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Comparing the roles of women in Afghanistan and the United States

The women in these two pictures are a world apart, but they’ll be in the same country in a month’s time. It’s interesting how their roles differ in the two societies. One is saying goodbye to her kids and marching off to war. The other has almost no gender equality within her country.

While I agree with the thoughts, decisions and social norms that enabled 1st Lt. Belland to choose a military career, part of me is torn apart by the look on Krystal’s face and the clinging hugs of her children. No one ever said equality would be easy.

J. Miles Cary / Knoxville News Sentinel via AP

First Lt. Krystal Belland hugs her children, Caleb, 7, and Emily, 4, on May 13, 2011 as she prepares to leave the Army Reserve Center in Knoxville, Tenn. More than 200 soldiers from the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion will spend the next month training at Fort Dix, N.J. before traveling to Afghanistan in June.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Afghan women pray during Friday Prayers at the Madinatul-Elm mosque on May 13, 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Within many mosques women have separate areas from the men for prayer. However, in many parts of Taliban controlled Afghanistan, women are only allowed to pray at home.

AP reported on January 14, 2011:

WASHINGTON — A military advisory commission is recommending that the Pentagon do away with a policy that bans women from serving in combat units, breathing new life into a long-simmering debate.

Though thousands of women have been involved in the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have done so while serving in combat support roles because defense policy prohibits women from being assigned to any unit smaller than a brigade whose primary mission is direct combat on the ground. On Friday, a special panel was meeting to polish the final draft of a report that recommends the policy be eliminated "to create a level playing field for all qualified service members."

The report by a panel of retired and current military officers says that keeping women out of combat units prohibits them from serving in roughly 10 percent of Marine Corps and Army occupational specialties and thus is a barrier to promotions and advancement.

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