How the presence of Female Engagement Teams has affected the attempt to bring change to Afghanistan.
USA Today editor Rivers, an Army veteran who served in Kuwait, follows three American women—Sgt. Sheena Adams, Maj. Maria Rodriguez, and Capt. Johanna Smoke—who worked to engage Afghan women in the effort to improve their lives and weaken the Taliban’s hold on their country. The book begins with a brief history of women in the American military and then shifts to Afghanistan, where we meet Jamila Abbas, who watched her husband, a former officer in the Afghan army, beheaded by the mujahideen. Determined to help others escape oppression, she became an activist for women’s rights, a choice that put her in great danger. But she was not without allies—specifically, American FETs. Ironically, the American women were themselves subject to rules limiting their roles. Adams fought hard to get assigned to Afghanistan. After being injured by an IED while on vehicle patrol and taking part in the subsequent firefight, she found her advancement blocked because the system gave her no credit for combat service. Rodriguez, working to give Afghan policewomen the tools and training to fulfill their mission, fought not only the provincial government, but her own chain of command, which prevented female service members from leaving base without male escorts. Smoke led an effort to register Afghan women to vote, effectively becoming Jamila’s chief of staff in an effort to empower the downtrodden female population. Eventually, Adams became an advocate for FETs working in other countries, including some in Africa. Rivers gives detailed accounts of their time in Afghanistan. While the pace of the narrative occasionally lags and the prose is undistinguished, the overall story of the fight for women’s rights in a country where the male power structure opposes them is compelling. The author’s own military experience gives the book a perspective that is especially useful.
A solid, fact-filled look at an underreported piece of the American military.