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Acceptance Is First Challenge For Afghanistan's First Female In A Senior Security Post

Hosna Jalil is well aware of the complexities of improving security and the rule of law in Afghanistan, a country that has been engulfed by nearly four decades of war.

But since being appointed on December 5 to a senior post in the Interior Ministry, the 26-year-old Kabul native's first challenge has simply been to gain acceptance.

"People are criticizing my appointment because they think Afghan women are not competent," Jalil told RFE/RL in a telephone interview. "But this is natural because there is resistance in any country going through change."

While some Afghans have applauded Jail's appointment as a sign of the progress women have made since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, her selection as deputy for policy and strategic affairs has led to a backlash from some who claim she is too young and inexperienced to have a senior post in the critical security sector.

The Taliban has been waging a deadly, 17-year insurgency against the Western-backed government in Kabul. Embattled government security forces are failing to fend off militant attacks and sustaining record casualties. And the rule of law and governance are weak.

But Jalil says she relishes the challenges, and rejects her critics.

"My goal has been to serve the government, to have a position in which I have responsibility and the power to bring change," Jalil told RFE/RL. "I want to bring change for the benefit of my country."

For Jalil, her appointment is the realization of a dream.

Born in Kabul, her family moved to the southeastern city of Ghazni. She received her master’s degree in business administration at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) and has worked in policy planning at the Mines and Petroleum Ministry.

Ershad Ahmadi, a former deputy foreign minister and current vice president of development at AUAF, said Jalil's appointment was a "welcome improvement."

Women's rights activist Wazhma Frogh said Jalil's appointment was an "important step," saying it was "time to support more young women taking charge."

President Ashraf Ghani, who has led the national unity government since 2014, has attempted to clean up corrupt institutions and has appointed dozens of young, Western-educated Afghans to positions of power in his administration, including in the security and finance ministries and as senior advisers.

Afghan women are playing a greater role in government than ever, with 11 female deputy ministers, three female ministers, and five female ambassadors.

Twenty-three-year-old Diwa Samad became the country's youngest-ever deputy minister when she was appointed to her post in the Health Ministry in October.

Such changes have not gone over well with those who suggest Ghani's appointments are purely symbolic, and that his appointees are inexperienced and lacking the necessary skills.

Diva Patang, a former staff member at the Afghan Embassy in London, responded on Twitter to Jalil’s appointment by saying the president was leading a "kindergarten government."

Patang said the government was "ruining" the future of young women like Jalil, who she claimed did not have the required "expertise and experience."

She alleged that the government’s new hires were “puppies” who would simply follow orders.

Omar Samad, an analyst and former Afghan ambassador who has advised senior Afghan officials, wrote on Twitter that Jalil’s appointment showed that "something is seriously wrong with the 'system.'"

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