forces rely quite heavily on the JET perspective regarding cultural and religious affairs in Afghanistan.
Women have been in the Jordanian army and police since 1950, which has enabled the JET to draw from its own history’s obstacles of integrating women into the professional work force.
Jordanian army 2nd Lt. Hotaf Almahasnah, a security integration officer, brought both a female and a Muslim perspective to the conference.
“It’s a good idea to do this program,” said Almahasnah. “The privacy of women are very important among Muslims. There needs to be an environment for women and we need to emphasize this. I hope that Afghan women will accept this program.”