Australian FETs in Afghanistan?

Last month, I wrote about Female Engagement Teams operating in Afghanistan, comprising American and British troops. Like their NATO counterparts, female Australian troops have been deployed to Uruzgan province and, as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team mission, they also engage with Afghan women and children. Yet little has been reported about formal Australian arrangements that mirror FET, perhaps until now.

As part of recognising International Women’s Day, the Defence Department posted a short write-up of female ADF participation in Uruzgan province. The media release began by introducing FET as ISAF’s lead initiative in engaging women and facilitating development programs before turning to Australia’s bit.

While the media release’s build-up left the ostensible expectation that Australia was engaged in FET-like activity, it only linked FET to PRT in stating that work was done in “close conjunction” and that one PRT member had participated in a FET with a female interpreter.

While it is commendable to see more Australian female involvement in the military, especially in Afghanistan, that the bulk of this write-up consists of largely other nations’ initiatives (and our fleeting engagement with them) is rather sad. It exposes a lack of creativity in utilising our female personnel. Some may argue that our contribution of 1,550 is modest and, thus, does not necessitate a prominent female program. However, I would argue that is not the point. We have female personnel in Afghanistan and if we wish to promote in particular their ability to engage with Afghan women, let’s not wait until International Women’s Day and only do so on such an ad hoc basis.

Photo of Captain Sarah Vesey (JTF HQ) in Tarin Kot, courtesy of the Department of Defence

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