Female Afghan police officers face elevated risk

Maryam, a police officer in Afghanistan. Females make up about one percent of the country's police force - and the Taliban thinks even that level is too high. CBS

Friday is the 10-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, and according to the latest CBS News poll, half of Americans believe that pulling out all U.S. troops would make no difference in the level of violence there.

The police in Afghanistan are already taking on more responsibility for keeping order. It's a dangerous job, especially for female officers.

Special Coverage: Afghanistan, 10 Years Later

CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark met one woman in Kabul who explained why she's risking her life to do it.

Clark reports when Maryam's husband left her to join the Taliban, he took their son with him. Left with two young daughters, the 26-year-old went on the offensive. She signed up to join the police force.

Maryam tells CBS News through an interpreter, "I wanted to arrest him myself."

Choosing to become a cop wasn't easy for Maryam. Along with a badge came death threats. Female police officers are high on the Taliban's hit list. Working outside the home and with men goes against the Taliban's views of acceptable behavior.

"I know the dangers, but if you're afraid, then the Taliban wins," she says.

There are only around 1,200 female officers - just one percent of the force. The Afghan government wants at least 5,000 female police officers by 2014.

Maryam graduated after an intensive two-and-a-half months of training and went to work right away.

Working at the police Gender Rights Branch, she deals with cases of domestic abuse, child kidnapping and forced marriage - issues she understands well. Not only did her husband kidnap her son, but she was also married off at age 13.

Clark asked, "Do you see yourself in a lot of these cases?"

"Absolutely," Maryam replies. "I can feel their pain and it makes it easier for them to talk to me."

But the case she was happiest to resolve was her own. When her husband eventually returned her son, she threatened to arrest him, but decided not to for the sake of her children.

"I want my children to be like their mother, not their father," Maryam says.

With father and mother on opposite sides, Maryam's determined for her children to choose peace over violence.

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