Afghan-American Women Association (A-AWA) in Washington, DC Issues Statement on U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement "Responsible Withdrawal from Afghanistan"

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History shows us that a peace deal that divvies up power and resources between political strongmen, the Taliban, and the warlords will fail. To repeat this same mistake is folly. The United States and the international community did not sacrifice their military forces and families, to say nothing of trillions of taxpayer dollars, for a rushed deal that abandons an aspiring democracy for reasons of political expediency.

#AfghanPeaceMeans that women must also be involved in all stages of negotiations, from defining the agenda to establishing mechanisms for implementation, monitoring, reconstruction, peace-building, and development.

The Afghan-American Association (A-AWA), an Afghan-led NGO in the Washington DC area, in consultation with the Afghan Women’s Education Center (AWEC – based in Afghanistan) and the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN – representing around 125 women groups in Afghanistan), welcome the peace agreement between the United States and Taliban leadership with hopes for an enduring peace and prosperous future for the Afghan people.

While this agreement could represent a viable beginning towards peace in Afghanistan through its facilitation of intra-Afghan talks, it also raises significant concerns.

History shows us that a peace deal that divvies up power and resources between political strongmen, the Taliban, and the warlords will fail. To repeat this same mistake is folly. The United States and the international community did not sacrifice their military forces and families, to say nothing of trillions of taxpayer dollars, for a rushed deal that abandons an aspiring democracy for reasons of political expediency.

The following are our recommendations for how the United States, NATO and the international community can strengthen implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement and lay a foundation for effective intra-Afghan talks.

  • The elected Afghan government and Afghan women must be at the table from Day 1 of the intra-Afghan talks. History has shown that women suffer the greatest when decisions are made by rooms full of men. The world recently learned this again through the U.S.-Taliban negotiations; Afghan women, despite being the majority of the Afghan population, were excluded from the talks, and the resulting agreement excludes any mention of them or their rights. How can we expect the Taliban to treat the Afghan government and Afghan women as equals if the United States refused to give them a seat at the table?
  • A full ceasefire must be the first item on the negotiating agenda. The bloodshed must end.
  • The United States and its allies must ensure that the intra-Afghan talks build upon – not retreat from – the hard-won legal rights that Afghan women and civil society have secured in the constitution and national laws, and which are supported by international law and sharia law. Afghanistan has been an Islamic nation for centuries, and the Islamic laws that guarantee equal rights to education, employment, health, and mobility for both men and women must be observed over tribal norms and traditional customs that have no place in modern Afghan society. Any changes to the Afghan constitution should be made by elected representatives and according to due process.
  • In addition to being represented in all delegations to the peace talks, #AfghanPeaceMeans that women must also be involved in all stages of negotiations, from defining the agenda to establishing mechanisms for implementation, monitoring, reconstruction, peace-building, and development.
  • The intra-Afghan dialogue must be mediated by an impartial international actor that commits to inclusive peace under UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions.
  • The United States should honor the terms of its Bilateral Security Agreement with the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by amending it rather than abandoning it. Its withdrawal must be conditional on the Taliban upholding its part of the agreement, which should be verified by an international monitoring mechanism. This mechanism must be capable of capturing variable outcomes, including in harder-to-reach Taliban-controlled rural areas. It must consult with women, youth, minorities, and civil society to ensure verification is based on realities on the ground.
  • The U.S. Congress must exercise its oversight role in decisions of war and peace. To this end, it should update and pass the Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019 (S.2953), which among other things, would require semiannual reports on the Taliban’s adherence to the terms of the peace deal and the post- deal status of human rights, women’s rights, and other constitutionally guaranteed rights and protections. This represents a more #ResponsibleWithdrawal than what is currently on the table.
  • The U.S., EU, and other allies should predicate any future aid on security for women and minorities and the protection of human rights for all Afghans. The road to peace and prosperity is long and requires Afghan men and women to work together on tough challenges such as poverty, illiteracy, mortality rates, addiction, smuggling, drug trafficking, and prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration, to name only a few.

Afghan-American Women's Association (http://www.A-AWA.org) is a volunteer-based 501(c) nonprofit organization founded in 2009 with the mission to improve the status and well-being of Afghan-American women through personal support, educational opportunities and professional growth.

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