The United States military is fighting two distant wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is prepared for further conflicts in places like the Korean peninsula or Iran. A new battle pertaining to homosexuality within the military's ranks has been brewing recently.
After almost two decades of 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, the top ranking military officer suggested it was time to let gays out of the closet.
"No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens ... [it is my personal belief that] allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do."
Admiral Mike Mullen (Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff)
In the enlistment of gays at least, the Taliban is more 'progressive' than the US. Given the predominantly Pashtun nature of the Taliban insurgency, there is no doubt that gay soldiers serve the Taliban openly!
While it may not be noticeable in television clips of US and Taliban forces engaged in battle, the Pashtun male is almost a human version of the peacock. He loves colour and flutters his feathers about announcing that he is the most gorgeous specimen on the planet.
Like their supposed Greek ancestors, the Pathan male appreciates beauty. Make up on Pashtun women may be frowned upon but mascara and hair colouring are acceptable for men. Social restrictions dictate that female beauty is kept under wraps (burqa), literally. Perhaps to compensate, Pathans have learnt to welcome the beauty of other males.
Always on the ball, the US intelligence community has confirmed that many Pathans 'swing both ways.' As one Afghan put it, they don't mind "mixing green tea with black tea."
For some reason, the US military seems to be surprised by the findings of the study conducted by the Human Terrain Team, a military research unit. The study concluded that "Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men, admire other men physically, have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually -- yet they completely reject the label of homosexual."
To most Pakistanis, the research raises questions about the US understanding of the culture of a nation where they have been fighting a war for 'hearts and minds' for approximately nine years. The Pathan 'fondness' for men (and boys) is a well known cultural oddity.
There is a reason why the famous Peshawari chapals (sandals) are open and without shoelaces. There is never a need to tie shoe laces. People joke that it's best not to attract attention by bending over and sticking out your rear while tying those pesky shoelaces!
As the US prepares to deploy an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, one wonders whether there have been any special requests by gay soldiers wishing to deploy to Afghanistan. American GI's have a history of marrying and bringing home foreign brides during its various military engagements. Despite the acceptance of gay marriages by many US states, I somehow doubt Afghan spouses will become a more common sight on US military bases.
Women may not have much to look forward to if the Taliban took over large swathes of the Islamic world. However, male homosexuals might feel differently under a Taliban regime.