Javeed Bin Nabi
The US invasion of Afghanistan started soon after the deadly attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. It was the second most deadly attack on US soil after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour. The US response was ferocious. It started with the toppling of the Taliban regime in Kabul and repeated air strikes against the Al-Qaeda which had owned the 9/11 attack. The US and its NATO allies led an overseas “military adventure” and started a new operation against the Jihadist groups operating from Afghanistan. This was named “Operation Enduring Freedom”. However, in all these years the furious military encounters between the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the US-led NATO forces only proved disastrous to the Afghan people and devastated the country’s economy and social and institutional structures.
The Doha Peace Deal
The recent peace deal signed between US and Taliban leaders in presence of many world leaders, including representatives from India and Pakistan, came after an eighteen-month-long process between US negotiators and Taliban leaders. The immediate outcome of the deal was the reduction of the US-led NATO coalition forces from 14,000 to 8,600 in the first 135 days, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, etc, and the release of Taliban militants by the Afghanistan government and of 1,000 prisoners of the other side by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (i.e., Taliban). That the mighty US had to strike a deal with the Taliban and agree to withdraw its forces within 14 months was hailed by Taliban as a victory and as America’s absolute surrender. More importatntly, the fundamental objective of the Taliban — the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghan soil – was achieved. This deal can be acknowledged as the first landmark event in the post-Cold War era in Afghanistan which enables the Taliban to return to political affairs in Kabul.
Bypassing Gender Rights
The peace deal has faced criticism from feminists and gender activists who point out that there is no mention of human rights of women of Afghanistan. They say the peace deal has again showed the male-centric world of politics. The peace deal failed to mention the safety of women in Afghanistan, despite the known history of atrocities by the Taliban on the women of Afghanistan. After the signing of the peace deal many women fear that they will lose everything they have achieved in recent years with the help of international organisations and support. Under the erstwhile Taliban regime, schools for girls were banned and women had no right to work in public and private offices. Prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan, women weren’t allowed to take part in social, educational, political and economic affairs of the country. Their rights were confined within the four walls of their homes. It was after the US-led invasion and the first elections of 2004 that women began to participate in political and social matters of the country. As per many reports, the participation and presence of women rapidly accelerated in the Afghan judiciary, security forces, education and health sectors. The significant improvement in the condition of Afghan again seems to be under threat.
Farahnaz Ispahani, author of “Purifying The Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities”, argued in one of her articles in The Diplomat that “Since 2001, the US has given $29 billion in civilian assistance to Afghanistan to make it a better country for its people. More than 3.5 million girls are enrolled in primary and secondary schools and 100,000 women attend universities. 85,000 Afghan women work as teachers, lawyers, enforcement officials and in healthcare.” Ispahani has criticised the peace deal between US and Taliban because it does not mention anything about the well-being, safety and human and gender rights of the women of Afghanistan.
To make the peace deal inclusive and successful, there is a need to give Afghan women full space in social, educational and political matters. The Taliban regime needs to shun their conservative policies and religious fanaticism that only disempowers and downgrades the status of women in Afghanistan. In this technologically advanced and globalised world, it is not fair to confine women within the four walls of their homes. Instead, their capability and the fact that they are half of the world’s human resource should be used for state building and other constructive and progressive measures. Both the Taliban and the other civilian governments in Afghanistan must endorse the importance of Afghan women in the peace process and peace-building measures. Neglecting them is a peace half achieved.
It is high time for the present unstable civilian government of Afghanistan and the Taliban militia to give their final farewell to foreign forces and start rebuilding the Afghan state and play an active part in contemporary world affairs. Economic stability and employment opportunities to Afghan youth and mitigation of poverty should be the main concerns.
The writer majored in Peace and Conflict studies from IUST, Awantipora