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The Women of the Afghanistan War

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The present war in Afghanistan, now nearly 12 years old, has affected the lives of millions of women. Many have been victimized; others have played the roles of soldiers, insurgents, politicians, caregivers, and much more. NATO nations have sent thousands of female troops into the conflict, assigned to combat teams as well as support positions. And the women of Afghanistan have been caught in attacks from all sides -- restricted by conservative laws, traumatized by bombings, and victimized at home. According to the UN, the rate of violence against Afghan women is on the rise, even as the number of civilian casualties have been dropping. As western nations begin their draw-down, training and literacy programs are ramping up, in the hopes for a stronger role for the women of Afghanistan after 2014. The photos here are part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [41 photos]

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British army Corporal Sandra Jordan exercises at Camp Bastion, Britain's largest base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, at sundown, on June 3, 2009. Jordan is a ward nurse at the camp hospital, where British and coalition force troops, Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, as well as civilians and enemy casualties are treated.(AP Photo/Jon Bevan, Ministry of Defence)
British army Corporal Sandra Jordan exercises at Camp Bastion, Britain's largest base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, at sundown, on June 3, 2009. Jordan is a ward nurse at the camp hospital, where British and coalition force troops, Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, as well as civilians and enemy casualties are treated.(AP Photo/Jon Bevan, Ministry of Defence)
An Afghan artist removes rubbish in front of her graffiti in an industrial park in Kabul, on December 19, 2010. A group of women in burqas rises from the sea to symbolise cleanliness. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
A newly graduated soldier from the Afghan National Army (ANA) attends a graduation ceremony in Kabul, on September 23, 2010. Afghanistan's army got its first female officers in decades, when 29 women graduated in a class of new recruits. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
U.S. Marine Female Engagement Team members Lance Cpl. Mary Shloss, right, of Hammond, Indiana, Sgt. Monica Perez of San Diego, California, and Cpl. Kelsey Rossetti, of Derry, New Hampshire, wait for the signal to begin their patrol with Golf Company, 2nd Batallion, in Helmand Province, on August 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #
A female Afghan rapper performs during Afghanistan and Central Asia's only Arts Festival in Kabul, on May 1, 2013. The festival is held at the Esteqlal high school. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid) #
An Afghan woman in a burqa walks along a road on a windy day on the outskirts of Kabul, on April 16, 2013. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
U.S. Army Sgt. Lidya Admounabdfany writes down information from a local woman at the Woman's Center near the Zhari District Center outside of Forward Operating Base Pasab, Kandahar province, on December 17, 2011. Admounabdfany was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1990, living through the 2003 U.S. invasion, hiding in a basement with her family. Her mother, a widow who spoke some English, met and married an American security adviser and the whole family soon moved to Oklahoma City. When she was 17, she graduated High School and enrolled in the U.S. Army, hoping to go to Iraq. As the wars changed priorities, Admounabdfany ended up learning Dari and Pashto, and was deployed to Afghanistan as a member of 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division's Female Engagement Team. Full story here. (U.S. Army/Spc. Kristina Truluck) #
Melissa Lamb carries her two-year-old daughter Rosie as she touches the hearse carrying the coffin, of her killed husband Rifleman Martin Lamb, draped in a union flag at Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, England, on June 9, 2011. (Reuters/Dylan Martinez) #
An Afghan woman, Bibi Hur, cries over her injured daughter at a hospital in Herat, west of Kabul, on August 18, 2011. Bibi Hur has lost three of her children and two more injured by a road side bomb, Hur said. The roadside bomb killed at least 20 passengers traveling on a minibus in western Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi) #
Spc. Janae Gaston (left), a native of Goosecreek, South Carolina, is an intelligence specialist who volunteered to deploy with the first Female Engagement Team to be trained with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, on June 20, 2012. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Ida Irby) #
An Afghan policewoman indicates to unseen attendees where to proceed for a ceremony to mark International Women's Day in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, on March 8, 2010. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images) #
Pfc. Sarina Butcher, 19, of Checotah, Oklahoma. The U.S. Department of Defense announced on November 2, 2011 that Butcher and 26-year-old Spc. Christopher Gailey of Ochelata died when their vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device in Paktia province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Oklahoma National Guard) #
A woman prays at the Family Guidance Center women's shelter in Kabul, on August 9, 2009. According to a 2006 report by the UK-based NGO "Womankind," anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of marriages in Afghanistan are forced, 57 percent of brides are under the age of 16, and 87 percent complain of domestic violence. Afghan women suffer from the lowest literacy rate in the world, at 13 percent. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) #
Afghan prisoner Fauzia stares out of prison bars at Badam Bagh, Afghanistan's central women's prison, in Kabul, on March 28, 2013. Fauzia is the oldest woman in jail and has served already seven years in jail. She will serve a 17 year sentence for killing her husband and her daughter-in-law. "I was in one room. I came into the next room and they were there having sexual relations. I found a big knife and killed them both," she said in a voice empty of emotion. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Stephanie Robertson, a member of the female engagement team (FET) assigned to 2d Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, speaks with locals during an engagement mission in Marjah, Afghanistan, on August 18, 2010. (Reuters/Lance Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum/USMC) #
The dead body of a woman lies on the ground at the site of a suicide attack near "Finest" supermarket in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul, on January 28, 2011. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan women take a workshop sponsored by a Malaysian NGO called Mercy that seeks to help local females to empower themselves, on April 15, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images) #
