Thursday, July 29

Forget geopolitics: the cost of the US exit from Afghanistan will be paid by women

Narges and Hasina (not their names) are two 15-year-old best friends I recently met in Kabul. Narges told me that she dreamed of studying Mathematics and Hasina gave me a painting in which a girl watched the dawn of a sky with faint purple tones while a shooting star passed over her. They both showed that shy and laughing enthusiasm of teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them. The two also had relatives living in areas that had recently fallen under the control of the Taliban.

When I left, her aunt asked me a question in a low voice: “What do you think? Is Kabul in danger?”

The Taliban have devastated Afghanistan in recent weeks, besieging major cities and seizing areas that until now were strongholds of the opposition. In areas under their control, Taliban commanders are already banning girls from school and women are flogged for “adultery,” a category that includes all sexual relations outside of marriage, including rape. If a woman tries to defend herself in a Taliban court, her testimony is only worth half that of a man, a judge told the newspaper The Observer.

I thought of Narges and Hasina when reading a prominent American academic describing the departure of foreign troops, while the Taliban made lightning raids, as an “opportunity [para los afganos] to find their own long-term stability. “I thought back to them, and other Afghan friends, when Joe Biden shrugged off questions about Afghanistan’s future, just as his own subordinates had said the last of the US troops were leaving. the country. “I want to talk about happy things, man,” an irritated Biden replied to reporters.

Afghans would also like to talk about “happy things”, but for many that is almost impossible, especially for educated and professional women who have the militant extremist group on their doorstep. There is a deeply disturbing callousness in the debates about Afghanistan and its future. It is mentioned as an abstract geopolitical problem that must be solved; or maybe, archived; and not like a country of 38 million people with lives, loved ones and dreams, desperately wondering about their future.

Disastrous consequences

Criticizing how and when US troops are leaving Afghanistan is often equated with defending a permanent foreign presence; or by overlooking the alarming record of death, abuse and corruption left behind by Western military intervention. But one can spend years being deeply critical of the way a war is conducted – I have been reporting its abuses and mistakes for more than a decade – and still think that the way it ends is cruel and reckless.

The current rush to get out is likely to have disastrous human consequences, going even beyond human rights abuses by the Taliban. An increase in civilian deaths and injuries is almost inevitable due to the resurgence of the militias and the increase in violence, with aid funds sinking right in the middle of a catastrophic drought.

From a security point of view, it can also be irresponsible. ISIS representatives in Afghanistan are growing, and it is unclear whether or not the Taliban have delivered on their promise to sever ties with al Qaeda. The chaos caused by the brutal civil war after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union contributed to the birth of the Taliban who would later give refuge to Osama bin Laden.

The arrogance of the USA

Many of the generals and politicians who have led the Afghan war since 2001 have shown surprising disregard for the lessons of history, perhaps relying on American exceptionalism. Afghanistan’s military campaign was marketed as a way to achieve justice for the 9/11 attacks in the US but was waged as a mission of revenge.

The Taliban, quickly defeated, asked for peace and wanted to negotiate two decades ago, after being defeated by US special forces allied with their former enemies. The establishment America ignored them thinking that it would be easier to rebuild the country in their image and likeness, an arrogance fueled by the wealth of the United States compared to the poverty of Afghanistan – who doesn’t want a better life for their children? – and by their impressive military might, deployed against a cheap guerrilla army.

I first came to Afghanistan in 2009, during then-President Barack Obama’s troop surge. I spent much of my time refuting the official view that, in terms of security, everything was fine. Generals and diplomats had their catchphrases. “The Taliban are losing strength,” they told us at press conferences, as thousands of soldiers flew into and around Afghanistan. They dodged our questions about why a waning threat needed more and more strength to be countered.

July 4, one of the main national holidays in the United States, was the date initially chosen by Biden’s team for the departure of the last troops. A surprising move that seemed to aim to mark a victory what much of the world viewed as a humiliating retreat – but as the Taliban’s advance accelerated, the Biden Administration reversed the date and the last of the troops will leave. the country in August.

Among those who support Biden’s decision to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as logistically possible are those who argue that, in many other parts of the world, women, or minorities, are treated equally brutally, or even worse, than what Afghans suffer under the Taliban, and that is not why the United States intervenes. But that’s skipping the 20 years that have brought Afghanistan to where it is today. The country that the US and its allies are leaving is the country that they shaped.

System-wide corruption has lined the pockets of Afghans and Westerners. The warlords who originally helped the United States drive out the Taliban have gained power and their past abuses have been forgotten. When viewed as effective, Americans gave confidence and promotions to younger commanders no matter how much they had a history of torture and extrajudicial killings. Human rights organizations warned that this violence only fueled a cycle of civil war, warnings that were largely ignored.

Let’s support women

But in Kabul and other major cities, these two decades have also been one of relative peace and stability. A generation has received an education, raised families, created businesses, and fought for a better life. Almost two-thirds of the Afghan population is today under 25 years of age. They never experienced, or do not remember, those years when the extremist ideology of the Taliban ruled the entire country.

A recent study of rural Afghan women challenged this idea that the work of feminist activists fighting for education, freedom of movement and other rights is that of an elite. They are goals they share with their sisters even in the most conservative rural areas. As the Taliban draw closer, those of us who support their struggle from other countries must find a way to continue supporting Afghan women. If the international community cares enough to use its diplomatic capital on this, there are still opportunities.

We need to ensure that we continue to fund women’s services and women’s activism, that we continue to listen to them, and agree that a government that treats women and girls as the Taliban do today will never enjoy international legitimacy, no matter what territory it is. occupy.

Translated by Francisco de Zárate.

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