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Taliban Attack Kills Young U.S. Foreign Service Officer Anne Smedinghoff

April 8, 2013 by Sara Van Wie

Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old U.S. Foreign Service Officer, was killed along with three U.S. soldiers and a Defense Department employee on Saturday, April 6 in the southern Afghan province of Zabul.  Smedinghoff and the other Americans were on a mission to donate books to Afghan students when their convoy was attacked by a Taliban suicide car bomber. 

During her tour of duty in Afghanistan, Smedinghoff often worked with schools and businesses to improve the lives of young Afghans, especially girls.  Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Smedinghoff on his recent visit to Afghanistan, remembered her as a "vivacious, smart, capable" young woman marked by her capacity to lead.  She was a "brave American," he said, one who believed in the "possibilities of diplomacy, of changing people's lives, of making a difference, [and] having an impact."  Smedinghoff and other committed U.S. Foreign Service Officers dedicate their lives to improve the lives of others and to promote rights and freedom in the countries where they serve.  Anne Smedinghoff died in her efforts to expand opportunity for children in Afghanistan, and she will not be forgotten.

Soon after Saturday’s attack, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility, saying that the bomber was seeking to target either a coalition convoy or the provincial governor.  This attack, the deadliest for Americans this year, follows one of the worst Taliban attacks since the beginning of the war, which occurred on April 3 when Taliban attackers dressed as Afghan soldiers stormed a government compound in Farah province, killing 44 civilians and wounding 100 others who were waiting in a local court.  Kerry decried the Taliban's motives and tactics, saying, "The folks who want to kill people, and that is all they want to do, are scared of knowledge; and they want to shut the doors and they don't want people to make choices about their future.”" 

Under Taliban control in Afghanistan, women and children were denied basic human rights, and threatened and killed if they or their family members chose to pursue those rights.  Young girls seeking to attend school faced death or torture, and women working to provide vital income to their families shot and killed.  After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, a door was opened to reestablish rights and opportunity for women and girls in Afghanistan.  With the support of the international community, great strides have been made by women and for women in the areas of health, security, education, and economic opportunity.

As Afghanistan prepares for the withdrawal of U.S and NATO troops in 2014, the government of Afghanistan, its civil society and private sector must work with the support of the U.S and international community to reestablish their country on the principles of freedom, opportunity and equality.  The Bush Center will continue to highlight those individuals and organizations that seek to continue to move Afghanistan forward and who look to protect, promote and empower women and girls in that country.

Sara Van Wie is a Research Associate for the Afghan Women’s Project with the Women’s Initiative.

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