Richardson Hints at U.S. Aid to Afghanistan, No Guarantees for Women

During talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban militia group leaders and the country’s other warring factions, U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson spoke of U.S. aid to rebuild Afghanistan’s “war-damaged infrastructure.” Richardson said the funding was dependent on possible peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan groups that control the remaining 15 percent of the country, and the restoration of women’s human rights there.

Although the Taliban and its opponents had agreed on Friday, April 17, to a cease-fire until peace talks took place, fighting resumed less than a day after the agreement was made.

Richardson made little progress with the Taliban concerning the treatment of women and girls. According to a Washington Post article, the Taliban agreed to “discuss with U.N. officials the establishment of single-sex universities where women could be educated in accord with the militia’s strict interpretation of Islam. But the fundamentalist rulers yielded no ground on primary and secondary education of girls.”

“On work issues the Taliban pledged to allow female Afghan doctors to treat women … and let U.N. agencies hire Afghan women to deliver humanitarian assistance to women and girls,” the Post reported.

The Taliban also pledged that it would meet with U.N. officials. However, the next day, Taliban leaders said they would not meet with a U.N. delegation if it is led by Alfredo Witschi-Cestari, the head of the U.N. office for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Witschi-Cestari ordered the temporary termination of aid to Afghanistan as a protest to the Taliban’s harassment of U.N. workers, treatment of women and decrees that foreign Muslim women must be accompanied by a husband, brother or son while in public. The U.N. has refused to meet without Witschi-Cestari.

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Washington Post, AP - April 18/19, 1998

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