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May 17, 2013

Tsongas: Women can be peacekeepers in Afghanistan

(Continued)

She said the “fighting season begins right about now” and that Dunford said “we will not be actively engaging in the fight.”

“This summer will be the test,” said Tsongas, adding that there is also a “raw criminal element” in the country to contend with.

Tsongas arrived home just two days before yesterday’s suicide car bombing that tore through a U.S. convoy in the Afghan capital of Kabul. At least 15 people, including six U.S. military advisers and two children were killed, officials said. U.S. soldiers rushed to the scene to help, including some wearing only T-shirts or shorts under their body armor.

An Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by a new suicide unit formed in response to reports that the U.S. plans to keep permanent bases and troops in Afghanistan even after the 2014 deadline for the end of the foreign combat mission. Hezb-e-Islami said its fighters had stalked the Americans for a week to learn their routine before striking.

Tsongas spent Mother’s Day visiting with “military moms,” female soldiers who have children back home.

She is troubled that women in uniform may be facing sexual abuse and said she appreciated President Obama’s leadership in meeting with the Joints Chief of Staff yesterday to address “this deeply disturbing crisis.”

“It has become painfully evident in recent weeks that saying the U.S. military has a cultural problem in regard to sexual assault and sexual misconduct, is a glaring understatement,” she said. “At worst, this is a deep-rooted and widespread acceptance of unprofessional, inappropriate and criminal behavior. At best, it is willful denial or head-turning on the part of too many military leaders.”

Tsongas said she remembers attending a Wounded Warrior luncheon in 2008 where she talked with a military nurse who said that although she had not been sexually assaulted she was becoming “more afraid of her own soldiers than she was of the enemy.”

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