The anti-war group Code Pink, which rose to prominence with high-profile protests against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over the past seven years, is softening its stance against the war in Afghanistan over concerns that a troop withdrawal could harm women's rights in the country.
"We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline," Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin told the Christian Science Monitor. "That's where we have opened ourselves ... to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, 'If the US troops left the country, would collapse. We'd go into civil war.' A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that."
The apparent shift in policy comes in the wake of a week-long trip to Afghanistan by Code Pink members, where activists were surprised to find a lot of support among women's rights activists for maintaining the US and NATO presence in the country.
Some observers have been pointing out for years that the Western troop presence in Afghanistan is the principal reason that women in the country are now able to get an education, and that there is now at least a modicum of gender equality in Afghanistan. Many observers fear that the withdrawal of troops could allow the return of severe discrepancies between women's rights and men's rights in Afghanistan, as well as widespread violence against women.
"In the current situation of terrorism, we cannot say troops should be withdrawn," said Shinkai Karokhail, an Afghan member of Parliament and a women's rights activist, at a meeting of international rights groups. "International troop presence here is a guarantee for my safety."
Code Pink told the CSM the group would continue to oppose any increase in troop levels in Afghanistan.
"With President Obama weighing Gen. Stanley McChrystal's call for 40,000 more US troops, the White House, often decried by Republicans as a hotbed of liberalism, could find itself with more allies on the right on this issue than on the left," writes Johanna Neuman at the Los Angeles Times. "But Code Pink's latest think could suggest that Democrats will give Obama a bit of room to maneuver on the issue."
With Code Pink's announcement, some conservative commentators have accused the anti-war movement of hypocrisy.
Describing the movement as a "sham," blogger Strieff at RedState.com writes:
If there was ever any doubt that the anti-war movement was nothing more or less than an adjunct of the Democrat party, that doubt has been swept away. One would think that with the war in Afghanistan at a critical stage ... that the anti-war movement would have been in fine form. If there was ever a time when their presence might have actually made a policy difference this was it.
The anti-war movement we were afflicted with over the past eight years was essentially a rent-a-mob that never had any larger objective than damaging President Bush.
And the Gateway Pundit blog asks half-jokingly: "So does this mean that Code Pink is now to the right of the Obama Administration?"