For the first time in seven months, a US soldier was killed Saturday by enemy fire in Afghanistan, once again demonstrating the urgent need for greater security in the region. This past weekend, a US Special Operations soldier was injured by an exploding grenade in Kunar province; on Saturday, gun fighting erupted in Kandahar and a helicopter crash near Kabul claimed the lives of seven German peacekeepers. In the last year, attacks against US and its allied forces have grown increasingly frequent, with nearly 55 incidents in the last month alone, reported the Washington Post.
Approximately 10,000 US troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan. Last week, the US military announced its intent to set up small regional bases throughout the country, supplemented with the creation of “joint regional teams”—consisting of US troops, Special Forces civil affairs troops, US Agency of International Development (USAID) personnel, and diplomats—to boost infrastructure development projects and engage with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Still, William Durch of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonprofit group focused on international peace and security, cautioned “It’s a step in the right direction… My concern is that it’s not going to have enough muscle to make it work. And our policy in the [Persian] Gulf is undercutting this thing big time—it’s sucking the air and the policy attention out of Afghanistan, and it’s a half-finished job,” reported the Washington Post.
The Feminist Majority and others question why the US has continued to withhold support for expanding international peacekeeping troops beyond and within Kabul, which many believe would be the most effective strategy for immediately improving security.
Meanwhile, reconstruction work for a 600-mile highway, connecting Kabul to Kandahar may be slowed by Saudi Arabia, which recently reneged on ts September pledge—made along with the US and Japan—to contribute $50 million of a $180 million donation to the road construction project. While US and Afghan officials insist that the pledge was a $50 million grant, Saudi officials now claim the offer was a low-interest $30 million loan. Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) of the House International Relations Committee chastised the Saudi government, “While the Saudi regime supports dubious charities with alleged ties to terrorists, it shortchanges vital reconstruction projects in Afghanistan…It is outrageous that the wealthy Saudi regime is unwilling to provide meaningful assistance to a poor Muslim nation that has suffered so much,” reported the Washington Post.
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. . . .