An Afghan widow takes part in a demonstration at a CARE International food distribution center in Kabul, on March 6, 2006. Hundreds of widows staged a protest as they urged CARE to continue food distribution. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
Julie Ann Catherine Mason, wife of Master Corporal Jeffrey Scott Walsh, embraces their seven-month-old son Benjamin (right) and daughter Avery Mason on the tarmac after a repatriation ceremony at Canadian Forces Base Trenton August 12, 2006. Walsh was killed in what is believed to be a friendly-fire gun accident after arriving in Afghanistan only six days earlier. (Reuters/J.P. Moczulski) #
Young Afghan girls and women enjoy a concert by the "Afghan Elvis", singer Farhad Darya, a United Nations goodwill ambassador, during a concert for young women at Amani high school in Kabul, on November 24, 2011. In a country where women still have limited rights and music was banned under the Taliban until ten years ago, Darya is an icon for millions and his popularity was clear at a rare, top security, female-only show in Kabul. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man Afghan officials say is a member of the Taliban fires a weapon at a woman accused of adultery during her execution in a village outside Kabul in this still image taken from undated footage released on July 7, 2012. Locals and Kabul authorities vowed to avenge the public execution, brazen violence that spurred shock and sharp condemnation from Afghan authorities and the United States. (Reuters/via Reuters TV) #
Momtaz, 16, a victim of an acid attack, participates in a protest against the recent public execution of a young woman, in Kabul, on July 11, 2012. The Taliban denied involvement in the killing in Parwan province, in which an unnamed woman's head and body were riddled with bullets at close range in punishment for alleged adultery. Authorities in Kabul directly blamed the Islamist group. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
An Afghan amputee practices walking with her prosthetic leg at one of the International Committee of the Red Cross hospitals for war victims and the disabled in Kabul, on June 5, 2013. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Veronica Ortiz Rivera, widow of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Javier O. Ortiz Rivera, grieves during her husband's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on December 2, 2010. Ortiz died while serving in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) #
Michelle Ping, paramedic attached to the British Army's Highlanders, 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, secures an area at a joint checkpoint with Afghan National Police outside the town of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, on July 11, 2011. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov) #
An unidentified Afghan prostitute looks out a window in her Madame's house in Kabul, on May 26, 2008. Afghanistan is one of the world's most conservative countries, yet its sex trade appears to be thriving. (AP Photo/Farzana Wahidy) #
U.S. Army soldier SSG Norma Gonzales of 426 Civil Affairs Battalion reads a magazine next to fellow soldiers while waiting to be ferried by helicopter to different U.S. military bases in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, on October 11, 2012. (Reuters/Erik De Castro) #
An Afghan woman looks into the camera in Mazar-i Sharif, capital of Balkh province, on March 30, 2012. (Qais Usyan/AFP/Getty Images) #
Mary Ellen Adkinson, left, grandmother of Army Ranger Staff Sgt. Vinson Adkinson III, Veronica Adkinson, center, his widow, and Mary Kay Adkinson, his sister, during burial services at Ft. Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, Oklahoma, on September 13, 2010. Adkinson, 26, was killed in the line of duty on August 31, 2010, in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) #
Sargeant Patricia A. Aquino, US Marines 2nd Batallion, shows a picture of her children, Jenna and Christopher prior to a patrol in Gamser, Helmand province, on February 20, 2011. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images) #
Hospital Corpsman Shannon Crowley, 22, US Navy Sailor working with the FET (Female Engagement Team) 1st Battalion 8th Marines, Regimental Combat team II, rushes into the shower tent on November 17, 2010 in Musa Qala, Afghanistan. With 269 male marines and 3 females living at a small outpost the females have only one hour a day (30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon) to shower. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #
Hospital Corpsman Shannon Crowley, 22, US Navy Sailor working with the FET 1st Battalion 8th Marines, eats American snacks sent from home while studying, on November 17, 2010 in Musa Qala, Afghanistan. The women, many who volunteer for the 6.5 month deployment take a 10 week course at Camp Pendleton in California where they are trained for any possible situation, including learning Afghan customs and basic Pashtun language. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #
A victim of a blast is led away from the site in Kabul, on December 15, 2009. A large explosion rocked Kabul's main diplomatic and government residential district, as President Hamid Karzai was expected to attend an anti-corruption conference in the Afghan capital. (Reuters/Ahmad Masood) #
Two Afghan woman hold hands in a marketplace in Kabul, on October 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) #
A wounded woman rests at a hospital after NATO air strikes in Laghman province, on September 16, 2012. NATO-led air strikes in southern Laghman province killed eight women, according to a local official. (Reuters/Parwiz) #
An Afghan woman takes photographs from the banks of Band-e Haibat, in the chain of Band-e Amir Lakes, located about 170 km (106 miles) west of Bamiyan, on August 14, 2009. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
Muddy shoes of a Afghan woman, as she waits her turn to receive free rations at World Food Program (WFP) distribution center in Kabul, on March 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin) #
A Dutch soldier kisses a woman before departing to Afghanistan from the Eindhoven Airport, Netherlands, to replace the current F-16 detachment, on May 6, 2013. (Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images) #
Female members of the Afghan National Police aim 9mm pistols as they attend a training session in Kandahar city, on June 7, 2010. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
Lesleigh Coyer, 25, of Saginaw, Michigan, lies down in front of the grave of her brother, Ryan Coyer, who served with the U.S. Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, on March 11, 2013. Coyer died of complications from an injury sustained in Afghanistan. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque) #
An Afghan woman holds her newborn baby, wrapped in her burqa, as she waits to try on a new burqa in a shop in the old town of Kabul, on April 11, 2013. Although the burqa remains popular, tradesmen say times are changing in Kabul at least, with demand for burqas declining as young women going to school and taking office jobs refuse to wear the cumbersome garments. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
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