This weekend, the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban to phase American troops out of Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war. Critics have expressed concerns about the deal’s implications for women’s rights, arguing that it could undermine the gradual progress made in Afghanistan since the US’s intervention in 2001.
The agreement establishes a 14-month timeline for the withdrawal of American troops and requires the Taliban to renounce terrorism and work to prevent the use of Afghanistan as a base for attacks on the US and its allies. However, the peace deal does not include any protections for Afghanistan’s recent advances in women’s rights and civil liberties. Afghan officials and women’s rights advocates fear that this could jeopardize the last two decades of women’s advances in politics and the economy.
The Taliban led an extremist regime in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 that excluded women from public life, including a full ban on attending school, leaving their homes without male escorts, and holding jobs. Punishments for violations were harsh, including public beatings and stoning. The 2001 US intervention ousted the Taliban regime and led to significant numbers of women attending universities, winning seats in Parliament, and joining the workforce. Afghanistan has also recently seen a rise in popular support for women’s rights, including 87 percent in favor of girls’ education.
The US has long used the fight for women’s rights as one of the main pillars for the intervention in Afghanistan, with both the Obama and Bush administrations naming the issue a top priority. The Trump administration’s deal signals that women’s rights in Afghanistan are no longer a major concern for the US and could enable a spread of the Taliban’s control in the country. The Taliban has refused to recognize the democratically elected government, the Afghan constitution or renounce its own desire to rule.
Sources: The Week 2/29/20; AP News 2/29/20; New York Times 2/29/20; NBC 2/23/20