U.S. Considers Larger Peacekeeping Role in Afghanistan
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan, announced yesterday that the U.S. is considering options for expanding the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, expressing concern over the continuing conflict between several rival factions in Afghanistan. Possible scenarios include expanding the small 4, 500 member international peacekeeping force currently responsible for the entire country to 25,000 troops, sending U.S. military advisors to areas that are particularly conflicted, and expediting U.S. aid and training for an Afghan national army.
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, urged expansion of the peacekeeping forces to ensure women's security. “In some regions of the country, women continue to fear the imposition of Taliban-like restrictions by regional warlords," said Smeal. “The future of women and indeed of a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan depends on a U.S. and international commitment to maintaining a robust peacekeeping force until stability is obtained and the Afghan government believes that it has the capacity to maintain the peace. We believe that the size of the international peacekeeping force should be increased to at least 25,000, that peace troops should be deployed throughout the country, and that the term of the force should be extended beyond 6 months. We also urge the inclusion of women in the ranks.”
The U.S. currently has about 3, 000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, concentrated mainly in the areas being used for U.S. military and strategic operations. U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already urged the Bush Administration to deploy more peacekeeping troops into Afghanistan to ensure the success of the new government. “History will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course,” said Biden.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .