Washington (CNN)A congresswoman who is also a retired U.S. Air Force colonel on Monday likened recent concerns aired by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter over women in combat being vulnerable to sexual assault as "the kind of logic" the Taliban uses to suppress women.
Congresswoman rips Defense Secretary, says women in combat could open opportunity for predators
Carter made the remarks on Wednesday at Georgetown University, when he responded to a question from an audience member about how the opening of combat positions for women affected the military's effort to end sexual assault within its ranks.
"Obviously, as we get women into more unaccustomed positions, maybe dangerous isolated positions, maybe positions where they are fewer, in relation to the number of men, it opens up opportunities for predators," Carter said at a campus ROTC event about the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention and response programs.
"I can't help but believe for many people, they'll learn better how to conduct themselves, how to interact across gender lines and so forth. And that will contribute to prevention and eventually eradication of sexual assaults," Carter added.
But Republican Arizona Rep. Martha McSally said in a video played at the Women in International Security event in Washington on Monday that, in her view, the response suggested by Carter would close down the opportunity of women to serve in combat roles.
"That's the kind of logic that the Taliban and other extremist organizations use in order to keep women segregated from men in their societies, that 'We're trying to keep women safe,'" McSally said.
"When you have a potential assaulter or rapist in your unit, would you be okay with him staying there and then maybe committing assault on other civilians somewhere else?" McSally asked. "I mean, I know that's not what they're saying, but the point is, if you have a perpetrator or a potential perpetrator in a unit, we need to rat out the perpetrator, not close down the opportunity of women to be in that unit because we have potential perpetrators in that unit."
McSally's remarks were first reported by The Hill and were seen by CNN after the event.
Carl Woog, a spokesman for Carter, told CNN on Tuesday that the defense secretary has opened 20,000 new positions for women in the military since taking office in February while he also tries to eradicate sexual assault in the armed forces.
"He is committed to doing all he can to stamp it out," Woog said.
In his remarks at Georgetown, Carter said he was "pretty optimistic" that all positions within the U.S. military would be open to women by January 2016.
In 1995, McSally became the first woman to fly in combat during Operation Southern Watch over Iraq, and later was the first woman to command a fighter squadron in combat. She has also successfully challenged a Pentagon policy that required U.S. servicewomen to wear Muslim garb when traveling off-base in Saudi Arabia.