US withdraws ban on women in combat roles

January 25, 2013 - 5:15:19 am

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon yesterday lifted its ban on women in front-line combat roles, a move hailed by supporters as a historic step toward gender equality in US armed forces after 11 years of non-stop war.

There are important caveats, and change will not happen overnight for women who have already been serving and dying in the past decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where nearly 300,000 of them have deployed.

But the decision by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, with the support of President Barack Obama, sets into motion a process that will open thousands of jobs to women in America’s armed forces and expand opportunities for career advancement.

“The department’s goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender,” Panetta said in a statement.

Panetta, who was to address a Pentagon news conference yesterday, made the decision after the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded it was time to move forward with efforts to integrate women “to the maximum extent possible,” according to a statement.