The Gendering of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

TitleThe Gendering of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMcBride, Keally, and Annick T. R. Wibben
JournalHumanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development
Start Page199
Pagination199 - 215
Date PublishedSummer 2012

In this essay, we argue that looking at the gendering of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan provides insight into the assumptions, strategies, and anxieties about the U.S. involvement in this particular war. We see in the gendering of counterinsurgency, exemplified most strikingly in the deployment of FETs, an attempt to reframe the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan as a humanitarian, even progressive, mission. Gendering counterinsurgency efforts as a gentler (feminine) option helps to sell the current campaign to a war-weary audience in the United States (and allied countries). It is also a way of marking U.S. civilizational superiority—and the attention lavished upon FETs deployed in Afghanistan is a significant aspect of this gendered narrative. Besides exploring how the operational objectives of the deployment of FETs are gendered, we pay particular attention to the signaling function of their deployment directed toward audiences in Afghanistan as well as citizens of the United States and its allies. Finally, we examine what the experience of women in female engagement teams reveals about how much U.S. military cultures are—or are not—changing. Budget pressures, war fatigue, and rapidly shifting geopolitical realities have required that the Pentagon cultivate a dynamic image of military deployments at home and abroad. Technological...

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