International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen
Chapter 6: Gender and ‘population-centric’ counterinsurgency in Afghanistan
This chapter pays attention to the ways in which gender is rendered visible in the population-centric counterinsurgency environment of Afghanistan and how gender informs dominant representations and understandings of the conflict. Pointing first to the particular type of militarized masculinity required for the conducting of the ‘hearts and minds’ warfare of counterinsurgency, a ‘softer’ and ‘gentler’ soldier is visible, one who is distinct both from their previous warrior incarnations, and from the insurgent masculinities they are pitted against and the masculinities of the Afghan security forces they fight alongside. Secondly, the chapter reveals how the conduct of counterinsurgency requires a greater visibility of femininity, both physically in the bodies of women soldiers through the use of so-called ‘Female Engagement Teams’, and conceptually through the need for military personnel to demonstrate the ‘feminine’ emotions of compassion and concern. The chapter argues that this re-scripted militarized masculine identity and greater visibility of femininity are central to the claims that the long war in Afghanistan was one in which the population’s needs came first.
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