By any measure, the number of women serving in the Afghan Special Security Forces is small — 80 women out of some 14,000 personnel. But while many are relegated to support roles, about 20 of the women are employed as members of the tactical platoons and counterintelligence units integral to the effectiveness of the special security forces. Despite their limited numbers, the women play an important part in the counterterrorism and counternarcotic capabilities of these forces.

Engaging with the female civilian population was a consistent challenge that U.S. and coalition special operations forces faced in Afghanistan. Their mission often required them to function in some of Afghanistan’s most culturally conservative, rural areas. One approach used to mitigate this challenge was developing female-only coalition units to support male-dominated U.S. and NATO tactical forces that include the Army and Marine female engagement teams and cultural support teams.

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Image courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps