In my book “moderate Taliban” ranks right up there with “organic vienna sausage” as an oxymoron. But the President seems to be reaching out to the so-called moderate militias in Afghanistan in talking about how to end the violence and fix the unending mess started by W and left no better by Obama. Trump fleshed out his blueprint for gaining a peace on Friday, when he announced plans to bring home 5,000 more American troops as the front edge of what he says will be a conditions-based withdrawal over 14 months.
Women’s groups, both in the U.S. and Afghanistan, want to make sure any shifts in policy don’t further harm women and girls. Despite both the Bush and Obama administration’s claims to the contrary, females have been set back — way back—since 2001. Most are once again in the burqua, and girls are being attacked with acid for the crime of going to school. Women are often deprived of food, and have been kicked out of bread lines by the Taliban.
This is not a new concern. As far back as 2009 Dr. Sima Samar, chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, was making the rounds on Capitol Hill to sound the alarm. “I do not believe there are any moderate Taliban,” she said at the time. “The U.S. must not provide support for those who have terrorized women and girls and violated their rights.”
Underscoring the point that women’s rights are human rights and not subject to so-called cultural norms, Afghanistan has ratified the universal women’s human rights treaty known as CEDAW (the U.S. has not), and the Afghan constitution has basic protections for women. The challenge is bringing culture and practice, still under the grip of Taliban oppression, in line with the law.
So far it’s not happening and there’s no reason to think that will change with the so-called peace agreement. Violence has continued to escalate since the pullout was first announced at the end of 2016. Along with the women’s groups, women in the Senate are worried that the Trump withdrawal will result in more – not fewer - setbacks for women, since women’s rights have not been on the agenda for the talks. Case in point: it was announced with great fanfare in April of last year that women would be included in the Taliban delegation. One day later the Taliban made it clear they had no such intention. “We still have a clear-cut policy that we wouldn’t allow women to represent us in any capacity or work publicly when we come into power” said one Afghanistan-based commander told NBC News.
During the same month, girls’ schools were firebombed in western Afghanistan, and officials were told to fire all the male teachers because girls shouldn’t be taught by men. Though the Taliban in control of the area denied responsibility, graffiti left behind on a nearby wall read “long live the Islamic Emirate” – the Taliban’s name for their movement.
It no surprise that the U.S. is sacrificing women for yet another ego trip by our narcissist president. Let’s hope female voters remember in November.
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