Military operations in the Middle East are hampered by Islam’s strict rules governing interactions between the genders. Muslim women are segregated from society and forbidden to have contact with unrelated men. The deadly SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen went badly in part because the unit did not believe that local women would take up arms during the attack. They were wrong. The resulting firefight was far fiercer than the military had predicted it would be.
Norway solved the problem by creating the world’s first all-female special operations force. The highly trained women will be used to glean intelligence from terrorists’ wives and daughters. A scared Afghan woman currently has no recourse to save herself or her children from the path decided upon by her husband. If he’s intent on committing jihad she has to go along with it.
With the creation of the Jegertroppen, Norway’s female unit, potential female informants have the ability to come forward if they choose. If ISIS is going to be defeated we need to learn as much about them as possible.
“When [Norway] deployed to Afghanistan we saw that we needed female soldiers. Both as female advisers for the Afghan special police unit that we mentored, but also when we did an arrest,” said Col. Frode Kristofferson, commander of Norway’s special forces. “We needed female soldiers to take care of the women and children in the buildings that we searched.”
“One of the advantages that we see with an all-female unit is that we can have a tailored program and a tailored selection for the female operators. We have them available when we need the female soldiers in operations abroad.”
The women undergo training that’s as intense and physically demanding as that of their male counterparts. To join the elite group, a woman must be capable of running four miles while lugging 60 pounds of gear. She’s given a measly 52 minutes to complete the test.
Norway is one if the world’s gender equality pioneers. Norwegian women have been allowed to be full participants in the military since 1980. Jegertroppen is unique because the unit is solely for women.
20-year-old soldier Mari told reporters that she joined the military in order to follow in her family’s footsteps. “If I’m needed, I think that it would be a great opportunity to both serve my country and also to be able to contribute positively in a very masculine environment. With the skills that we get this year, I think that we definitely can continue to build on them and become very good soldiers, maybe just as good as the boys.”
It’s ironic that the decision to create the historic unit was guided by hopes that it would allow for better fighting in the Middle East considering Iran’s excessive disdain for female soldiers. A Reuters story claiming that the country was training female assassins garnered so much negative attention that Tehran almost immediately expelled the publication from Iran.
A video posted online showed black-garbed women scrambling over obstacle courses and handing advanced weaponry.
One Iranian woman, Khatereh Jalilzadeh, told Press TV: “The lady from Reuters asked me only one question, which had a very obvious answer. I believe that anyone, anywhere in the world, would defend his country if it were attacked … but she twisted our words to make us look bad and described us as assassins in the headline of her story.”
Jalilzadeh was originally interviewed because of her involvement with ninjitsu, a school of martial arts. It was so shocking to see women in hijabs performing acrobatic feats that Reuters sensationalized the story.
Mohammad Javad Aqajari, the Iran ministry’s head for foreign media, told state news outlet Irna: “Upon being informed of the biased measure taken by Reuters in its video section, and considering the legal action taken by Iranian women athletes, the ministry decided to suspend all activities of the news agency until thorough investigations are carried out.”
The extreme reaction shows how fraught gender relations in Iran are. Muslim women may be disenfranchised but they can’t be ignored. The war on terror involves not only jihadists but every ISIS-sympathizer.
22-year-old Tonje, a Jegertroppen soldier, believes that the specialized unit proves that men and women can do the same job.”We’re carrying the same weight in the backpack as the boys,” she said. “We do the same tasks.”
Tonje went on to say that she’s dreamed about becoming a soldier since she was a little girl. “And I knew that I wanted to do the toughest thing I could do in the military, When the Jegertroppen came up as an option, it felt like it was made for me.”
Recently the American military opened all combat roles to women. Perhaps an all-female special operations unit will be next.
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