Within the special operations ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is a small, elite unit with a unique characteristic: It’s made up entirely of women.
The Female Tactical Platoon is tasked with supporting the Afghan Special Security Forces during counterterrorism operations, specializing in searches, interrogations, and medical assistance.
The 120 female warriors are required to meet the same PT and training requirements as their male counterparts, and their 15-week-long deployment cycles of six-woman teams come with the same dangers and risks.
The members of the FTP come from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and, in some cases, intensive recruiting from the local population in search of women with the right skill set.
FTP fighters specialize in carrying out searches and questionings of women and children, as well as offering medical assistance, by operating “in a way that is respectful of Islam and the Afghan culture,” according to a recent DoD release.
“Last year in Bagram, one of the girls was shot by the Taliban. She was injured, and was in shock and I stayed with her and helped her,” said one FTP member. “The training we do here helps with our missions.”
There are plans to split the FTP into a training platoon, focused on recruitment and assessment, and a tactical platoon focused on upcoming deployments, a move that signifies the Afghan government’s support for the program and “a long-term investment in the growth of a unique component,” according to the DoD.
“We try to have girls talk about their real-life experiences [on deployment],” one advisor said. “Not just the task, but the purpose.”
While the culturally sensitive nature of their missions comes with intense operational requirements, the women that do join FTP course “are tenacious,” one NATO advisor told the DoD.
“Right now, we have more ‘little engines that can’ and we can really work with a woman who just doesn’t quit,” she said. “We’ve had some who will go until they pass out.”
While Afghanistan is a far cry from the gender equality most expect from modern nations, FTP members see their platoon as the tip of a spear in opening the minds and hearts of their fellow countrymen.
“We need the girls. We need FTP,” one operator told the DoD. “The reason is, we have to serve women and if women join the Army or FTP, that’s a good thing because they can serve everything that is women.”
Jared Keller is a senior editor at Task & Purpose. A contributing editor at Pacific Standard magazine, he has previously worked for The Atlantic, Bloomberg Digital, Al Jazeera America, and Maxim.
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