Statement of Eleanor Smeal, the President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, on the recent agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban

 

The United States and the Taliban signed an agreement this past Saturday, which focuses on the U.S. withdrawal and a guarantee by the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be used by terrorist groups to threaten U.S. and its allies’ security. The agreement has no guarantees for Afghan women’s rights, human rights and the Afghan Constitution which establishes a democracy and guarantees human rights and women’s rights.

The agreement also makes no commitment to preserve and continue the amazing progress achieved in many areas, including in education, healthcare, security, and freedom of media and press in the last nearly 20 years. The exclusion of these very important guarantees and issues has alarmed Afghan women leaders and their allies. Afghan women leaders have implored that, “Don’t trade away women’s rights to the Taliban. Put us at the table.”

The exclusion of women from these negotiations was a clear violation of the U.S. Women Peace and Security Act, passed into law by the current Administration in 2017. The exclusion of human rights and women’s rights as well as the nature of the government further diminishes the United States’ efforts in helping to rebuild a modern government that supports democracy in Afghanistan. The Taliban has continuously refused to recognize the democratically elected government of Afghanistan, its Constitution and to renounce its own desire to rule. They have shown no sign of progress in their ideology of controlling women and cruelly denying women their human rights.  

While U.S. officials did not include any of these critical issues in the U.S.-Taliban agreement, it is imperative that they are addressed in the negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which are to follow in March. The Taliban must not succeed in rolling back the progress that has been made with so much blood and treasure by Afghans, the U.S., and our international allies. The Afghan people, especially Afghan women have made it clear time and again that they do not want to go back to where Afghanistan was under the Taliban rule.

Afghans have made it clear that they want to have a modern, free and secure life which includes access to education, healthcare, and freedom of the media and with human rights for all. Through the peace process, the U.S. must not inadvertently help the Taliban to impose their brutal edicts on the Afghan people.

In addition to not guaranteeing human rights and women’s rights, the agreement also suggests that, “all military forces of the United States, its allies and Coalition partners, all non-diplomatic civilian personnel… trainers and advisors” must leave within 14 months. This further jeopardizes and weakens the Afghan government and the security of the country as well as raises questions on allowing international aid workers to continue working in Afghanistan. In order to have a strong security force in Afghanistan, the Afghan government needs international assistance to train and advise its security personnel.

This agreement between the U.S.-Taliban also violates previous commitments to Afghanistan, including the Chicago Summit on Afghanistan, which guarantees support to the “sovereign” Afghan government until 2024. The violation of the Chicago agreement and others threatens the U.S. reputation in honoring its international commitments.

While appearing neutral, the U.S. in this agreement with the Taliban is obliterating any recognition of the Afghan government and its people. The agreement says “…the Taliban will start intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides….” In omitting the Afghan government, the U.S. Trump Administration is undermining the Afghan government, its legitimacy, and its hard work in creating relative stability and progress. Some former U.S. officials who worked in Afghanistan have also warned that, “We simply can’t turn this over and walk away,” said retired Four Star Marine Corps General John Allen, former Commander of International Forces in Afghanistan.

Finally, the terms of the agreement are not practical and not enforceable. The agreement is also not enforceable for our national security, the geopolitical stability of the region and the national security of Afghanistan. It is not practical for the Afghan government, often referred to as the “other side” in the agreement to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners the day of the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations and release the rest over the course of three months. The Taliban in return will release only 1,000 prisoners of the “other side” referring to the Afghan government. It is naïve to trust that these members will not be a threat to our national security, to the stability of the region and the national security of Afghanistan. It is naïve to trust without monitoring and without any verification mechanism. To trust the Taliban with our security would make a mockery of all the sacrifices of the Afghan people, the U.S., NATO and the international community.

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Eleanor Smeal

Eleanor Smeal

As Co-Founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Eleanor Smeal has led efforts for the economic, political, and social equality and empowerment of women worldwide for over three decades.