Sarah Cosette


Since 2001, members of the U.S. military and Afghan communities have been living alongside each other as part of the international political intervention and military campaign Operation Enduring Freedom. A schism occurred between Afghan societies in relation to this involvement, which in turn produced relationships between foreign troops and Afghan civilians, the state apparatus and insurgents. An international discourse of propaganda using gender as a tool surrounded the conflict and attempted to justify the presence of foreign militaries in Afghanistan by framing the U.S. as rescuers, liberating Afghan victims from Afghan oppressors. A counterinsurgency doctrine was developed after Afghanistan resisted the international hegemonic vision for the country, asking troops to battle for the hearts and minds of Afghans. U.S. troop’s reflections about their experiences in Afghanistan reveal a division in how these roles and relationships are imagined in the propaganda and doctrine and how they are experienced by the U.S. military’s service members. The relationship with Afghan communities is problematized and given context in this project as remembered and perceived by the U.S. troops. Representations were deconstructed and reconstructed by the troops revealing the perception of themselves and Afghans, the roles of the groups and the impact of foreign military presence in Afghanistan. Their identities develop while attempting to encourage hegemonic visions in the uniform of a foreign military other. U.S. troops perceptions are heavily influenced by media, propaganda and discourse, yet the reflections on their own experiences often question and challenge the realities of relationships between Afghans and themselves, blurring the lines between liberation and occupation.


Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender and Women's Studies

Degree Name

MA in Gender & Women's Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

April 2013

First Advisor

Terrell, Jennifer Yvette

Committee Member 1

Rieker, Marti

Committee Member 2

Khalil, Mi


107 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

United States -- Armed Forces -- Afghanistan.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Afghanistan -- Social conditions.


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I would first like to thank Dr. Marti Rieker. Her guidance and support through the various stages of this thesis process was an invaluable service. Her thoroughness helped me delve deeper into this subject and help me create a more rich study in the process. I would also like to thank Dr. Jennifer Terrell for helping me find my voice and complete this thesis. Her critiques and discussions provided me with the confidence and inspiration needed. I would also like to say thank Dr. Mi Khalil for being part of my thesis committee. His comments and support were much appreciated. This paper would not exist without the responses and commentary from Alpha Yankee, the participants of both the survey and interviews. Taking the time out of their busy schedules to meet with me or fill out the survey, the insight and emotion provided was invaluable. Special thanks to those who went above and beyond with helping expand my response group and finesse the questions used. The simple lessons on terminology and abbreviations were as important as the most intimate details of the deployments. I would also like to recognize the Pat Tillman Foundation for helping organizing participation for this study as well as their professiolism and support throughout the entire process. Specifically within this group, Hunter Riley and the Tillman Military Scholars were especially helpful, words cannot express my gratitude.