On February 29th, the news that was in the making for the last few weeks, even months, finally broke. The United States of America and the Taliban – sworn enemies in America’s longest-lasting war – have signed an agreement. The current government of Afghanistan is not an official party in this agreement, which is meant to be a peace agreement.
(Wahida is a young Afghan woman who participated in classes from the Afghan Women Resource Center (AWRC) in 2017. After this, she was able to continue further education, which is uncommon for many women in Afghanistan, and might become even more uncommon in the future (© Mariam Alimi/Cordaid)
In-transparant and non-inclusive
Every agreement that will lead to a reduction of hostilities and the loss of lives in Afghanistan should be applauded and welcomed. However, a true and long term solution can only be achieved if it is based on inclusivity, transparency, and sustainability. The Doha negotiations – which resulted in the agreement – lacked all three.
If any party has a right to be heard and a right to speak when it comes to peace and the end of war, it is the Afghan women and men across the country, who have known nothing but war throughout their lives.
Together with our Afghan and non-Afghan partners, Cordaid has followed the Doha-process closely and with great caution. It has undeniably been in-transparent and non-inclusive. Neither the Afghan Government, nor independent civil society representatives, and most of all, Afghan women, have been included in the making of this agreement. Women, who had most to fear from the Taliban during their rule from 1996 to 2001 and most to lose, given the progress they made in their struggle for gender equity after the Taliban were removed.
This US-Taliban agreement mainly focuses on the (political) interests of the United States, not on the interest and aspirations for peace and stability of the people of Afghanistan. Alarming as it is, it comes as no surprise. The people of Afghanistan, in all its diversity, were never present at the table. Yet, if any party has a right to be heard and a right to speak when it comes to peace and the end of war, it is the Afghan women and men across the country, who have known nothing but war.
Impact of the US-Taliban agreement
What does the US-Taliban deal mean for the future of Afghanistan? And, more specifically, what does this mean for the future of Afghan women and youth?
As a result of the agreement with the United States of America, the Taliban are now a recognized and legitimate political actor with increased influence and a strengthened position.
At this point, the lack of transparency and information, and the apparent sole focus on American troop retraction, is making it even harder for civil society and especially women’s rights organisations to anticipate.
Details of the US-Taliban deals are not shared. What we do know is that the Taliban does not recognize the current Afghan government. What we also know, is that as a result of the negotiations and the ensuing agreement with the United States of America, the Taliban are now a recognized and legitimate political actor with increased influence and a strengthened position. Given the fact that the main goal of America’s longest-lasting war was to remove the Taliban from power, this outcome is questionable, to say the least.
Disclose deal’s details, intensify intra-Afghan talks
Cordaid requests that all the undisclosed details and annexes of this agreement are made public immediately. Meanwhile, and most importantly, intra-Afghan dialogues should be next on the agenda. Real dialogues, with all relevant parties at the table, including women. With true representation and meaningful participation of the entire Afghan population, including women and youth from all different backgrounds. With only men at the table, or only a few women, discussing the future of Afghanistan remains a futile, but damaging business that undermines the progress that Afghanistan has made since 2001.
Anticipating the return of the Taliban
In some parts of Afghanistan, women are already anticipating the return of the Taliban. In parts of the country, the pressure on women to cover themselves and to install gender-based segregation is rising. Operational space for civil society is shrinking. People and communities are resorting to forms of self-censorship and getting more conservative proactively, as a means to avoid being challenged by the Taliban, once the US has left the country.
In the coming months, we will continue our efforts to pro-actively support and prepare women from all over Afghanistan for the various peace negotiation processes. In villages, on national and international levels, they are shaping a viable and sustainable future of a country that is exhausted by conflict.
There is a substantial and justifiable fear among many women’s rights organizations that as a result of the new deal with the Taliban, campaigns to secure equal opportunities and rights for women and girls will be jeopardised. For Cordaid this is not acceptable. It is not acceptable because as long as this fear dominates the lives of millions, Afghanistan will never have what it deserves: an inclusive and sustainable peace. One that lasts and that allows the newest generation to know what living without war actually means.
Afghan women continue to shape a viable future
In the coming months, we will continue our efforts to pro-actively support and prepare women from all over Afghanistan for the various peace negotiation processes. Women will be trained in mediation, ceasefire negotiations, constitution writing, and many other skills. It is these women, who, on village-level, on national and on international levels, are shaping a viable and sustainable future of a country that is exhausted by conflict.
Together with them, Cordaid will keep on pushing both within and outside of Afghanistan, that women’s rights and opportunities are non-negotiable. Women cannot and shall not go back to the darkness they came out of.