In response to the new US-proposed agreement for peace in Afghanistan, Afghan women’s groups and their leaders shared their dismay and stated that the agreement is proposed “without consulting Afghans and particularly Afghan women, who have made the greatest sacrifices over these four decades of war.” Their statement comes days after mounting frustrations among the Afghan people on the letter sent to their president by the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Soon after the letter to President Ghani was leaked, a proposed agreement was also made public outlining a proposal for a “political settlement” among Afghan leaders.
The new US proposal calls for Afghanistan’s currently elected and legitimate government to be replaced with temporary leaders for a transitional period. Moreover, the proposal suggests that the Afghan Constitution be rewritten and that upon signing the agreement, a ceasefire will be brokered.
The coalition of the Afghan women’s groups wrote that the new proposal would “only dismantle our existing constitutional order, which so many Afghans and Americans fought and died to create, in favor of an unelected interim government that hands positions of power to the Taliban at the national and sub-national levels without forcing them to face their own people at the polls.” The Afghan women ask: “Is this what American democracy looks like?”
The statement emphasizes that since the beginning of the peace process that resulted in the February 29, 2020 US-Taliban agreement, the views of the Afghan people in general and women more specifically have been left out. The Afghan government was excluded from the agreement and in the process of negotiations and only a select number of “Afghan politicians outside of the government were engaged on a limited basis.”
In the statement, Afghan women demand “a more inclusive peace process, as aligned with international obligations under UNSCR 1325 and U.S. obligations under the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017.”
Afghan politicians and the Afghan people were aware of President Biden’s previous “forever wars” statements on Afghanistan, however, since the Trump administration was perceived more favorable to the Taliban, Afghans had high hopes that the new administration will bring more accountability to their peace process. Afghan women in particular had high hopes for the Biden administration that the United States would choose a path forward that would be in consultation with the Afghan people, would stand for the human rights of Afghan women and would support the republic, and a system that the United States once established and supported.
In contrast to Afghans’ hopes, the latest shift shared through Sec. Blinken’s letter and his proposed agreement has created an overwhelming level of frustration, disappointment, and fear of a rushed process that will lack long-term outcomes. The women’s groups share their fears of a Taliban comeback that could roll back much of the progress made over the last two decades.
Soon after the Biden administration announced that it will review the US-Taliban deal, negotiated by the Trump administration, and will do a “thorough assessment” of the past year, the Taliban negotiators, in protest, traveled to Pakistan, Iran, Moscow, and Turkey courting support and legitimacy.
Although the review is still believed to be ongoing, the latest development has been perceived as a sign of growing impatience and expediting the so-called peace process. Despite expert warnings on rushing the peace process as well as removing US and NATO troops from Afghanistan by May 1, Blinken’s letter states that “all options” are on table, including the withdrawal of US troops.
The US, under the Trump leadership, signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020. As part of that agreement, the Taliban promised to engage in negotiations with the Afghan government and that the group will reduce violence. Despite these commitments, the violence and targeted killings have been at their peak for the past year, since the signing of the US-Taliban deal, and their leaders have remained disengaged from the peace process.
The intra-Afghan peace talks started with high hopes that at last peace might be within reach. However, the process proved to be slow, the Taliban remained disengaged, demanding more concession, leading to many doubts on the success of the peace process. The Taliban also continues to use violence as their main leverage at the negotiation table. The first round of talks ended in early December of last year and were scheduled to restart in January. However, the talks have been on hold.
Washington Post, March 2021, Tolonews March 2021, Afghan Women’s Groups statement, March 15, 2021