American Females on Wild Goose Chase For 'Hearts & Minds' in Afghanistan (by voluntarily wearing the burka)

By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU, Associated Press Writer

KHAWJA JAMAL, Afghanistan – Put on body armor, check weapons, cover head and shoulders with a scarf.

Afghan Woman To Woman

That was the drill for female American Marines who set out on patrol this week with a mission to make friends with Afghan women in a war zone by showing respect for Muslim standards of modesty.

The all-female unit of 46 Marines is the military’s latest innovation in its rivalry with the Taliban for the populace’s loyalty. Afghan women are viewed as good intelligence sources, and more open to the basics of the military’s hearts-and-minds effort — hygiene, education and an end to the violence.

“It’s part of the effort to show we’re sensitive to local culture,” said Capt. Jennifer Gregoire, of East Strasburg, Pa. She leads the Female Engagement Team in the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.

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“If you show your hair, its kind of like seeing a nude picture here, because women are very covered up,” she said.

Women are technically barred from combat units in the Marines, and some infantrymen have been surprised to see them in brightly colored head scarves under their helmets, deployed in the most intense combat zones in the country.

“But … I think they understand that what we’re doing is vital to operations and vital to the counterinsurgency program they want to run,” said Gregoire.

Women soldiers were assigned to search women at checkpoints in Iraq, and the experience fed into the Afghan effort, said Cpl. Sarah Furrer, from Colorado Springs, Colo., who served in both war zones.

“I’m not married and I don’t have children, so they think that’s awkward because I’m 24,” Furrer said of her Iraq experience. But as a result, “we’re not so much afraid of engaging the women” in Afghanistan, she said.

“I’ve found you get great intel from the female population,” said Capt. Zachary Martin, who commands the Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, stationed in Now Zad. “The women don’t want their men out there conducting jihad and getting killed.”

Martin said units have frequently received tips from women about weapons caches or hidden bombs.

But just to find the women is a challenge. There were none in sight as Gregoire’s team entered Khwaja Jamal, a village of mud brick homes with no electricity or government presence.

While heavily armed Marines fanned out, the four women started by trying to strike up conversations with the few old men and young children who ventured outdoors.

The several hundred villagers grow wheat and opium poppies in the crossfire between Marines and Taliban fighters who are in the woods less than a mile away.

“They look at us through binoculars. They’ll kill anybody who talks to the Americans,” said Abdul Gayom to explain why the villagers were so wary of meeting the patrol.

1st Lt. Victoria Sherwood was undaunted, talking to him through her Afghan translator. She gave him painkillers for his back, and small presents for the children timidly clustering around. Some of them begged to try on her sunglasses, and promptly made off with them.

Sherwood, from Woodbury, Conn., got Gayom to promise he might let her into his compound to meet his wife, who he said with a shrug is “so old, the Taliban probably won’t care.”

But there was a snag: The translator was male. Could he be in the wife’s presence? “No way,” said Gayom, then asked the Marines for more medicine and goods.

Deeper in the village, an elderly woman eventually appeared on a doorstep. Gusha Halam claimed she was 120 — so old she could do what she pleased. Her black head scarf left her wrinkled face uncovered and revealed some hair, dyed bright orange with henna.

“The Taliban took everything from us. Make them leave,” Halam said, before her sons and grandsons arrived, stopped the conversation and hustled her indoors.

4 thoughts on “American Females on Wild Goose Chase For 'Hearts & Minds' in Afghanistan (by voluntarily wearing the burka)”

  1. Talking about American women. There seems to be a rule in US Politics that means that dried up, vengeful, humorless, ugly, stupid women are all Democrats and vivacious, beautiful, friendly,intelligent women with highly developed senses of humor are all Conservatives. Just look at Michelle Soetero Obamanator, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton then at Pamella Geller, Michelle Malkin and Sarah Palin . Point proved I think.

  2. I love the US Marines…I have commited their exploits and battles to memory. The second sentence in the Marine Corps Hymn is “to the shores of Tripoli”. This indicates battle against whomever was living in Tripoli, Libya at the time. Muslim pirates were the enemy…barbary coast. Brave marines assaulted the ramparts under fire and advanced with fixed bayonets, while those on board ships in the Mediterranean Sea were in vicious hand to hand and cannon to cannon combat.

    To sully their service and honor by donning ANY form of muslim garb is a huge, unforgivable insult to every Marine who has ever served, especially those who have paid the ultimate price (see Fred Magnusson, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial wall, Washington D.C.) or have been severely wounded, physically or otherwise.

    This had better be temporary, and had better save thousands of lives, or I believe the Marine Corps has submitted to Islam. To accept one tenet is to accept them all.

    These assholes cause women to be Vitamin D deficient by mandating the burqah, and subsequently cause pregnant women to give birth to possibly brain-damaged newborns, due to Vitamin D deficiency. This is a crime against humanity, in my opinion, and all who engage in this behavior must be severely punished for child abuse, if not worse.

    Marine Corps – Bellaue Wood, Saipan, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Mobile Bay, Okinawa, Inchon, Chosin Reservior, Hue, Pleiku, Da Nang, etc.

    1. Thanks for that, Bryan.

      Muslim pirates were the enemy then, and Muslims are the enemy now. Nothing has changed, only that our culture and civilization is being destroyed from the inside.

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